October 24, 2007

Too Many Captain Cooks Spoil The Stew

It amazes me how entire hillsides can be ablaze from Malibu to the Mexican border yet the skies here on the Central Coast seem oblivious to it. That all changed on Wednesday night when smoke started appearing in the horizon about an hour before sunset. Mother Nature is running wild-while the fires are burning out of control down south there is torrential flooding in New Orleans while Atlanta is suffering from drought conditions and is three months away from running out of drinking water. The weather in this country is incredibly diverse. As they say in Boulder, Colorado, “If you don’t like the weather, wait ten minutes.”

Today’s photos were taken at a beautiful sunset last Monday night at Natural Bridges. It was cloudy all day but as the sun started to drop the skies opened up and the show began. The first shot is what’s left of what was once three arches. I love the golden color of the rocks along with the pelicans. I enjoyed taking these sunset shots and it is my pleasure to share it with the patrons of Sunrise Santa Cruz.

Today we are going to celebrate the birthday of Captain James Cook, who was born on October 27, 1728. He was a British explorer and navigator who was famous for his three voyages of exploration in the South Pacific and the coastal waters of North America. He sailed around the globe twice, was an innovator in the process of long distance sea travel and is ranked as an explorer with Vasco De Gama and Columbus. He is best known as the discoverer of the Hawaiian Islands and teriyaki sauce.

In the 18th century, the Pacific Ocean was still virtually uncharted, except for a few isolated Club Meds. Ever since Magellan made the first European crossing in 1520 there were rumors of a large southern continent called Terra Australis Nordum Cognita (the southern land not yet known.) French, Dutch and English sailors had hunted in vain for this mythical land. The British Royal Navy trusted that Captain Cook would find this southern continent if it existed.

On his first voyage while sailing around Australia his ship ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef, which is 150 miles in length and the largest reef (according to Snoop Dog) in the world. While waiting for his ship to be repaired, Cook and his crew hung around for two months observing and kangaroos. He then headed back out to sea and after exploring the coastline of Australia, Cook concluded it was not the great southern continent he was seeking. He sailed back to England as kangaroos from all over down under applauded.

On his second voyage, which lasted 3 years and 18 days, Captain Cook sailed for Tahiti with a secret order from the British Royal Navy to once again seek out the fabled southern continent and claim it for England. He reached the Antarctic Circle in January 1777, having sailed further south than any other explorer. But too much floating pack ice blocked his way to find the continent of Antarctica and he headed for warmer water to the east. Two things of note occurred on this trip. The islander’s custom in Tahiti of decorating themselves by ing their skin and dyeing it led to the sailor’s fashioning themselves with their trademark sign of a tattoo on their upper arm. In return, the sailors turned the natives on to gang signs and hip-hop music. By circumnavigating the southern waters around Antarctica, Cook indisputably determined here was no habitable southern continent.

His final voyage began on July 12, 1776. His purpose was to find the fabled Northwest Passage, a mythical waterway which would allow sailing between Europe and Asia across the top of North America. Unlike other explorers who attempted to find this area of the world, Cook attempted a route from the Pacific side. He stopped at bed and breakfasts in Tahiti and New Zealand before he sighted the Hawaiian Islands on January 18, 1778. The natives rowed out to his ship and were very friendly as they pelted the crew with fresh pineapple, papayas and unsalted macadamia nuts. Cook named them the Sandwich Islands in honor of his patron, John Montague, the fourth earl of Sandwich, who I believe is related to the first Earl of Monroe. After discovering so many islands in the Pacific where people had a common language and similar customs, Cook marveled at how the Polynesian people spread themselves from island to island. I should mention that on this third trip Cook suffered his first serious incident of when natives in New Zealand killed and ate a small group of his men. No comment needed after that. Okay, betcha can’t eat just one. I couldn’t resist.

The Hawaiians thought Cook was a God and his men were supernatural beings. After a laua-filled couple of weeks of surfing, snorkeling and boogie boarding, Cook and his ship departed and headed north where they reached the shores of what is now Oregon and followed the coast north to Alaska and west through the Bering Strait. By August, Cook concluded there was no Northwest Passage and returned to warm waters. He headed back to Hawaii where he was killed by angry natives. The honeymoon was definitely over.

The contributions of Captain James Cook were extraordinary. His achievements in mapping New Zealand and Australia changed the understanding of world geography. He charted much of the Pacific Ocean and used a chronometer to chart his exact location on the globe. He was the first sea captain to discover the cure for scurvy (fresh fruit and lot of sauerkraut.) He sailed further south than any other explorer before him and proved once and for all there was no Northwest Passage. He was unbeatable in Pictionary. He used science and mathematics to help him with cartography and produced accurate maps of areas that where unknown before his time. He occasionally cheated at cards. Cook’s mantra was, “To not only go further than any man had before, but as far as it is possible to go.” Touchdown.

So that’s our look at perhaps the greatest explorer of the 18th century. It is mindblowing to think about the lives of these men who spent years at sea discovering places that had never been visited before by western man. It took tremendous courage, extraordinary vision and a whole lot of dramamine. Myself, I’m just happy when I can find an address on the east side of town.

Congratulations go out to Makenna Rice Kerr of Santa Cruz who was the grand prize winner of a photo from Sunrise Santa Cruz. The contest was held during Open Studios and we had over 100 entri
es. So that’s our show for today . Enjoy the sunset, have a great sports weekend and be very grateful for what you have. And definitely not in that order. Aloha.

1 Comment »

  1. So Columbus was great at Scrabble, Cook at Pictionary, what about Magellan – Yahtzee? (I know – you’ll do the humor in the family).

    Comment by Brad — October 26, 2007 @ 4:15 pm

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