My wife Judy and I finished a 10-day trip through Italy, looking forward to moving on to England, where "American" is generally well understood by the English. We arrived in Marton on 10 October, two days before the start of the 2007 CCS UK regional meeting.
Here is how we came to be here. In 1993, on vacation in the Society Islands, my knowledge of Cook was nil. We stayed on Moorea, near beautiful Cook's Bay, and then moved on to Tahiti where we stayed near Point Venus, just above Matavai Bay. My curiosity about Cook was stimulated. In the next few years during visits to Kauai, in the Hawaiian Islands, I admired the Cook statue in Waimea Town, a replica of Tweed's statue in Whitby. In 2000, while visiting Kauai again, we met Cathy Ingledow, who was then Mayor of Whitby. She had accepted an invitation to participate in the annual Captain Cook Days in Waimea. I was hooked, and decided to visit Whitby some day. The next year, my sister-in-law gave me membership in the CCS for my birthday. So, here I am, again.
We first attended the Marton meeting in 2005. Following that meeting, we visited many of the iconic Cook sites in Cook Country. We drove to Great Ayton, where we saw the statue of Cook as a boy, and to the Schoolhouse Museum, and enjoyed a clear view of Roseberry Topping. Driving on to Whitby, we visited the Captain Cook Memorial Museum and the Tweed statue of Cook on the West Cliff. On the recommendation of many CCS members, we also traveled to Staithes, where, after identifying ourselves as CCS members, we were treated to a personal tour of the Captain Cook and Staithes Heritage Centre by Reg Firth.
This year, arriving at The Marton Hotel, fondly known as Fawlty Towers, we felt we were upholding the Cook tradition of exploration and adventure so aptly described on his coat of arms: Nil intentatum reliquit (he left nothing unattempted). The floors squeaked, the showers did not work, and the general condition of the hotel section brought second thoughts about our decision to stay there again. But our room on the second floor was quiet, we learned to shower using a teacup in the tub, and made the best of it.
On this trip, we decided on an early arrival, did some laundry in Middlesbrough, took the opportunity to visit the nearby Mount Grace Priory, and made a short hike in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, out of Danby. This year the weather cooperated. As part of my personal pilgrimage, I again paid my respects at the Cook statue in Whitby.
We were very pleased to see Secretary Alwyn Peel greeting attendees in the hotel lobby. Alwyn and I have been in email contact these last two years, and it was wonderful to see him, as animated as I remembered. Shortly thereafter, dinner was served in the dining room, where I had the chance to renew acquaintances made at the last meeting with Steve Ragnall, Harry Ward, Cliff Thornton, and Ian Boreham. During new introductions, because of my "accent", I am frequently asked where I live. My response, "Stockton", is usually met with a quizzical look, and the comment "you don't sound like you are from Stockton (-on-Tees)". When I expand, "Stockton, California", it becomes clear. Though there were no attendees from continental Europe, the North American contingent was well represented. Rumor had it that we were lobbying to move next year's meeting to North America! John Clark, from Victoria, B.C., Canada was making his first visit. Returnees from the USA, besides my wife and I, were Brian Sandford, the CCS agent for America, and his wife Jean from Concord, MA, Martin La Roque, from La Habra, CA, and Charlie and Janice Auth, from Pittsburgh, PA. Charlie was again wearing his striking Hawaiian aloha shirt depicting important scenes from Cook's visits to Hawai'i. He continues to refuse offers to sell the shirt off his back.
After dinner, we moved to the Endeavour Room, where Alwyn told jokes and made announcements. We were disappointed that Vanessa Collingridge, who was to make a presentation about her new documentary TV series about Cook, would be unable to attend because her father was gravely ill. We were informed that her series was soon to be televised in Australia, and might be available for purchase on DVD. Alwyn also advised that he was in possession of a few cases of a fine New Zealand wine, bearing the label "The Captain's", with four different Cook scenes depicted, which were available for purchase out of the boot of his car. He assured us there was nothing illegal about such transactions. Alwyn then introduced Mike Surr, who had with him a lovely potted plant that was not recognized by any of the attendees. Mike offered a taste of this plant, advising, as our mothers might, that although it does not taste good, it is, nonetheless, good for us. Several members took the opportunity to taste the leaves and stems, variously described as bitter, strong, pungent, etc. None found it tasted good. The plant was Scurvy Grass!!! What a treat.
