It is 1768. War has broken out in Europe and the British Admiralty wants a base in the Western Pacific.
So Captain James Cook and a company of nearly a hundred seamen and philosophers are despatched into those beautiful but perilous seas that lie between Terra Australis Incognita and the Great Barrier Reef, the never-before-penetrated realm of fin-back whales, sea-serpents, manatee, turtles and sharks, a maze of coral reefs and thousands of islets, some of which mysteriously send the compass needle spinning…
Inevitably they are wrecked. After twenty-three hours on the rocks they claw-off and limp into a desolate mainland river estuary, greeted by cries of ‘Charco!’ from invisible inhabitants. For forty-nine days they are castaway in Charco Harbour, neaped by tides and imprisoned by contrary winds, making contact with one of the strangest and most mysterious of native societies, since lost to the world.
In this closely-researched novel the reader will meet the Cook of the old logs and contemporary chronicles, the Cook who dominated mutinous crewmen and complaining passengers by sheer will and temper… the rall red-headed Yorkshiremen, the ex-collier’s mate who could knock a man down with his fist, the flogging Captain, the Cook who neither drank nor smoked but could not resist peeping at native women through his spyglass… Cook the anti-hero, albeit the nonpareil of Navigators.