Madness, Betrayal and the Lash: The Epic Voyage of Captain George Vancouver

Madness, Betrayal and the Lash: The Epic Voyage of Captain George Vancouver

Stephen R. Bown

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 1553653394

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


From 1792 to 1795, George Vancouver sailed the Pacific as the captain of his own expedition — and as an agent of imperial ambition. To map a place is to control it, and Britain had its eyes on America's Pacific coast. And map it Vancouver did. His voyage was one of history’s greatest feats of maritime daring, discovery, and diplomacy, and his marine survey of Hawaii and the Pacific coast was at its time the most comprehensive ever undertaken. But just two years after returning to Britain, the 40-year-old Vancouver, hounded by critics, shamed by public humiliation at the fists of an aristocratic sailor he had flogged, and blacklisted because of a perceived failure to follow the Admiralty’s directives, died in poverty, nearly forgotten. In this riveting and perceptive biography, historian Stephen Bown delves into the events that destroyed Vancouver’s reputation and restores his position as one of the greatest explorers of the Age of Discovery.

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Dalrymple, the same man who had years before strenuously argued for the existence of a great southern continent, now turned his attention to Pacific America. In early 1789, he published a short pamphlet with a mighty name: Plan for Promoting the Fur Trade and Securing It to This Country by Uniting the Operations of the East India and Hudson’s Bay Companies. His plan was based on a solid knowledge of the budding trade and included excerpts from the journals of the principal and pioneering

a far-flung trading enterprise, since the distance west across the Pacific to China was ten thousand miles, and Spanish ports were generally closed to foreign ships. In addition to being the wettest place in North America and one of the wettest in the world (annual rainfall on western Vancouver Island is as much as 3,300 millimetres, or 130 inches), the region’s tricky currents and frequent fog made for extremely treacherous sailing. The west coast of Vancouver Island later became known as “the

responsibilities during the voyage. For unknown reasons Vancouver, who was responsible for choosing most of his officers, objected to Menzies’s appointment. “The Commander of the Expedition made some objections,” Menzies wrote, “what they were I never heard.” Vancouver’s objections had nothing to do with Menzies personally—indeed, his credentials for such a voyage could hardly be matched—but had more to do with the fact that he felt Menzies was being pushed on him against custom by Banks. In the

were unloaded from the ship and delivered directly to Banks. Vancouver was pressured to withdraw his request for a court martial—a simple task, since Vancouver never held a grudge and Menzies had apologized to him for the incident. Banks then secured Menzies’s journals for himself, shutting down Vancouver’s request. He argued that Menzies should continue to receive his large salary while preparing his journals to Banks’s satisfaction but was unsuccessful. Menzies, not phenomenally wealthy like

by experience. Although he could boast of circumnavigating the globe with Cook, a routine life in King’s Lynn—a life like the one his brothers and sisters were leading—was forever lost to him. The navy was his family now. IN 1775, AFTER COOK’S triumphant return from nearly seven years of explorations on the far side of the globe, the aging mariner enjoyed widespread fame and admiration. King George III awarded him a royal coat of arms; the Royal Society presented him with the Copley Gold Medal

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