Captain Cook vs. Georg Forster on Cook's Second Voyage: Plotted Together

Below you will find a representation of both Cook's and Georg Forster's published accounts of Cook's Second Voyage around the world. Georg and his father Johann accompanied Cook and published their own accounts of the voyage with some controversy over whether the Forsters were attempting to publish the "official" account of the voyage. In his print edition of the Georg Forster's A Voyage Round the World (University of Hawai'i Press, 2000), the Pacific historian Nicholas Thomas observes that, in contrast to Cook's, Forster's published record is "a great deal richer in its descriptions of the peoples of Oceania than any other narrative from the voyage; the book is arguably the richest of any eighteenth-century account of Pacific peoples" (xiii). We are grateful to Professor Thomas for making his word-processed files of both Johann's and Georg's accounts available to us for transformation to XML and computational analysis, since our project is producing the first cleanly readable and publicly accessible digital editions of these important texts on Pacific contact.

We have found that Georg's and his father's accounts do not record as many geographic coordinates on the voyage, though Georg's (first published in 1777) is much more detailed than his father's as a day-by-day record of events. Our project team is tasked with marking matched pairs of latitude and longitude readings within Georg Forster's paragraphs (click here for our current XML geocoordinate markup of the Forster file). This is challenging because not all geocoordinates are actual readings of points on the voyage, and the work of distinguishing position readings from azimuths and comparative references to other places can (among other things) produce problematic data sets for mapping. We have extracted 59 sets of "placemarks" from the Georg Forster voyage account, by contrast with 287 from Captain Cook's record, and this means that our Cook mapping (in yellow) presents a more coherently readable trajectory of the whole voyage (though it poses some errors that we need to correct), while the Forster mapping (in red) appears more disconnected--vaulting weirdly across South America at one point. To produce a more connected and less "gappy" mapping, we hope to add more placemarks from Georg Forster with continued analysis of this text. For now, we present this comparative view of the two voyages as a work-in-progress, and we hope, a convenient and interesting way to read Georg Forster alongside Cook at distinct points along the voyage. Spin the globe to the Pacific, where we've recorded the majority of Forster's placemarks and where these most clearly line up with points in Cook's account. Click on the KML viewer below to zoom to specific regions, and click on the compass points to read about the events that took place at each location along the route.

Since our mapping documents two accounts of the same global voyage, viewers may wish to right-click to download our KML file and view it in Google Earth.