Some background information will assist
students to better understand the context of this account of Captain
James Cook's last expedition.
Magnificent Voyage: An American Adventurer on Captain James Cook's Final Expedition
- Investigate basic information about
Captain James Cook by using an available encyclopedia (online or print
edition) to find an article about Cook and his expeditions.
- Make a timeline to show the span of Cook's lifetime and the period of his expeditions.
- Answer/discuss these questions:
- What drove Captain James Cook to make these expeditions?
- What was the purpose of Cook's expeditions?
- Why do you think he persisted?
- What were some prevalent characteristics of Captain
James Cook -- characteristics that made him the historical character
that he has become?
One week after the signing of the Declaration of
Independence, July 4, 1776, a British ship set sail form Deptford
Harbor headed not for battle in the colonies but for discovery in the
Pacific. Neither Captain James Cook nor the rest of his international
crew realized then what impact their discoveries would have on the
fledgling nation of America. While officially searching for the elusive
Northwest Passage, an ice-free path across the top of North America,
the expedition during the next three years explored and charted what
would one day be the state of Hawaii. Cook¹s ships pushed north
along the future northwest coast of America all the way to the Aleutian
Islands of Alaska.
A Note from Laurie Lawlor About the Story:
The Dream That Planted the Seed for the Lewis and Clark Expedition
unlikely source, a man named John Ledyard, helped plant the seed for
the idea behind the intrepid Lewis and Clark Expedition, which
celebrated its 200th anniversary in September 2003.
It is Ledyard's amazing adventures that are chronicled in Magnificent Voyage: An American Adventurer on Captain Cook¹s Final Voyage..
Ledyard was among the international crew members who joined British
explorer Captain James Cook on his final, round-the-world voyage in
1776. Cook discovered and charted what would one day become the states
of Hawaii and Alaska. The day the expedition first landed on the
Northwest Coast of North America, Ledyard realized that if he walked
across the continent, he¹d be home again in Connecticut.
A spectacular transcontinental journey became the dream that Ledyard
took with him after the voyage ended in 1780. Ledyard spent the rest of
his life trying to make that trip. In his effort to find financial
backers in Europe, he met Thomas Jefferson, who was serving as an
ambassador in Paris in the early 1780s. Jefferson later admitted it was
Ledyard's enthusiasm that encouraged germination of the plan that would
one day become the Lewis and Clark expedition.
I wrote Magnificent Voyage as Ledyard's story. He speaks to the reader
in a youthful, enthusiastic, irreverent voice that is both wise and
foolish, wary and distracted, innocent and jaded, observant and
neglectful. He provides us with another view of a mission that was
doomed from the start because it was based on so many faulty premises:
that seawater could not freeze, that Captain Cook did not need time to
rest or recuperate after two back-to-back journeys, that Cook¹s
luck would never give out, that the latest technology could solve
anything, and that the British could mistreat less sophisticated native
people and not suffer the consequences.
Not until more than 20 years after Ledyard died did his vision become a
reality. As president of the United States, Jefferson promoted and
organized the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which reached the Pacific and
explored the Northwest. The expedition's findings changed American
history forever--in no small part thanks to the seed of a dream planted
so many years earlier by John Ledyard.
Magnificent Voyage: An American Adventurer on Captain James Cook's Final Expedition. (2002) Holiday House. ISBN: 0823415759. History
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