Author: Hugh O'Neill

Captain Cook’s “Discovery” 250 Years On

Hugh O’Neill CAPTAIN COOK Abridged from a lecture by Professor Bernard Smith (1916-2011) The evil that men do lives after them, The good is oft interr’d within their bones.” Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 2 That’s one way to start isn’t it, but in Cook’s case it misses the point rather badly. Because his bones were not properly interred, they were carried around for over forty years in a reliquary bundle at Hawaii (at the carnival time of the god Lono, the time of the god’s harvest festival) as a sign that the god had returned, and a sign perhaps too that the god was now an Englishman. In Cook’s case, both the good and evil aspects of his astounding achievements have been keenly debated since his death. Cook’s three Pacific voyages had immense consequences because they changed the world so radically that their good and evil consequences continue to be debated e.g. is modern industrial society a blessing or a curse? We enjoy the benefits even as we become increasingly apprehensive as to the …