Richard was able to contextualize Cook’s Second Voyage within the period between the Age of Enlightenment and the Polar Scientific Age. In looking at Cook’s activities, Richard described how they fitted in with what else was happening in the world at that time, and also with the body of knowledge prior to Cook’s efforts to get to the South Pole.
Richard spoke of the totally foreign aspect of how things must have looked for Cook and his men, such as mountains of ice, a land mass covered with ice and snow, and scenes of white on white with no place to land. The distances covered by Cook were unbelievably huge.
What was achieved as a result of Cook’s Antarctic voyage? There was a direct impact on how the Antarctic was seen by the rest of the world. There was the successful use and proven reliability of the sea-going timepiece (later called a chronometer), as well as the continuous improvement of charts.
During the question period, Richard explained how icebergs can be made up of fresh water, and how they and sea ice are formed. Cook described these as “ice islands”. In his journals, Cook did not always relate all the extreme difficulties that they undoubtedly encountered, such as how the ice and wind affected the ship’s rigging.
Our next meeting will take place in November 2023, when we will have local Vancouver Island historian Catherine Gilbert speaking about the Spanish explorations along the west coast of Canada. The date and time will be announced in the October issue of Cook’s Log.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 47, volume 46, number 2 (2023).