Captain Cook.

James Cook, born Nov 7th 1728 died famously on a pacific island on his third great voyage of discovery in 1779.  Called at the time the “Sandwich Islands” now known as the U.S. State of Hawaii.

In his lifetime he charted Newfoundland, the St. Lawrence Seaway, Eastern Australia, New Zealand, much of Pacific Russia and North America and vast swathes of the Pacific ocean.

He converted the map of the world from this:

Pre-Cook

to this:

Post-Cook.jpg

During his voyages he worked assiduously to limit scurvy and sickness from his crew.  The sailors hated him for forcing them to eat ascorbics such as saurkraut to keep them healthy.

In fact the majority of deaths of his crew occured when they reached what they believed to be the “safe” harbour of Batavia, modern Jakartha in Indonesia.  Here, in the canals carved by the Dutch mosquitoes thrived and the crew were devastated by malaria.

His second voyage confirmed the absence of a “Great Australian Continent” in the South Pacific which was theorised at the time to act as a counterbalance to Europe.  Pure European Centrism!  However he never did succeed in finding Antarctica.

His third voyage was a search for the fabled North West Passage to permit entry to the Pacific Ocean from the North Atlantic.  His voyages mapped out much of the limits of the North Pacific and led sadly to his death on Hawaii.

Finally here is his chart of Newfoundland:

Nufie

 

Branded

Gary Larson:  The Far Side

Gary Larson: The Far Side

On this day in 1777 Captain James Cook “discovered” the largest Atoll by land area in the world. He named it Christmas Island. It is now called Kiritimati and if you know anything about South Seas Pidgin you will recognize that the modern name is simply a native rendering of “Christmas”.

0
I place “discovered” in parentheses for good reason. Cook was by no means the first to chart the island. The earliest evidence we have is from the Spanish in 1537 and was named Acea. It was uninhabited when discovered by both the Spanish and by the British, but the British name stuck.

0
There are many examples throughout history of someone discovering or inventing something, only to be sidelined by a rival who marketed the discovery better. Even recording the discovery is not enough. You need to make it relevant and memorable to your audience. Discoveries need to be branded as well as patented.

0
Christmas Eve: My Mother Dressing; by Toi Derricotte

0
My mother was not impressed with her beauty;
once a year she put it on like a costume,
plaited her black hair, slick as cornsilk, down past her hips,
in one rope-thick braid, turned it, carefully, hand over hand,
and fixed it at the nape of her neck, stiff and elegant as a crown,
with tortoise pins, like huge insects,
some belonging to her dead mother,
some to my living grandmother.
Sitting on the stool at the mirror,
she applied a peachy foundation that seemed to hold her down, to trap her,
as if we never would have noticed what flew among us unless it was weighted and bound in its mask.
Vaseline shined her eyebrows,
mascara blackened her lashes until they swept down like feathers;
her eyes deepened until they shone from far away.

Now I remember her hands, her poor hands, which, even then were old from scrubbing,
whiter on the inside than they should have been,
and hard, the first joints of her fingers, little fattened pads,
the nails filed to sharp points like old-fashioned ink pens,
painted a jolly color.
Her hands stood next to her face and wanted to be put away, prayed
for the scrub bucket and brush to make them useful.
And, as I write, I forget the years I watched her
pull hairs like a witch from her chin, magnify
every blotch—as if acid were thrown from the inside.

But once a year my mother
rose in her white silk slip,
not the slave of the house, the woman,
took the ironed dress from the hanger—
allowing me to stand on the bed, so that
my face looked directly into her face,
and hold the garment away from her
as she pulled it down.

Missing the target

Tasmanroutes

It was on this day in 1642 that Abel Tasman discovered the island that bears his name.  Tasman is an explorer that I feel sorry for.  He is not remembered as a ‘great’ explorer like Captain Cook.  In his own lifetime his employers, the Dutch East India Company, expressed their disappointment with his findings.  They thought that a more diligent explorer might have made a better fist of mapping and exploring the territories that he found.

On his first voyage of discovery he sailed right around Australia, and managed to miss it!  Quite a feat.

When you see his track in 1642 it does seem very much like a sail by and not a discovery trip.  And when he did hit Tasmania, was he not curious to see how far north he could map the land?  But bear in mind the sailing technology of the time!  He was doing his best with what he had.  It was a huge task for them to land at all in Tasmania.  One of his crew had to swim to shore in a storm to plant a flag.  He tried to sail north but was blown away by the weather.  Even today the Bass Strait has a bit of a reputation with sailors.

He found New Zealand and he did not discover the Cook Straight which divides the islands, he thought it was a long inlet.  But then he thought that he was on the west coast of South America.  Remember that the charts were not very accurate in those days.  Also, they were under constant attack by the Maori on the coast of New Zealand, and had to use their cannon more than once to defend themselves.

The East India Company were not interested in maps.  They were looking for trade goods to bring back to Europe or areas to exploit and colonize.  They were disappointed because he found neither.  Had the weather been more favourable Tasman might have stumbled upon Botany Bay 100 years before Cook.

It is easy to criticize the failings of past explorers when we have the complete map in front of us.  But given the Charts and directions that were available to Tasman would we do any better?  He had no way to calculate longitude, only dead reckoning.  And yet he rounded the Australian continent on his first voyage and found his way safely home.  On his second voyage he confirmed the existence of the fabled ‘Terra incognita australis’ and mapped most of its north coastline.  He filled in a lot of knowledge gaps and gave subsequent explorers a far better idea of where to look.

Discovery of the New World: By Carter Revard

The creatures that we met this morning
marveled at our green skins
and scarlet eyes.
They lack antennae
and can’t be made to grasp
your proclamation that they are
our lawful food and prey and slaves,
nor can they seem to learn
their body-space is needed to materialize
our oxygen absorbers –
which they conceive are breathing
and thinking creatures whom they implore
at first as angels or (later) as devils
when they are being snuffed out
by an absorber swelling
into their space.
Their history bled from one this morning
while we were tasting his brain
in holographic rainbows
which we assembled into quite an interesting
set of legends –
that’s all it came to, though
the colors were quite lovely before we
poured them into our time;
the blue shift bleached away
meaningless circumstance and they would not fit
any of our truth-matrices –
there was, however,
a curious visual echo in their history
of our own coming to their earth;
a certain General Sherman
had said concerning a group of them
exactly what we were saying to you
about these creatures:
it is our destiny to asterize this planet,
and they will not be asterized,
so they must be wiped out.
We need their space and oxygen
which they do not know how to use,
yet they will not give up their gas unforced,
and we feel sure,
whatever our “agreements” made this morning,
we’ll have to kill them all:
the more we cook this orbit,
the fewer next time around.
We’ve finished burning all their crops
and killed their cattle.
They’ll have to come into our pens
and then we’ll get to study
the way our heart attacks and cancers spread among them,
since they seem not immune to these.
If we didn’t have this mission it might be sad
to see such helpless creatures die,
but never fear,
the riches of this place are ours
and worth whatever pain others may have to feel.
We’ll soon have it cleared
as in fact it is already, at the poles.
Then we will be safe, and rich, and happy here forever.