Journals of Cook Inlet namesake up for discussion

Posted: Friday, June 13, 2008

Living along the shores of Cook Inlet, it's tough not to know a little bit about Capt. James Cook, but anyone interested in learning more about the British explorer, navigator and cartographer for which this water body was named may want to visit the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center at 1 p.m. today.

Contributing scholar Shane Lopez will present a discussion on the "The Journals of Captain James Cook," exhibit, which was installed at the visitors center last July, via a grant from the Alaska State Museum Grant-In-Aid program, and features of first and second editions of Cook's journals from 1776 to 1779.

"Before these journals were published in 1784, no one knew much about this area. So from these, the world was able to find out about the Kenai Peninsula and see maps and drawings of this area and its native people. He revealed it to the world," Lopez said.

The first edition copy of the journals -- donated by Mary Margaret and Carle B. Casey of Kasilof -- and a second edition copy of the journals -- donated by Donald Mellish of Anchorage -- became the focal point of Lopez's work when the visitors center collaborated with Kenai Peninsula College to create for the first History Internship opportunity in 2007 for history majors at the college.

"I took a History of Alaska course with Cathryn Pearce and the project required a lot of research on the early history of the Kenai Peninsula, and Capt. Cook was a big part of that," Lopez said.

In addition to the inlet being named after him, Cook also renamed -- in European language -- several locations around the area, he said.

"Turnagain, Point Possession, Mount Augustine and Anchor Point -- where he lost an anchor -- were just a few of them," he said.

Lopez was allowed to examine and research the journals, in return for writing informational text boards explaining the different aspects of Cook's voyage in Alaska waters, which were used for the visitors center exhibit. He said he felt fortunate to have access to such a rare periodical.

"First and second editions, in the immaculate shape these journals are in, are hard to come by," he said.

Lopez said this is because most first and second edition journals, if one can even find them, have had the maps and prints cut out, or worse, torn out.

"Over the years they'll start to go their separate ways, but these journals are completely intact with all the original images and maps that were printed more than 200 years ago," he said.

Admission to Lopez's program is $3 and includes admission to the visitor center's summer art show and other exhibits and interpretive movies.

For more information, contact Laura Forbes, the director of programs and exhibits, at 283-1991.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at

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