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.