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Smoking Coasts and Ice-Bound Seas

2008 Exhibition - Cook's Voyage to the Arctic

The North West Passage was the forgotten purpose of Cook's third Voyage. For two centuries people believed that if the Passage was discovered, then ships could sail from the Atlantic to China more quickly.

Cook's ships probed twice beyond the Bering Straits before being forced back by the pack-ice. For the second attempt, they stopped at Kamchatka in eastern Siberia. Here they experienced a volcanic eruption, met Russians and native peoples, and travelled for the first time on a dog-sled.

It was a tough life exploring the far north. Cook and his men were the first to cross both Antarctic and Arctic circles.

With original pictures drawn at the time, in particular our recently acquired Webber Kamchatkan drawings, our 2008 Exhibition explored the surprising story of this untold part of Cook's voyages. These were joined by other rarely seen Webber drawings loaned by the British Library, and material from other major museums.

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