2007, 4 x 53 Minutes
“I had ambition not only to go farther than any man had been before, but as far as it was possible for a man to go.” James Cook
A hero to some, a villain to others, this son of an English farm labourer described more of the globe than any other man in three incredible voyages. Geographer, historical consultant and bestselling author Vanessa Collingridge searches for the man behind the legend as she traces his story in a series that is part biography, part travelogue and completely enthralling.
Discover the man and his times. Step back into the 18th century to experience what it was like to navigate uncharted and unknown waters in search of a legendary Great Southern Continent and then a Northwest Passage through the Arctic ice; as well as to be among the first Europeans to visit exotic Pacific islands like Tahiti. Witness Cook's discovery of Hawaii. Sail the uncharted coast of New Zealand, proving it isn’t part of the ‘great south continent'. Land with Captain Cook at Botany Bay as he claims Australia for king and country, a ‘discovery’ that goes unquestioned for over a century.
Meet the men of the Endeavour, Resolution, Adventure and Discovery, and learn what sea-life was like for the sailors and scientists who made it all possible, including the celebrated gentleman-botanist Joseph Banks and a young naval officer named William Bligh.
It’s a tale of obsession and discovery, respect and brutality, courage and madness, from the pomp and splendour of the royal courts of England to death on a beach on the far side of the world.
Likely Lad, A James Cook journeys from life as a barefoot farm boy to commanding his own ship on one of the British Empire’s first great scientific expeditions. Influential patrons help the bright boy to an apprenticeship in the merchant navy that would make him a ships’ master. But with an eye for the main chance Cook switches to the Royal Navy. War with France propels him to Canada, where he discovers his life's work. He revolutionises the accuracy of naval mapping and the way the world is recorded. In further adventures, his genius for precision navigation helps Britain win the war and control of North America. Cook's reward is command of the great scientific expedition to the Pacific Ocean and the newly discovered exotic and sexually liberated Tahiti to record the 1769 Transit of Venus. When the observation is complete, Cook opens secret orders and learns he is to solve one of the world’s great mysteries. He must find the Great Southern Continent. The real challenge has just begun.
Taking Command Cook sets sail on the history-making adventure in search of a great southern continent. If Britain can find and map it, they can claim it for the Empire. Cook is carrying an additional passenger, Polynesian priest and fellow navigator Tupaia. Cook's first encounter with New Zealand's Maori is a disaster, so he turns to Tupaia who acts as go-between for later landings. In circumnavigating New Zealand, he proves it is not the Great Southern Continent. Continuing into the unknown and landing in Botany Bay, Cook is challenged by what he encounters—Australia’s flora, fauna and Indigenous people. Cook’s landing will make him an iconic figure in modern history, but not unless he can navigate his way out of the maze of the Great Barrier Reef—the potential disaster that could kill them all.
Beyond Speculation Cook continues his relentless pursuit of a great southern continent, putting fable and mystery to rest. Despite his great skills sailing and navigating across the world, Endeavour runs aground and is nearly lost. Cook commits the most controversial act of the voyage: he claims the entire east coast of New Holland for Britain, without permission from the local inhabitants. Stopping for emergency repairs in Batavia, infected water turns Endeavour into a death ship. Back in London, Cook’s maps confirm his brilliance. He is promoted and eventually given command of a new voyage that will add an incredible third of the world to the map. It makes him a great British hero but the massive responsibility is taking its toll. He is losing control; only his obsession with discovery drives him on.
Northwest Passage Cook’s obsession with discovery continues as he searches for the mythic Northwest Passage, but it is a journey too far. Now retired and promoted to Post Captain, James Cook is bored. He jumps at the chance to take on a third great voyage: to find a fast route to China to secure Britain’s place in the lucrative tea trade. To do it, he must sail across the world and then over the top of the North American continent, pushing against a wall of Arctic ice. But it’s too much for the ships of the day. Cook is forced to return to the Pacific. When his ship snaps a mast and he returns to Hawaii, the island group he discovered on his way north, the inhabitants who once greeted him with open arms turn hostile—they have already given Cook all they have. As relations deteriorate, Cook takes the Hawaiian chief hostage in retribution for a stolen boat. In the confusion that follows, he is needlessly killed on the beach. The man who has become an icon of the British Empire is about to be swept up by history.
A Film Australia National Interest Program. A Cook Films, Ferns Productions, South Pacific Pictures and December Films production. Produced with the assistance of New Zealand On Air, the Canadian Television Fund and Film Victoria, in association with History Television, ZDF in co-operation with ARTE and the ABC. An Australia-Canada Co-production. © 2011 NFSA, Cook Films, Ferns Productions, Film Victoria, South Pacific Pictures.
Producers: Tony Wright (Producer), Andrew Ferns (Producer Canada), Paul Rudd (Series Producer)
Directors: Wain Fimeri, Paul Rudd, Matthew Thomason
Narrator: Vanessa Collingridge
Featured People: Dr Sophie Forgan, Dr Huw Lewis-Jones, Prof. Andrew Lambert, Barney Tupara, Cliff Thornton, Capt. Victor Suthren, Phillip Clayton-Gore, Prof. John Gascoigne, Steve Cafferty, Dr Peter Stanley, Penny Kealy, Dr Penelope Edmonds, Victor Walker, Emeritus Prof. Robert Clancy, Prof. John Maynard, Kit Woodward.
Principal Cast: Matt Young, Bridget Bezanson
Total Running Time: 4 x 53 Minutes
Curriculum Links: SOSE/HSIE, History, Geography, English and Media Studies.