Der Welterkunder: Auf der Suche nach Georg Forster. Frank Vorpahl. 2018

Der Welterkunder: Auf der Suche nach Georg Forster. Frank Vorpahl. 2018

Der Welterkunder: Auf der Suche nach Georg Forster.
(The World-Explorer: In search of Georg Forster.)
Galiani Berlin.
ISBN: 978-3-86971-149-2.
542 pages.

Don’t expect another conventional biography.  In this book, Frank Vorpahl describes many of his personal experiences while researching and exploring facts and unknown secrets about Georg Forster, and finds out that he has many things in common with Georg.  Reading the book, you will soon recognize Vorpahl’s passion for the exceptional outstanding man, who travelled and explored, together with his father, since his early childhood.  It is very easy to read this book and diverting.


There was much more to Forster’s life than his voyage in Resolution, in which he sailed along with his father Reinhold, as part of Captain Cook’s Second Voyage. 


The chapters do not follow Georg’s life in a chronological order, but are arranged in nine topics.  These include, amongst others: Search for Forsters Cascade, On the breadfruit path, On the happiest island in Oceania, and Lost property.  If you enjoyed reading Tony Horwitz’s book about Cook,1 and you want to learn more about Georg Forster, you will enjoy the style of this book.  Vorpahl is accompanied by his very close friend Martin, similar to Horwitz travelling with Roger.


One of the interesting stories begins with a sketch by Forster of a waterfall, which the author found in a manuscript in the Library of the National Museum of Natural History, Paris.  It took Vorpahl several years to locate the original waterfall, first searching in Tahiti, and finally finding it in New Zealand, climbing up the impassable terrain.


There are over 60 colour images in the book, many of which are rarely depicted.  Vorpahl describes the locations in such detail that one could easily follow his route and undertake your own explorations of the places he visited.  Many of the footnotes that appear at the end of the book are quite detailed.  There is an extensive bibliography, and a useful index.


All in all, it is a very original book, though it is available in only a German language edition.  It is a good addition for people interested in Georg Forster.  However, for those wanting a book as a starting point to understand him, I would recommend one of the biographies.2

Helene Nymphius



  1. Horwitz, Tony. Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before. Henry Holt. 2003.
  2. Two suggestions are
    Uhlig, Ludwig.  Georg Forster: Lebensabenteuer eines gelehrten Weltbürgers (1754–1794).  [Georg Forster: Adventures of a Scholar of the World (1754–1794).]  Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.  2004. 
    Harpprecht, Klaus.  Georg Forster oder Die Liebe zur Welt: Eine Biographie.  [Georg Forster or The Love of the World: a biography.]  Rowohlt.  1990.

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 30, volume 43, number 3 (2020).

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