Blue Latitudes Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before

Tony Horwitz




Trade Paperback

496 Pages



Request Desk Copy Request Exam Copy
James Cook's three epic journeys in the eighteenth century were the last great voyages of discovery. When he embarked for the Pacific in 1768, a third of the globe remained blank. By the time he died in 1779, during a bloody clash in Hawaii, the map of the world was substantially complete. Cook explored more of the earth's surface than anyone in history—sailing from the Arctic to the Antarctic, from Tahiti to Siberia, from Easter Island to the Great Barrier Reef—and introduced the West to an exotic world of taboo and tattoo, of cannibalism and ritual sex. Yet the impoverished farmboy, who broke the bounds of social class to become Britain's greatest navigator, remains as mysterious today as the uncharted seas he sailed more than two centuries ago.

In Blue Latitudes, Tony Horwitz sets off on his own voyage of discovery. Adventuring in Cook's wake, he relives the captain's journeys and explores their legacy in the farflung lands Cook opened to the West. At sea, aboard a replica of Cook's ship, he works atop a hundred-foot mast, sleeps in a narrow hammock, and recaptures the rum-and-lash world of eighteenth-century seafaring. On land, he meets native people—Aboriginal and Aleut elders, Maori gang members, the king of Tonga—for whom Cook is alternately a heroic navigator and a villain who brought syphilis, guns, and greed to the unspoiled Pacific. Accompanied by a carousing Australian mate, he meets Miss Tahiti, visits the roughest bar in Alaska, and uncovers the secret behind the red-toothed warriors of Savage Island. Throughout, Horwitz also searches for Cook the man: a restless prodigy who fled his peasant boyhood, and later the luxury of Georgian London, for the privation and peril of sailing off the edge of the map.

Horwitz's bestselling Confederates in the Attic combined history and adventure in a harrowing and hilarious tour of the Civil War South. In Blue Latitudes, he goes international, taking readers on a wild ride across hemispheres and centuries, from Bora-Bora to the Bering Sea, from the mud hut where Cook was born to the sunstruck shore where he died in Hawaii.
Poignant, probing, antic, and exhilarating, Blue Latitudes brings to life a man whose voyages helped create the global village we inhabit today.


Praise for Blue Latitudes

"One of the best . . . full of humor . . . It is with people that Horwitz excels. As he demonstrated in Confederates in the Attic he has a gift for getting them to open up. A terrific reporter, Horwitz investigates how the places he visits have changed . . . What he also does, and what makes this book so absorbing, is intersperse among all the details of life today in these far-flung places an elegant running account of Cook's exploits."—The New York Times Book Review (cover)

"Compelling . . . Horwitz is particularly convincing when he's establishing just how harsh a sailor's life could be in the 1700s, why most of them were drunk so much of the time, and why today's mariners have it relatively easy . . . Remarkable."—The Oregonian (Portland)

"Blue Latitudes is a rollicking read that is also a sneaky work of scholarship, providing new and unexpected insights into the man who out-discovered Columbus. A terrific book—I inhaled it in one weekend."—Nathaniel Philbrick, author of In the Heart of the Sea

"A rewarding and—trust me on this—witty tale of a remarkable explorer who now occupies a controversial place in history because of disease, greed, thievery, and prostitution that followed in his wake . . . Perhaps the highest praise of any book is that it takes you somewhere. Horwitz manages to do this on two levels, mingling history with a humorous travelogue."—The Mercury News (San Jose)

"Part history, part travelogue—and mostly just great fun . . . This is history on a global scale, and Horwitz tells it surpassingly well."—Los Angeles Times

"A tour de force of evocative history, serious scholarship and compelling writing."—The Washington Post

"Blue Latitudes is thoroughly enjoyable. No writer has better captured the heroic enigma that was Captain James Cook than Tony Horwitz in this amiable and enthralling excursion around the Pacific."—Bill Bryson, author of In a Sunburned Country

"Part Cook biography, part travelogue, and very much a stroke of genius."—The Philadelphia Inquirer

"Horwitz's adventure pay illuminating tribute to the great navigator—to Captain Cook himself and to his intrepid eighteenth-century colleagues, including the improbably attractive Sir Joseph Banks. But most of all Blue Latitudes offers clear-eyed, vivid, and highly entertaining reassurance that there are still outlandish worlds to be discovered."—Caroline Alexander, author of The Endurance: Shackleton's Legendary Antarctic Expedition

"Tony Horwitz has done it again. . . [With] keen insight, open-mindedness and laugh-out-loud humor, he . . . travel[s] across the globe in search of the memory of Capt. James Cook."—San Francisco Chronicle

"A staggering blend of historical research, character study, sociological analysis, and intriguing tales of travel."—The Boston Globe

"Hilarious, brainy, and balanced . . . A trip with Horwitz is as good as it gets."—The Charlotte Observer

"[Horwitz] weaves his own experiences with those gleaned from Cook's own writings and those of his crew into a fabric dense with the delicious details that keep readers turning pages long past bedtime."—Chicago Tribune

"Horwitz succeeds brilliantly in turning the English from stiff icons to flesh-and-blood human beings. The book's constant humor, honesty and judgment recall his own Confederates in the Attic and Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods . . . This book will keep you enthralled."—The Seattle Times

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Tony Horwitz is the bestselling author of Confederates in the Attic, Baghdad Without a Map, and One for the Road. He is also a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who has worked as a foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and a staff writer for The New Yorker. He lives in Virginia with his wife, Geraldine Brooks, and their son, Nathaniel.
Read the full excerpt


  • Tony Horwitz

  • Tony Horwitz is the author of Confederates in the Attic, Baghdad Without a Map, and One for the Road. He is also a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has worked as a war correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and as a staff writer for The New Yorker. He lives in Virginia with his wife, Geraldine Brooks, and their son, Nathaniel.
  • Tony Horwitz Randi Baird
    Tony Horwitz