Exhibit: Captain Cook’s Asia voyages charted at museum

The departure of Captains Gore and King by Eckstein and Sadler.
The departure of Captains Gore and King by Eckstein and Sadler.

The Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby has begun the 2017 season with the launch of this year’s exhibition, From Kamchatka to Krakatoa: the Cook Voyages in Asia.

We do not often associate Cook with Asia but in fact he stopped at Batavia (modern Jakarta, Indonesia) on his way home from the first voyage.

Krakatoa by Webber

Krakatoa by Webber

On the third voyage, after a failed attempt to find a north west passage between the Pacific and the Atlantic, his crew travelled down the eastern coast of Asia after Cook’s death in Hawai’i. Despite the loss of Cook, this voyage was a success in many ways. New islands and coasts were charted, peoples and their ways of life were described and many plant specimens collected.

At this time Europeans were very keen to develop trade with China for valuable commodities such as silks, porcelain and spices.

The voyagers discovered that sea otter pelts, brought from the North West coast of America were highly prized in China and this might help to open up trade between the east and the west.

Voyage artist John Webber documented a great deal of what was found on the third voyage, and his drawings provide a fascinating picture of eastern Asia in the 18th Century seen through then eyes of a European visitor.

Many of his drawings illustrated the official account of the voyage which was published after their return.

This exhibition looks at the Asian coast from Eastern Siberia to Indonesia, and includes examples of drawings and artefacts which bring the voyages to life.

From a Siberian costume made from reindeer, a Chinese silk jacket and printed Indonesian batik, to an account of the eruption of Krakatoa and the chewing of betel nuts, the exhibition is a celebration of the wealth of life and culture experienced by the travelling sailors.

The museum will be hosting a range of workshops and events throughout the year inspired by the exhibition. Events for children and adults will include batik, silk pictures, volcano making and mixing and grinding spices.

The Cook Museum, on Grape Lane, is now open daily from 9.45am to 5pm until November 5. For a full programme of events or to find out more about the exhibition phone 01947 601900 or contact info@cookmuseumwhitby.co.uk