Captain James Cook
Had I not been to Whitby earlier this year, the discovery of Captain Cook's ship, H.M.S. Endeavour, would probably have been of only passing interest to me.
Whitby! For a vegetarian seeking sustenance, the place is a nightmare. One is amazed that the sea still has fish to surrender, given the proliferation of fish and chip outlets. I managed to get an inadequate cheese toastie for my lunch (smothered in the pickle I had asked not to have applied) and a very pleasant Turkish meal in the evening, after persuading the charmless waiter that I really did want several starters rather than one of the unpromising-sounding main courses. Ah well.
The little streets are charming, the Abbey is interesting and atmospheric and, of course, there is always a whiff of Count Dracula about the place. Those steps, the church, the graveyard.
What fascinated me most, however, was the little museum dedicated to Captain Cook. As the curator said, unprompted, it could do with sharpening up but the experience of walking around and slowly taking in the great courage and daring of the man is quite compelling.
As you look at the maps of his three great Pacific voyages, you find yourself passing from any sense of reality into a world of the imagination. How can you not think of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner? How did Cook, his fellow discoverers and his crew dare to enter those uncharted waters? How did they hold on to any sense of self, any sense of purpose?
I admit to enjoying my little trip around the harbour in the half-size version of The Endeavour. That, too, made one think of the awesome nature of the journey. So little space. So little, other than the practicalities, with which to occupy your mind. Food? Health? Conversation? Love? Belief?
Cook, of course, did not return from his last voyage but what of those who did? Could you ever be satisfied with a life of ease?