The Last Voyage
By Hammond Innes
The Last Voyage
Captain Cook's Lost Diary
By Hammond Innes
Compass Press Large Print, 2002
Reviewed by Herbert White - August 24, 2003
Having the chance to read Captain James Cook's journal of his last voyage around the world would be a great boon any scholar. Unfortunately, if he kept a journal on this voyage, it has been lost. To fill the gap left in the historic record by the absence of this journal, Hammond Innes has written Cook's diary for him. Based upon what is authoritatively known about Cook's voyage, Innes as crafted a marvelously detailed and historically accurate, but nonetheless fictional, diary for Captain Cook.
Innes' diary covers Cook's daring try to find the Northwest Passage. This passage, if it existed, was a route that would allow a ship to sail from the Atlantic ocean to the Pacific by taking a northerly 'shortcut' around the arctic. Charge by the British Admiralty with the task of finding this passage. Captain Cook left Plymouth on July 12, 1776. He sailed on the Resolution, a three-masted collier. The Resolution was accompanied on its journey by the Discovery, another collier, which was commanded by Captain Clerke. Colliers are diminutive vessels; The Resolution was only about 110 feet long and only 35 feet wide at its widest point.
This was to be Cook's third and last voyage of discovery. He died on the fourteenth of February 1779 without ever discovering the Northwest Passage. The Last Voyage: Captain Cook's Lost Diary commences on July 22, 1776 and its last entry is dated February 13th. Throughout, Innes maintains the illusion that this is indeed a reproduction of Cook's real diary. An afterward has been added by the author that explains the events that precipitated Cook's death in Hawaii. It also details what happened to the expedition after his death.
Historical accuracy aside, this is a rousing good adventure story. Innes brings Cook's last voyage to life, and he allows the reader to experience Cook's sense of adventure and thrill at making new discoveries. Innes also gives the reader a sense of the hardships that Cook and his men endured, and the difficulties that often arose when these intrepid explorers interacted with native cultures during their voyage.
The Last Voyage is an excellent book. It can be read as an informal adventure story, or as a historically accurate fictional account of Cook's last voyage. Either way, it will help you to understand what Cook was attempting to accomplish during this expedition, and what type of man he really was. It also offers readers a glimpse into a bygone time when there were still many mountains left to climb and many men willing to risk their lives to be the first to accomplish the unimaginable.
The Last Voyage can be purchased online, directly from Ulverscroft, the parent company of Compass Press.
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