convergences Screen 6 | South Sea Dreaming

Charles Clerke, second in command,
is more availably human because he is
more vulnerable. A man pressed back
by implacable circumstance. Consumptive
since his incarceration for debt prior
to his departure from England, his lungs
now weakened by Antarctic air, Clerke
entertains the idea of petitioning Cook
for permission to remain in the warm setting
of these South Pacific Islands. He hesitates
at Tahiti because his papers are not
in order. It is the same problem at Huahein,
the same at Ulietea. At Bolabola the ships
do not anchor, Cook perhaps arranging
to avert the embarrassing encounter and
inevitable refusal of his friend's request.
At the Sandwich Islands, departure point
for the freezing northern seas, the natives
are less than hospitable, and so his dream
abandoned, the jovial, drinking, dying and
duty-bound captain of the Discovery
faces into the cold winds of the North Pacific,
growing weaker, more detached and weary.

Captain Charles Clerke by Nathaniel Dance

Charles Clerke by Nathaniel Dance.

Warmth and comfort and easy pleasure, a scenario to tickle the European imagination for another 200 years. But the ships have now turned north towards the wet cold coast of America. Towards me.

John Webber: Hula dance watched by ships' crew.

John Webber: Hula dance and crew.