Laurie Lawlor:  Curriculum Connections

    Curriculum Connections:
    Magnificent Voyage: An American Adventurer on Captain James Cook's Final Expedition

    Some background information will assist students to better understand the context of this account of Captain James Cook's last 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

    An 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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