Exhibit: Captain Cook’s crew tested in ‘extreme’ Antarctica

Painting of the Resolution in a Stream of Pack Ice by William Hodges, 1772-73
Painting of the Resolution in a Stream of Pack Ice by William Hodges, 1772-73

A painting of the Resolution in a stream of pack ice by William Hodges shows how Captain James Cook and his fellow voyagers were tested in gruelling conditions at sea in Antarctica.

Exhibited in the Voyages room of Whitby’s Captain Cook Museum, the pen, wash and watercolour sketch on laid paper depicts the Resolution under sail in a choppy sea under overcast skies with streams of pack ice floating past.

The Resolution was a sturdy Whitby-built collier bark bought by the Admiralty for Captain Cook’s second voyage of exploration.

The aim was to discover a fertile ‘undiscovered Southern Continent’ still believed to exist somewhere in the southern oceans.

The sketch of the ship was made by Hodges, the official draughtsman to the expedition, during one of the two sweeps towards the South Pole in 1772-73.

The voyage marked the first crossing of the Antarctic Circle and the ship nearly came within sight of the Continent itself, further south than anyone had sailed before, to 71° 10’S, 106 ° 54’W, before being stopped by an immense ice field.

This part of the voyage was full of dangers – from huge tabular icebergs and pack – ice, as well as fog, stormy weather, and freezing conditions.

The rigging was coated with ice and the crew were issued with “magellan” jackets to help endure the cold.

No –one was sorry when the ship finally turned northwards again.

They had circumnavigated Antarctica and proved that, if any continent existed, it was cold and barren.

The picture tells us about the quest for knowledge, exploration in the age of Enlightenment, and about how men and ships from Yorkshire were tested in the most extreme conditions in the southern oceans.

The Captain Cook Museum tells the story of Cook, and of the crews, artists and scientists who sailed with him.

It illustrates the story with original paintings and drawings from the Voyages, letters in Cook’s hand, ship models and artefacts from the Pacific.

The museum is also a winner of VisitEngland Gold Award for Excellence 2013 and of Yorkshire Tourist Board’s White Rose Award in 2005 and 2012.

It is open daily to November 6, 9.45 am to 5pm.

Winter openings arranged by appointment.