Madness, Betrayal and the Lash
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The Epic Voyage of Captain George Vancouver
Written by Stephen R. Bown
The tragic story of Captain Vancouver, a great explorer whose triumphs were overshadowed by public humiliation.
From 1792 to 1795, King's Lynn-born George Vancouver sailed the Pacific waters as captain of a major expedition of discovery and imperial ambition. Britain had its eyes on Pacific North America, and Vancouver valiantly charted four thousand miles of coastline from California to Alaska where he named, among others, Point Couverden after his Eastern Dutch ancestral home. His voyage was one of history’s greatest feats of maritime daring, scientific discovery, marine cartography and international diplomacy.
Vancouver’s triumph, however, was overshadowed by bitter smear campaigns initiated by enemies he made on board, in particular Archibald Menzies, the ship’s naturalist, and Thomas Pitt, a well-connected midshipman whom Vancouver flogged and sent home. Both men were members of the governing elite and, once back in London, they destroyed Vancouver’s reputation. Pitt publicly challenged Vancouver to several duels and then beat him in a London street with a cane when he declined. The ailing Vancouver was lampooned in the press as a coward and a bully. Unable to collect back pay, he was left impoverished and ill. He died just after finishing the manuscript of his voyage, scrawling out the final pages on his death bed.
In this gripping tale of maritime daring and betrayal, Stephen Bown offers a long-overdue re-evaluation of one of the greatest explorers of the Age of Discovery.
Paperback, 254 pages, illustrated, notes, bibliography, index (A Dutch Heritage volume)
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