I acquired this book from my friend who recently moved to Ireland and was offloading some of his books to my library. This book intrigued me because I grew up on Vancouver Island, but haven’t read up on much history about my native land.
An Honest Opinion:
First of all, I am so thankful to Stephen Bown for providing an easily-read overview of George Vancouver’s voyage charting the Pacific coast of North America. The drama and politics that ensued for Cpt. Vancouver in England, while he was on the other side of the world creating geographical magic, caused his story to go unheard or glossed over for many years.
It’s truly remarkable the level of accuracy with which he was able to geographically chart the Pacific coast provided the tools and means given back in the 1700s. His keen eye for detail and strictness in following orders, although frowned upon by some of his colleagues, enabled him to give a clear picture of what Pacific North America looked like – whether the denunciation of the North West Passage was believed by his colleagues or not.
Bown also provided a solid, high level overview, of Vancouver’s start in navigation with the great explorer James Cook, his interactions with Juan Francisco Bodega y Quadra, negotiations with Hawaiian King Kamehameha, his values having grown up in the English Navy, and the drama he endured with Thomas Pitt until his untimely death.
I found that this book was a great jump-off point for me in exploring more of my British Columbian history, as it threw characters like Thomas Pitt, John Meares, King Kamehameha, and Chief Maquinna on to my radar.
What I Learned:
I learned that George Vancouver charted the unexplored northwest coastline of Pacific North America and denounced the idea of a Northwest Passage. It took his crew four years and many harrowing trips along the coast in less than ideal conditions to complete. Upon return, political situations created many obstacles for Cpt. Vancouver to receive his proper pay, write his tale, and live out his final years in peace.
- Visit Yuquot (Friendly Cove) on Nootka Island, British Columbia
Shogun by James Clavell – While reading Madness, Betrayal, & the Lash the name Magellan came up often referencing his navigational maps leading sailors from Europe to Asia, then a very unexplored path. This triggered my thoughts to Shogun. It seems a little bit of a distant connection; however, I had recently read Shogun, and long story short, Magellan’s pass lead the main character, Blackthorne, to Japan where his adventure took place. I found it was a neat coincidence, and truly drove home the historical research James Clavell did.
The Half-Mad Lord by Nikolai Tolstoy – I was completely drawn in to the unfolding drama between George Vancouver and Thomas Pitt throughout Madness, Betrayal, & the Lash. There was a reference to a book called The Half-Mad Lord which immediately piqued my interest, and I immediately went on to Amazon to grab a copy. I haven’t read it yet, but a review will be soon to follow.
Bown, Stephen R. (2008). Madness, Betrayal, & the Lash: The Epic Voyage of George Vancouver. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd.