Friday, August 23, 2019

Cote De Yorkshire, 3: Captain Cook Memorial Museum

If you travel in the Pacific as we have over the years...western Canada, Alaska, Hawaii, New Zealand, know the name of Captain James Cook, whose three voyages in the later 1700s are among the marvels of exploration. Cook was from coastal Yorkshire and apprenticed in Whitby before joining the Royal Navy. At every juncture in his life, he was recognized for his considerable talents, and at every juncture, he chose the more challenging option. Despite his fame, even in his own lifetime, the man is very largely an enigma, and little has come down from his personal life. The museum in Whitby is a good example. Cook apprenticed as a teen under Captain John Walker in Whitby for six years, rising extraordinarily quickly from servant, to seaman, to mate, to master, and was finally offered his own command and the prospect of a life of security and relative comfort, running coal from Newcastle to London. This offer he characteristically turned down, enlisting instead as an ordinary seaman in the Royal Navy, where his rise was similarly meteoric. The museum in Whitby is the Walker house...that is, the house the Walkers lived in some years after Cook had departed. Cook may have seen the house in 1771, during his one return to Whitby after he joined the navy. One sees similar things with a store Cook worked in, the school he attended, the family home on a nearby farm. (He was a son of poor farm laborers). All these have some connection with Cook, but they are not the real things, which 200+ years later, simply no longer exist. But I digress. He is a fascinating if enigmatic character whom we have encountered many times along many ways, and I did not want to miss this principal Cook museum in the area. My visit was augmented by reading Tony Horwitz' excellent Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before. Just before finishing the book, I learned of Horwitz' sudden death on a book tour last May. Journalism and travel writing particularly will be the poorer without him.
A small multi-story edifice, right on the harbor, the home of the John Walker family,
for whom Cook served his 6 year apprenticeship

Some rooms are dressed up as they might have looked in the mid-18th century

Others are stuffed with models, dioramas, letters, portraits, maps, instruments...

A chair from the widow Cook's London home

Cook's death, at the hands of Hawaiians, 1779; his first visit there was
quite successful: he was treated as a god; the second, not so much

Portrait after the first voyage

Although his journals and logs and reports ran to thousands of pages, not that
much is really known of the man's inner workings

Map depicting the three voyages

Captain and Mrs. William Bligh; Bligh was an officer on the third voyage; he
later had his own command, which had its issues, including The Mutiny, the
3600 mile open boat voyage from Tahiti to South America, and subsequent voyages
attempting to bring the bread fruit to the Caribbean to feed England's slaves there;
perhaps no man has suffered more injustice from Hollywood than Bligh...I've read

Model of the Endeavour; all three of Cook's ships were upgraded Whitby colliers;
slow but sturdy

The 4th Earl of Sandwich, First Lord of the Admiralty, and
prime mover in this age of exploration; one of Cook's main
supporters; Cook named the Sandwich Islands and many
other places for Sandwich; yes, the same Sandwich who
famously asked for some meat between two slices of bread;
no, Hawaii is not Hawaiian for sandwich; it is Hawaiian
for Spam

A good bit of the museum contained items from Joseph Banks, the aristo-fop
botanist that went along on the first voyage, collecting and classifying some
1400 new specimens (not including numerous ladies from Tahiti); in later
years, a respected man of science, founder of Kew Gardens

A bit of an inventor, too

Tools of the 18th century botanist

Linnaeus' taxonomical system was never the same after Cook and Banks

Statue of Cook overlooking Whitby harbor

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