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Cook book, not cookbook

Tessa Duder, author of First Map, How James Cook charted Aotearoa New Zealand. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

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The author of a new history of James Cook’s circumnavigation of New Zealand called on personal experience for the book.

First Map author Tessa Duder has long been fascinated by Cook’s iconic ‘New Zealand’ chart, and the challenges he overcame to create it.

Duder is in Wairarapa this week for an appearance at Masterton’s Aratoi Museum.

With some experience of sailing on a modern square-rigger, she set out to write a straightforward account of Lieutenant James Cook’s circumnavigation over the summer of 1769 and 1770.

Duder said she married into a sailing family.

Her involvement with the Spirit of Adventure Trust and of sailing had given her some insight into the subject matter.

“Just being out at sea and with no land in view is quite a special experience.

“I think that did help me when I came to write the book.

“Somebody said to me the other day that having read the book they feel they’ve been around the coast of New Zealand with Cook.

“I was absolutely thrilled with that as that was exactly what I was trying to do – just write a story of the circumnavigation in a way that people would appreciate the challenges that he met.”

The book shows that Cook had made a massive undertaking to chart the country’s coastline and islands.

“His skills as a captain and cartographer earned him the job, but they also meant his name is forever linked to the imperial legacy that followed.”

The focus was to be on how the famous chart was created during those six months, and at what cost to him, his crew and ship.

She said there had been increasing debate around James Cook’s place in New Zealand history.

“We have – not before time – stopped talking about his voyages of ‘discovery’ and Tupaia’s role during the circumnavigation is now being properly acknowledged.

“To many, Cook remains one of the world’s greatest explorers, surveyors and seamen, and his charting of New Zealand’s three main islands is reason enough to celebrate.

“Others, however, see Cook as the forerunner and cause of the many ills of 19th century Pacific colonialisation.”

The book, illustrated by Otago writer and illustrator David Elliot, features a hidden bonus in the sleeve for the observant reader.

Find out more from the author at 12.30pm today at Aratoi, 12 Bruce St, Masterton.

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