Captain cook

What is it like to be worshipped as a god in one’s lifetime?

In January 1780 the news reached London that Captain Cook had been killed and eaten in Hawaii. The story of his death was met with morbid fascination by the general public, inspiring paintings, poems and even a ballet. This ballet was so violent that one of the dancers accidentally stabbed another during the scene of the attack, yet it was also a fantastic success, touring the theatres of Europe and America. Soon aristocratic women were wearing dresses modelled on the natives who killed Cook, and interest in the explorer’s death continued into the 19th century, until one wit noted that every museum in the world contained a copy of the

Without Joseph Banks, Cook’s first voyage might have been a failure

When the wealthy young Joseph Banks announced that he intended joining Captain Cook’s expedition to Tahiti to observe the Transit of Venus, friends asked why he didn’t instead do the Grand Tour. ‘Every blockhead does that,’ Banks replied. ‘My Grand Tour shall be one round the whole globe.’ It was a wise decision, and his voyage on HMS Endeavour would be the making of him. He returned with an extraordinary haul of natural history specimens and would thereafter more or less fall into important roles on the strength of his experiences, whether it was as the unofficial director of Kew, which he would make into the world’s most important botanical