Fourteen keen “Cook-a-holics” or “Cookies”, as some refer to themselves, met for a wonderful day on March 6, 2015. It was full of learning and discussion on all types of topics related to Captain James Cook’s explorations. The day was organized by Randy Komar at the beautiful Tigh-Na-Mara Resort & Spa, Parksville, BC.
Randy started off the morning with an account of the events that ensued after the Mutiny on the Bounty, and what happened to Captain Bligh, master in Resolution during Cook’s Third Voyage.
Catherine Gilbert, a historian with the Campbell River museum, and an author, then gave a talk entitled, “Naming the Named”. She spoke about how several places along our west coast got their names. Many of the Spanish names we encounter, such as Galiano, Valdez and Cortes, came about because of the extensive exploration and mapping by the Spanish and Mexicans. It was interesting to hear the story about how Captain George Vancouver gave the name “Desolation Sound” because he felt it was such a desolate, bleak place. When Catherine showed a photo of that area on a sunny, summer day, it was hard to imagine that he could have found it such a miserable place!
After a wonderful lunch, Robin Inglis, former director of the Vancouver Maritime Museum, spoke about John Webber, artist on Cook’s Third Voyage—a talk he will also be giving at Anchorage in June this year.
It was very interesting to learn how the artist took his preliminary sketches of the people and events he encountered, and then created a second painting and then a third one for the engraving. To my mind, sometimes a person’s face changed so dramatically in the process that it didn’t look like the same person anymore. Of all the artists who had sailed with Cook during his three voyages, Webber was the one whose images were most realistic and almost photographic.
William Hodges, the artist on the Second Voyage, created lush pictures with stylized figures that more closely resembled ancient Greeks than Coastal Indians. Webber’s work is important for being so accurate. Robin also talked about the importance of the drawings of the mountains and coastlines; they were used for years by mariners to tell where they were in the area.
Our seminar ended in the late afternoon with Bob Reilly, a retired teacher from Courtenay on Vancouver Island, and our newest Society member. His talk was about the boat, Beaver, and his family connection to her through his great grandfather. He spoke about Beaver’s importance in the fur trade, the Hudson Bay Company, and how it controlled trade from Alaska to California. Bob showed us a piece of greenheart wood that had come from Beaver when it was no longer in use. This rot-resistant wood is so hard that it is incredibly difficult to cut. His great-grandfather had made his square chunk into a checkerboard. Bob’s talk was filled with humour and vivid description, making it a great ending to a full day of learning.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 25, volume 38, number 2 (2015).
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