Resolution by Peter Aughton

Resolution: The Story of Captain Cook's Second Voyage of Discovery

Resolution is the history of Captain James Cook’s second voyage of exploration. The book starts with a brief description of how Cook’s first voyage was effectively hijacked by Joseph Banks on their return. The result of this was that it became known as Joseph Banks’ voyage. Banks tried to seize control of Cook’s second voyage, wanting to be in charge of where they went and what they did when they got there. He also insisted on modifications to the Resolution that made her unseaworthy. When the Navy had these modifications removed, Banks went off in a huff and financed his own expedition – to Iceland!

Resolution covers the voyage of the two ships Resolution and Adventure to New Zealand and the Pacific islands, and Cook’s exploration of the seas around Antarctica. You are given an idea of the difficulties of sailing in the frozen seas. The wooden ships could be crushed if the ice closed in around them, or holed by a passing iceberg. In the 18th century these were known as ice mountains, a very good description. The sails froze and it was hard to work them, especially with numb hands. There were difficulties with reefs, which could also hole a wooden ship.

You meet the botanists on the expedition, Johann Forster and his son George. Johann always seemed to be complaining, sometimes with good reason, often without. You find that the inhabitants of the Friendly Islands weren’t always friendly and that the Maori of New Zealand could be even worse. Life at sea was hard at the best of times in those days, with bad food and water and the ever-present risk of scurvy. At to that ice storms and encounters with cannibals and it’s amazing that Captain Cook accomplished as much as he did.

Resolution is a good introduction to the voyages of on of Britain’s finest explorers. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in Captain Cook, or in exploration generally.

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