Captain James Cook was a supreme navigator and explorer, but in many ways was also a representative of English attitudes in the eighteenth century. In his voyages, he came across peoples with hugely different systems of thought, belief and culture. Born in North Yorkshire in 1728, he entered the world of the peoples of the South Pacific. The gulf between the two cultures was not nearly as vast as it was a century later, when ships made of metal and powered by steam were able to expand and enforce European Empires. In their different ways, both the British and the peoples of the Pacific had to battle the seas and its moods with timber vessels powered by sail and human muscle. John Gascoigne focuses on what happened when the two systems met, and how each side interpreted the other in terms of their own beliefs and experiences.