Friday, 11 April 2014

Amongst the many travel books held within the Cathedral Library there is a published account by Captain Edward Cooke (fl. 1710), in which he describes in detail, his travels and adventures around the world. This voyage was undertaken between August 1st 1708, from the port of Bristol and arrived back in England on October 2nd 1711. The book is written in a diary style and describes all the events, amazing sightings and discoveries encountered on their epic voyage.

Image copyright the Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K), 2014

The first part of Cooke’s voyage was to the Cape Verde islands and then on to the coast of Brazil, where on Sunday 14th of November, land was sighted off the Island Grande. Two crew members bargained for a canoe to take them ashore, but they got lost and, on seeing a number of wild beasts, they thought better of it and returned to the ship “begging for God’s sake to be brought aboard, or they should be devoured”. They were taken on board and confined in irons. The following morning they were whipped then set free.

Image copyright the Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.) 2014.
 One of the first maps to appear in the book is of “The Island Grande”, off the coast of Brazil. It shows the anchorage points, and a few lines of text accompany the map explaining that the island was mainly used by the French in this period, bound for the South Seas. The French generally landed there to gather wood and water before continuing on their journey. The island is also described as having a very rich gold mine. Captain Cooke was particularly taken by the large variety of fish he encountered in the seas surrounding the island. He included another plate and observations on seeing sharks that “seize men as they are swimming taking off a Limb at a Bite”. No. 5 is described as a “sucking-fish”, or what we today call a cat fish.

Image copyright the Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.) 2014

Further on in the book, Cooke describes the city of Santiago, Chile. His account of the city explains its founding and layout. This section is also accompanied by a map of the city, which Cooke describes as being laid out in “the form of a chess-board” (it’s easy to see why!).Churches and the city’s cathedral are the main items plotted.

Image copyright the Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K), 2014

Chapter X of Cooke’s voyage describes the island of San Juan Fernandez, which is famous for being the setting of Daniel Defoe’s classic novel, Robinson Crusoe. In A Cruising Voyage Around the World (1712) Woodes Rogers, who was on board Cooke’s ship, had described saving a Scottish sailor, Alexander Selikirk, who had been marooned on this island for four years. Yet, interestingly, according to Cook’s account, the stranded man was a Mosquito Indian called William, not a Scott.

Cooke also gives an account of the city of Cusco, capital of Peru and the historic capital of the Incas. Cooke’s description of this magnificent city is accompanied by this panoramic view. Cooke says “Nothing inferior were their [the Incas'] stupendious structures, among which the whole city of Cusco deserves to be described but it would take up more room than we can afford”. Central to the woodcut, you can see a picture of the Cathedral of San Domingo, which is today an UNESCO world heritage site. The Cathedral was built atop the Inca palace, which was built for the ruler Viracocha around a century before the Spanish  conquistadors arrived.  

Image copyright the Chapter of Worcester (U.K) 2014
In next week’s blog I follow Cooke as he journeys to the Northern Part of South America, and visits Mexico and Acapulco!

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