A number of interesting items relating to Cook were on display for viewing. Derek Morris, renowned for his work on the history of Mile End Old Town in London, made a short presentation, illustrated with a hand-drawn map of the area. He announced an upcoming walking tour, and several members made arrangements to participate.
Saturday morning, the presentations began at The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum, in lovely Stewart Park, just a short walk from The Marton Hotel. Alwyn Peel made introductory remarks. Cliff Thornton then honored Brian Sandford with a lifetime CCS membership and certificate recognizing his many years as the American agent, and his production of Cook's Log and Endeavour Lines on CD.
The first presentation, "Christmas In The Eighteenth Century-Cook's Experiences", by Phil Philo, Curator of The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum, gave insight into the way Christmas was observed during Cook's childhood in Yorkshire, as an adult in London, and at sea during his three great voyages. It was much colder in those times, perhaps explaining the high consumption of alcoholic beverages at Christmas. It was also noted that Christmas was still a pagan festival, with little emphasis on Christian religious meaning.
Cliff Thornton then gave an informative and entertaining talk, "Crossing The Line", in which he described the ritual observance of crossing the equator during Cook's voyages, and compared them to current practices aboard naval vessels and cruise liners. Hazing is alive and well on the high seas.
After a lunch break, Bob Rawlinson made a presentation on "Dusky Bay", supplemented by a detailed map distributed to each attendee. Bob had arranged a flight on a private floatplane, and recounted his impatience waiting several days for the weather to clear enough for the flight. The aerial photos were stunning, and his commentary very detailed regarding his and Cook's visits, some 234 years apart.
Phil Philo again took to the lectern, with his review of a trip last summer, "Captain James Cook's Visit To The Northwest Coast Of Canada, 1778-2007". With beautiful photos to supplement his story, he recounted the challenge of traveling to Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island, where he met with the local chief, a direct descendant of the chief during the visit of Cook in 1778. Phil also described the methods he used to convince his wife and children that this Cook trip was really just a family vacation.
Finally, Chris Neumann presented "Sailing The Pacific", his own Pacific odyssey as a crewmember on a sailing vessel, sailing over seven thousand miles from Auckland, N.Z., to Easter Island, Pitcairn Island, and on to Tahiti. He presented excerpts from his own log, side-by-side with Cook's, at each location.
After some free time browsing in the museum, we returned to the hotel, where the items to be auctioned were available to view in the Scandinavia Room. The auction, conducted by Harry Ward, was fast-paced, and the bidding often very active. I had some success, and came away with some stamps and covers to add to my small collection. Some lots were related to the Harrison Timekeepers, and I entered the bidding, only to be outdone by Bernard Higginbotham. Afterward, I learned that Bernard is a skilled watch/clockmaker, and that one of his creations, a replica of K1, the watch that Cook used on his second and third voyages, is on display at Reg Firth's Centre.
Dinner was served after the auction, followed by an evening of conversation that was thoroughly enjoyed by all attendees.
The next morning, while many members visited the sights of Cook country, we took our leave and headed off to London for a few days. We visited the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, where the sights and sounds of the Harrison Timekeepers again mesmerized me. After a stop at the Cook statue outside the National Maritime Museum (which needs a more descriptive plaque!), we made a brief visit inside at the Cook exhibit, and then stopped in the gift shop. While admiring Endeavour model kits, I engaged a man in conversation. Turned out he is a direct descendant of the brother of Stephen Forwood, a crewmember on the first voyage!
For any members who have never attended the meeting, I advise you to put it on your calendar for October 2008. To walk in Cook's footsteps in Cook Country, and to enjoy the company of so many Cook enthusiasts is an experience you will not regret, and never forget. See you next time? Cheers.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 34, volume 28, number 1 (2005).
your email address will not be published