On 14 March, 1770, Captain Cook approached an inlet on the west coast of South Island, New Zealand. He was uncertain whether to enter. He was anxious and unsettled. Fearing he would not be able to get back out he resisted and, instead, continued around the coast. And so Doubtful Sound was named.
On 11 October, 2019, I found I was facing the same dilemma as our stalwart captain as I stood outside the reception doors of the Sporting Lodge Hotel, Stainton, Middlesbrough. The event was a meeting of the Captain Cook Society, and I was a new recruit wondering whether I was brave enough to spend a weekend with a group of individuals I had never met before! Would they be kind? Would anyone speak to me? And, what on earth actually goes on at an event like this, I wondered, as a cold sweat started to envelope me?
How had I found myself in this position? Well, the previous year I had retired, and I was looking for something far removed from the commercial sector. I decided to join the Education Team at the Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby, as a volunteer guide. I was thoroughly enjoying it, so decided to become a member of the Captain Cook Society as well, in order to keep up to date with developments in this wide field.
Sophie Forgan, Chairman of Trustees at the Museum, then encouraged me to attend the event in Marton. I said “yes”. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? But, as I pushed open the reception doors, it suddenly didn’t seem so easy. I wheeled my suitcase to reception, and was handed my room key.
Initial fears of “where to go” and “what to do” were immediately calmed by a smiling welcome party, already in place in reception, led by Alwyn Peel. I was handed my badge and agenda. A kind offer to take me into dinner, when I was ready, calmed my nerves, and banished any fears of me being sat by myself in the corner! And the company at dinner that evening was delightful.
The next day, Saturday, we all travelled a short distance to the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum in Marton, where a very interesting selection of talks had been arranged. These included:
I found the talks to be diverse, entertaining and illuminating, and the expert chairmanship of Ian Boreham made the day fly by!
After the meeting closed, an auction was held at the hotel of stamps and other Cook memorabilia. It was followed by dinner. After that, all members retired to a private room for entertaining stories, and conversation amongst a very friendly group, some of whom had travelled from Germany and Canada.
As I left on Sunday, I reflected on a weekend during which I had met some lovely people, learned a lot and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Was I initially Doubtful? Yes.
But was it Sound? Indeed it was.
I had a wonderful time and will certainly be back next year!
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 66, volume 43, number 1 (2020).
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