From the earliest voyages, ships’ officers were encouraged to make care l records. ‘Take with you paper and ynke’, instructed a well-educated mariner in the 1580s, ‘and keepe a continuall journal … that it may be shewed and read at your returne.’ And not just on ship, but on forays ashore too: ‘An inquisitive traveller should never be without paper, pen and ink in his pocket’, wrote another. Keeping a journal fostered a mindset of regular observation and careful recording and offered the means to share that information with others when safely home.
All the sketches in this book have survived journeys. They are eyewitness to great explorations and intimate personal histories. James Cook was fond of using the phrase ‘voyages of discovery’ to describe his endeavours. A brilliant mapmaker even before he entered the Pacific, he journeyed emotionally and intellectually into unknown waters, yet encountered people who had their own histories of voyaging. Maori, Tahitians and Hawaiians would place this enigmatic visitor on their own maps, in ways Cook could neither understand nor control. The knowledge of the Pacific’s sea of islands accumulated by the navigator Tupaia greatly assisted Cook. For generations of Polynesian voyagers the sea was not so much an obstacle as a way.
So what does it mean to make a voyage? Of course, in the simplest sense, it’s a long journey at sea, from one point on land to another. As for discovery, it’s a word that comes from the Old French descovrir, ‘to uncover, unroof, unveil or reveal’. At rst it was used with a sense of betrayal or malicious exposure (‘discoverer’ originally meant ‘informant’), but the positive modern sense of ‘obtaining sight of the unknown’ nds wide usage from the 1550s. Sea journals are filled with discoveries and unknown sights of all kinds.
Voyages of discovery, like Cook’s, were true explorations. e word explore comes from the Latin explorare, ‘to investigate, search out, examine’, obvious enough, but is also said to have origins as a hunter’s term meaning to ‘cry out’. In this sense, explorers set out to nd and tell the world of their new discoveries. Another favourite word found so o en in seafarers’ journals is adventure, which comes from the Old French aventure, ‘to happen by chance’, and from a form of Latin, adventura, a thing ‘about to happen’. is mix of spontanei and ture, with the addition of risk and danger, is its truest meaning. For adventure in the eenth century you might read ‘perilous undertaking’, and then in the sixteenth ‘a novel or exciting incident’. For thirteenth-century readers it is said to have meant ‘a wonder, a miracle; an account of marvellous things’. Today we might think of adventure as many things too: a ris undertaking of unknown outcome, an exciting sequence of events, a commercial speculation. Historic voyages were frequently all of these things. Seafarers set forth to venture, to hazard, and they also brought back proofs of marvels. Within sea journals may be found the wonders of the deep. As Petrarch put it we go ‘forth to behold the mighty surge of the sea, the inexhaustible ocean, and the paths of the stars’, and in so doing ‘lose ourselves in wonderment’.