Before Oblomov

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Russia is not generally thought of as a seafaring nation. It’s not that Russians were unfamiliar with travel by water, just that for centuries this meant plying the many lakes and vast river network of the great Eurasian landmass. It wasn’t until the reign of Peter the Great in the early 18th century that Russia […]

Vessel of Knowledge

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

For readers not of a nautical persuasion, knowing that Captain James Cook’s famous expedition of 1768–71 took place aboard the Endeavour, and that the Endeavour was a type of vessel known as a Whitby collier, probably marks the limit of their interest in the ship that took him to the South Seas. (The really well informed

From Plymouth to Polynesia

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

In the summer of 1771, London’s fashionable society was aflutter with news of Joseph Banks’s return from the South Seas. Almost precisely three years earlier, the young gentleman naturalist and an accompanying team of artists, secretaries and servants had sailed from Plymouth aboard a Whitby collier called Endeavour. Before he left, Banks had been challenged […]

A Girdle Round about the Earth

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The word ‘circumnavigation’ nowadays belongs to the same category as marathon-running and Everest-climbing: feats of sometimes egomaniacal endurance with no practical purpose, save sometimes to raise money for charity. However, charity was very far from the minds of the first men to circumnavigate the globe. When Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese captain in the service of […]

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