Double Edged Sword
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Double Edged Sword

Double Edged Sword

Double Edged Sword

Of all the places I as going to pass through, I was looking forward to the stretch of ocean between Prince Edward and the Crozet Islands the most. It is also one of the areas I am most anxious to leave.

I wanted to be here as it was in the waters south of these islands where Capt. James Cook made one of his most important discoveries and contributions to science and geography. Cook, by ranging north, south, east, and west most all the time below 45 South in the southern Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans finally put to rest the idea of a Great Southern Continent. His orders for his second expedition were just that. Find it or don’t.

Up until that time, there were far more proponents sure of the existence of a great land mass in the south than those opposed. Moreover, those for were powerful, influential members of the aristocracy, clergy, and scientific community not to mention the President of the
Royal Society itself, Lord Alexander Dalyrmple. Cook made few friends with his non-discovery, among them Dalyrmple.

In the end, Cook’s meticulous adherence to his orders, astounding hydrographic and surveying skills, and dogged determination and perseverance won the day. There was no great Southern Continent and in a very short period of time after Cook’s return and presentation to the Royal Society the idea became unfashionable. His enemies, sensing which way the wind was blowing, became allies chief among them none other than Dalyrmple.

The photo shows my track along 40S, well north of where Cook ranged. The map above my chart shows Cook’s tracks in the waters south of me now.

It is astonishing to know that Cook ranged about here as he did. Even more so when one stops to think about the ships he sailed in and the food, clothing, medicines, and navigation technologies of his time. Not to mention the weather. For me, being here now, what he was able to do seems impossible.

To put it to numbers, Cook was the first to be at both 70 degrees South and North. The next to do so came more than a century later.

To put it to names, Cook was awarded the Copley Medal for his efforts and thereby placed in the company of the likes of Sir Isaac Newton and Benjamin Franklin.

I have sailed in the tracks of Cook in the North and South Pacific. But here, in the Indian Ocean, it is especially humbling. Even more so because I cannot wait to quit the place and return to a more friendly, forgiving ocean.

Follow my tracks in real-time: