The Wide Wide Sea by Hampton Sides

Literary Loop

In the course of three epic voyages — the last one unfinished — Captain James Cook mapped the east coast of Australia, circumnavigated New Zealand, made the first documented crossing of the Antarctic Circle, “discovered” the Hawaiian Islands and paid the first known visit to South Georgia Island.

His admirers believed he deserved the “gratitude of posterity.” Posterity, however, has a mind of its own.

On July 12, 1776, Cook, already lionized as the greatest explorer in British history, set off on his third voyage in his ship the HMS Resolution. Two-and-a-half years later, on a beach on the island of Hawaii, he was dead. How did Cook, who was unique among captains for his respect for indigenous peoples and cultures, come to that fatal moment?

In this new biography, Hampton Sides undertakes the hazardous enterprise of revisiting the life of Captain James Cook, who, at the time of his death in 1779 was Britain’s most celebrated explorer.

Sides’ hair-raising saga is a “thrilling and superbly crafted” account of the most momentous voyage of the Age of Exploration, says The Wall Street Journal.

It “will delight readers new to the topic as well as those versed in earlier looks at James Cook and his milieu,” Booklist says.