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Connecting curious minds with uncommon, undeniably Northwest reads

Captain Cook’s Final Voyage

The Untold Story from the Journals of James Burney and Henry Roberts

Edited by James K. Barnett


Two young officers’ extraordinary eyewitness accounts of Cook’s search for the elusive Northwest Passage depict the captain’s dramatic death, initial European contact, and Hawaii, Vancouver Island, and Alaska landings. The journals also offer early maps and the first Bering Sea ice pack reports. Maritime historian James K. Barnett adds context and expert commentary.

“This book, a credit to author and publisher alike, is an essential addition to any serious collector of James Cook voyage literature.”—The Northern Mariner



Maritime historian and researcher James K. Barnett transcribed two extraordinary but little-known journals from celebrated mariner Captain James Cook’s third exploratory expedition. Two young officers from the voyage offer remarkable eyewitness accounts at the time of initial European contact, the first reasonably accurate maps of North America’s west coast, the earliest comprehensive report from the Bering Sea ice pack, and the dramatic story of Cook’s death at Kealakekua Bay. Particularly astonishing for accounts of landings along Hawaii, Vancouver Island, and Alaska, both journals have languished in Australian archives for over a century. Barnett adds context and commentary to complete the story.

Commissioned by the British Admiralty, Cook set sail in July 1776 to confirm the outline of North America’s Pacific coastline and to search for the elusive Northwest Passage. The expedition’s two modest sailing ships, the Resolution and the Discovery, traveled to the South Seas, then chanced upon the Hawaiian Islands before reaching the Oregon coastline and the Arctic ice pack. Fatefully, the captain chose to winter in the Hawaiian archipelago, where he died in a skirmish. The crews made a second unsuccessful attempt to find the coveted route, then returned to England after more than four years at sea.

James Burney was first lieutenant for the commander of the Discovery, Charles Clerke. He was active in many shore parties, prepared many of the voyage’s charts, and witnessed Cook’s death from the ship’s deck. One of the few accounts from the consort vessel, his journal provides new details and important, thoughtful impressions of North and South Pacific people and places. Working under the notorious William Bligh, Henry Roberts was Master’s Mate on the Resolution, performing essential hydrographic and cartographic tasks for the captain. He was only a few feet away when Cook was killed. His well-illustrated logbook includes coordinates, tables of routes, and records of weather at sea, but also lively accounts of shore excursions. The text is well-illustrated by the officers’ maps and drawings, as well as a host of lavish images drawn by the expedition’s official artist, John Webber.

James K. Burnett is an Alaskan attorney who has written, co-edited, or contributed to multiple books and anthologies on Captain James Cook, Captain George Vancouver, and the history of Alaska. He served as president of the Cook Inlet Historical Society in Anchorage from 1998 to 2015, and found the journals and images while researching in Sydney nearly ten years ago.

Illustrations / maps / notes / bibliography / index / 342 pages (2018)



“Interesting from beginning to end…the geographic orientation toward North America is, in itself, a rarity within the larger literature of Cook.”—David Nicandri, former Washington State History Society director and coauthor, River of Promise

“An important contribution to the Cook literature.”—Steve Haycox Distinguished Emeritus Professor, University of Alaska Anchorage

“A treasure trove of historical detail that will be of immense value to scholars and fascinating for interested general readers. This is an important and timely addition to the narrative of Pacific exploration. Strongly recommended for reading ashore and on the high seas. Remember that Cook had no diesel engines, which makes the stories even more impressive.”—Good Old Boat

“Burney and Roberts were highly placed aboard Cook’s ships, and this heightens their observations and fully justifies this important and beautifully printed book…a credit to author and publisher alike, [this book] is an essential addition to any serious collector of James Cook voyage literature.”—The Northern Mariner

Additional information

Dimensions 7 x 10 in