Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before
by Tony Horwitz
A review by Adrienne Miller
Captain James Cook, the eighteenth-century explorer and pioneer (whom you'll recall from seventh-grade social studies), was, as Tony Horwitz has it, the inspiration for Captain James Kirk (whom you'll recall from the Starship Enterprise). Horwitz, the author of Confederates in the Attic, recreates Cook's maritime expeditions in a sly, funny book that's so damn entertaining, you'll be hard-pressed to do much else the evening you dig into it.
With considerably better food and, one would hope, considerably less body odor, Horwitz and a sidekick named Roger set sail on a replica of Cook's ship in search of the man who essentially created globalization. It's a picaresque story, but a tireless work of scholarship, too, and is filled with marvelous details about Cook's three voyages. For example, we bet you didn't know that the daily calorie ration for members of the Endeavour was a whopping 4,500 calories (and that's not counting the additional calories supplied by mouse droppings in the vermin-infested meat stocks). The ending for Captain Cook could not be anything but gruesome (he died in unspeakable circumstances in Hawaii), as endings tended to be for those intrepid explorers who mapped the world.
Adrienne Miller is Esquire's literary editor.
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