The Unexplored Ocean.  Catherine Fisher.  1994.

The Unexplored Ocean. Catherine Fisher. 1994.

Fisher, Catherine.  

The Unexplored Ocean

Poetry Wales Press Ltd.  


ISBN 1-85411-106-X. 

64 pages


This collection of the author's poems caught my eye, as the cover of the softback version features Henry Robert’s watercolour of Resolution.  Inside the book I found over 60 poems, mostly based around a variety of historical themes, both real and imagined. 

Ten of the poems are devoted to Captain Cook.  Catherine Fisher has written these poems through the eyes of a fictitious naval officer, James Hartshill, who she imagined to serve under Cook on his three Pacific voyages. 


Catherine Fisher is currently best known for her children’s fantasy books.  These have resulted in a series of nominations for prestigious literary awards.  However, 20 years ago most of her work was poetry, and The Unexplored Ocean was one of her early anthologies.


Her poems about Cook’s voyages capture the essence of the man and his crew.  She writes with such confidence and authority that I assumed she must have made an in-depth study of Cook to obtain such an insight into his character.  So I was surprised when she told me that her studies had been restricted to the few books about Cook that were held by her local library!


The following poem is one of her shorter works about Cook.  Its blank verse is full of visual imagery on a maritime theme, and fits the subject well.


August 1770


A man like Cook is an ocean;
you will never sail to the end of him.
You know his easy calms,
are tossed in his storms; see his determination
fling him on the world’s rocks.
You’ll not see under the surface,
not the currents of the heart, how they
twist and slither over wreck and pearl,
the deep gashes, fathoms drowned.
Men like this cannot uncover,
can`t let the tides retreat;
do not know how to reveal, even to us that love them
what moon it is that tugs and drags them
to their ambitions’ end.


(Reproduced with the author’s permission).


Cliff Thornton


Originally published in Cook's Log, page 33, volume 39, number 4 (2016)

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