If you’re one of the 10 million or so people in America who watch Breaking Bad, you’re probably familiar with the legendary CapnCook. Famous for being a mid-20’s hypersensitive Chemistry class-flunking addict, Jesse Pinkman made a living as a small-fry Meth manufacturer and dealer until Walter White stepped into the picture coloring his world blue and green and rather chili powderless.
BUT if you’re one of the 25 people who supposedly read this blog, you’re probably aware that we’re about to traverse into the dark and dusty recesses of historical fact. But not really because I hope at least some of you know where we’re going with this.
Who was the REAL Captain Cook?
That would be none other than Captain James Cook of the British Royal Navy at your service, your majesty!
Born in 1728 in Yorkshire, Cook moved to a port town when he was 16 going on 17 to apprentice in the merchant navy. Unlike his fellow colleague Jesse Pinkman, real Cook studied various subjects, including algebra, geometry, navigation and any other course that would lead him to excel in his future career path and volunteered service in the Seven Year’s War after his studies were complete.
After a stint in the Royal Navy surveying Newfoundland, which would become the first large-scale and scientifically accurate mapping of the area, James Cook was enlisted on three separate voyages around the Pacific Ocean, climbing in rank and prestige, until he became captain of the HMS Endeavour/Resolution and famous for filling in previously unrecorded areas of the map. He was also the first to circumnavigate New Zealand (That we know of) and the first European contact for some as of then undisturbed peoples. He also became Scurvy’s number one enemy.
I whose ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for many to go…
His Third Voyage, and most famous for reasons we will get into, led him to explore the Islands of Hawaii, becoming again, the first European contact with the natives. He managed to land his ship at the same time that the native Hawaiians were celebrating their harvest festival. There is some academic debate about whether or not Cook and his crew were deified by the natives, but it was clear that Cook got along well with the Hawaiians in a months time. His crew was referred to as ‘Goblins’ but those same sources refer to the leader of these Goblins (being Cook) as being a generous and kind man who was particularly attentive and fatherly towards the children.
After the festivities, Cook and his crew sailed off to continue their voyage around the North Pacific but after breaking his ship’s foremast, Cook came back in desperate need of repairs. Apparently this time, the Hawaiians weren’t all to pleased with the Europeans return and a considerable amount of animosity grew between the bunch. After island thieves stole one of Cook’s small boats, he attempted to hold one of the natives as a hostage until the stolen item was returned, as was common practice on the islands. This time, however, Cook tried to hold the Hawaiian King in exchange which for obvious reasons did not go over so well with his subjects, and in his frustrations and possible fear of the growing riot, Cook shot and killed a man. This of course caused the Hawaiians to whip up into a violent frenzy, chasing the crew back to the beach and attacking him on the surf.
In his last moments, before being clubbed and stabbed to death, it was recorded that;
Cook immediately gained control of himself; his last gesture, as he was struck down into the water on the beach, was to his own men to stop firing.
After the crew escaped, the body of Captain James Cook was prepped and treated in the same practice by Hawaiians as an elder or chief would have been and thanks to a wealth of appeals from the crown, the remains of his body was returned to Britain for a proper burial at sea.
Hmmm. So maybe there isn’t much in the relation between Jesse’s moniker CapnCook and the real deal, but are you at least sensing some allusions to a certain Breaking Bad character?
Ramesses II Walter White, perhaps?
On the Character of Captain James Cook. J.C. Bealehole. The Geographical Journal. Vol. 122, No. 4 (Dec. 1956).
Captain Cook’s Journal During the First Voyage Around the World. pub. 1893 (Early life insight)
“We want the 99.1% pure Meth!” – Brilliant.
Interesting factoid about scurvy:
James Lind was one of the first physicians to discover the important role vitamin C played in preventing/treating scurvy. Also (I don’t know if it was him or someone else), in an attempt to prove that scurvy wasn’t contagious (as it was first believed to be), he would take the feces of people suffering from scurvy and made pills out of it, and fed it to his family as well as himself. This is extremely dangerous, of course, since those people could have been afflicted with something besides scurvy, but you get my point. He and his family did not get sick, and people stopped freaking out about being around scurvy-ridden people. Don’t ask me for a primary source, because I heard this story several times from different professors so I’m not exactly sure where the story came from. But James Lind was real, at least that much I know 🙂