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James Burney was a young officer on his first major sea exploration when he set sail for the South Pacific with captains James Cook and Tobias Furneaux in 1772. Burney would become one of the first Englishmen to walk on Tasmania's southern beaches, would endure raging seas and icy weather, would sail to New Zealand's South Island and into its beautiful sounds, and then further north to explore the tropical waters of the islands and atolls of Polynesia. Burney witnessed death at sea from misadventure and scurvy, and experienced the shocking death of ten shipmates at the hands of Maori warriors.
Using Burney's entertaining and uncensored personal journal, 'Sailing with Cook: Inside the Private Journal of James Burney RN' recounts the story of the young man's experience of shipboard life and the momentous events that took place during Captain Cook's second great voyage of exploration.
Details from a private journal from James Cook's time shed light on the crew's adventures and discoveries.
James Burney is the lesser-known member of a talented, well-connected London family. His father, Charles, was a renowned musicologist and his sister Fanny became a diarist, then a celebrated novelist (Evelina, 1778). Hitherto in the shadow of his more-famous sister, James (1750-1821) is now accorded his own niche in history with the publication of this book.
After young James ("Jem") had served in the Royal Navy and with the East India Company, Charles Burney used his friendship with the First Lord of the Admiralty to secure his 22-year-old son a position as able seaman on HMS Resolution for James Cook's second world voyage. Burney was later promoted to second lieutenant on HMS Adventure, the expedition's consort vessel, commanded by Tobias Furneaux.
Maintaining an official log at sea that he was obliged to surrender to the Admiralty at the end of the voyage, Burney also kept an "off-the-record" journal, intended for the "amusement" of his family and friends, as he put it. Legally, the Admiralty had the right to requisition both journals, but Burney's personal account, which forms the basis of this book, remained within his family circle. The original is now held by the National Library of Australia.
At the start of each chapter, verso, are extracts from Burney's journal in his confident hand, with a "translation" beneath. A chronicle of Adventure's epic voyage follows, to Antarctica, Van Diemen's Land, New Zealand, Tonga and the Society Isles. Interleaved are contextualised charts, paintings and essays on such subjects as celestial navigation, trade items and war canoes. Omai, the Raiatean who became friends with Burney and sailed to England on Adventure, gets extensive coverage.
Coming from such a literate, sophisticated London family, Burney was a true son of the Enlightenment. His journal reflects an intense curiosity about the exotic environments and indigenous cultures encountered during their traverse of the South Pacific. A nascent ethnographer, he closely observes and describes the Polynesians' customs, including their governance, canoe building and - doubtless in consideration of his father's interests - their singing and musical instruments.
Burney's journal entries ceased after December 22, 1773, when Adventure was anchored in Queen Charlotte Sound, having become irretrievably separated from Cook's Resolution during a gale. Burney led a launch party in search of 10 shipmates who had not returned from a grass-gathering excursion. They came upon the remains of the men at Grass Cove. They had been killed, dismembered, roasted and eaten by Maori.
Traumatised by this gruesome discovery, Burney wrote no more in his personal journal. But whereas most second voyage accounts concentrate on the views from the quarterdeck of Resolution, Burney's contains enough material to provide valuable insights into life aboard Adventure.
His post-voyaging life is also included. Burney married, later eloped with his stepsister, then returned to his wife and children. A polymath and political gadfly, he collaborated with Banks and Bligh on Pacific policies, wrote a much-respected history of the voyages of discovery and was made a fellow of the Royal Society.Stylishly designed and lavishly illustrated, its text immensely readable, Sailing with Cook is a welcome addition to the ever-expanding Cook-inspired oeuvre.
Another beautifully presented publication of one of the National Library's treasures. Burney's private journal. Burney was a young naval officer on Cook's second voyage in 1772-3 taking in the icy southern seas with landfalls in Tasmania, New Zealand and several South Pacific islands. Acquired by the library in 1970, this journal was written for Burney's family and friends and is distinct from his log book written for the Admiralty. The contents of the journal are skilfully interpreted and analysed in this excellent addition to Cook studies.