Captain Cook: Obsession and Discovery

(Rochester, N.Y.) –  In 1756 — just after the start of the Seven Years’ War between France and England — English Navy shipmaster James Cook was called to New France (Canada). It’s there that Cook discovered a new instrument called a plane table, and finds his true calling: using geometry to conceive accurate maps, a feat that Europe has never seen. This chance encounter launched Cook into the man he is known for today: the voyager who discovered Hawaii and the eastern coast of Australia, navigated the uncharted shores of New Zealand and Tahiti, and mapped everything along the way.

Captain Cook: Obsession and Discovery, the new four-part special, airs on WXXI-TV June 8, 2014 at 8 p.m. The series follows Vanessa Collingridge, bestselling author and Cook expert, as she traces Cook’s three major voyages across the globe. Viewers come across the direct descendants of the native peoples of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii, as well those of the men with which he sailed on four magnificent vessels. Collingridge meets with experts to convey the life of an 18th century English sailor to viewers, and dramatic recreations of major events help bring Cook’s story to life.

Most intriguing is Cook’s personality, which is slowly revealed as the series progresses. Born to a farmer in the north of England, Cook worked his way up the naval ranks until he was offered the position of shipmaster—one he turned down to become a lowly Navy seaman. Stubborn and independent as always, Cook wanted to make his own way in the world and go “as far as it was possible for a man to go.” Absent for the birth of three children, and for the burial of all six, Cook’s ambition was to chart new lands with his unmatched cartography skills. This expertise eventually landed him the job of tracking Venus’ transit across the sun—an opportunity that only comes every 100 years.

Captain Cook: Obsession and Discovery is an account of a man torn between family and ambitions, compassion and ruthlessness, and modesty and acclaim, which ultimately takes him half a world away from where he’s been.

Pictured: Captain Cook



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