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History Expeditions & Discoveries

Arctic Ambitions

Captain Cook and the Northwest Passage

edited by James Barnett & David Nicandri

preface by Robin Inglis

Heritage House Publishing
Initial publish date
Feb 2015
Expeditions & Discoveries, North America, 18th Century
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2015
    List Price

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Captain James Cook is justly famous for his explorations of the southern Pacific Ocean, but the exploration of the northern Pacific and the Arctic are equally significant. On his third and final great voyage, Cook surveyed the northwest American coast hoping to find the legendary Northwest Passage. While dreams of a passage proved illusory, Cook’s journey produced some of the finest charts, collections and anthropological observations of his career. It also helped establish British relations with Russia and opened the door to the hugely influential maritime fur trade.


This collection of essays from an international and interdisciplinary group of scholars—including former Vancouver Maritime Museum executive director James P. Delgado; Canada’s preeminent naval historian, Barry Gough; Richard Inglis, former head of anthropology at the Royal British Columbia Museum; and University of Alberta historian I.S. MacLaren—uses artifacts, charts, and records of the encounters between Native peoples and explorers to tell the story of this remarkable voyage. The book also provides new insights into Cook’s legacy and his influence on subsequent expeditions in the Pacific Northwest. Finally, the collection uses Cook’s voyage as a springboard to consider the promise and challenge of the “new north” today, demonstrating its importance as a meeting place of political, cultural, economic, and environmental forces.

About the authors

James K. Barnett is the author of Captain Cook in Alaska and the North Pacific and coeditor of Enlightenment and Exploration in the North Pacific, 1741-1805.

James Barnett's profile page

David. L. Nicandri is the author of River of Promise: Lewis and Clark on the Columbia and the former director of the Washington State Historical Society.

David Nicandri's profile page

Robin Inglis is a fellow of the Canadian Museums Association and author of the Historical Dictionary of the Discovery and Exploration of the Northwest Coast of America. He has served as research curator for the exhibition Arctic Ambitions: Captain Cook and the Northwest Passage for the Anchorage Museum and the Washington State Historical Society.

Robin Inglis' profile page

Editorial Reviews

"Whether you are a Captain Cook fan or a Captain Cook debunker, an activist concerned with colonialism or someone fascinated by All Things Arctic, Arctic Ambitions will get you dreaming of someday travelling through the Northwest Passage." —Caroline Woodward, BC Bookworld

"A lavish and exceptionally well-illustrated volume."

BC Studies

"A beautifully presented anthology of 18 essays [that] cover subjects such as Cook's life, his navigational techniques, his interactions with indiegnous peoples and his personal jounral in great detail." —Calvin Dao, Canadian Geographic