Political Discussions Onboard HMS Crocodile: David Samwell, James King, and the Historical Implications for Captain Cook’s Third Voyage

By Lance Bertelsen, published August 2015


James King and David Samwell wrote two of the most important journals of Captain James Cook’s third voyage and later produced the most important eighteenth-century publications describing the controversial circumstances of Cook’s death. This article presents previously unpublished excerpts from Samwell’s letters describing political discussions between the two onboard HMS Crocodile in 1781, a period during which King was revising his voyage journal toward publication as volume three of A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean. With a crew that included at least twelve Cook veterans who, according to Samwell, found ‘no small satisfaction in talking over the eventful history of our voyage’, the Crocodile may have served as crucible for arguing and reassessing the conflicting oral histories and interpretations of the third voyage: a process with potentially significant effects on King’s presentation of events in A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (1784) and on Samwell’s later response in The Death of Captain Cook (1786).

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Filed under: James Cook | Other (Eighteenth C) | Pacific
Subjects include: Biography | Science & Exploration

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