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Sea of Dangers – Captain Cook and His Rivals

By: Geoffrey Blainey (714/35978)
Publisher: Penguin Books, ISBN: 9780670072231

Two ships set out in search of a missing continent: the St Jean-Baptiste, a French merchant ship commanded by Jean de Surville, and the Endeavour, a small British naval vessel captained by James Cook. In Sea of Dangers, distinguished historian Geoffrey Blaney tells the story of these rival ships and the men who sailed them. Just before Christmas 1769, the two captains were almost close enough to see one another – and yet they did not know of each other’s existence. Both crews battled extreme hardships including scurvy, storms and loneliness; but they also experienced the euphoria of ‘discovering’ new lands, and the fascination of meeting peoples so different they may as well have come from separate worlds.

This is the most revealing narrative so far written of Cook’s astonishing voyage along the east coast of Australia. It also casts new light on the little-known voyage by Jean de Surville; Blainey argues that the Frenchman was in the vicinity of Sydney Harbour months before Cook arrived. Eventually Cook set out to explore the hazardous Barrier Reef and find a way through Torres Strait, while the Frenchman searched for a mysterious Jewish colony in the South Pacific.

In Sea of Dangers Blainey once again takes us on a vivid journey through history, challenging accepted views.

October 2008


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