“Few artists are also historians, and few historians have the talent to illustrate the people and events they study. [Gordon Miller’s] paintings of ships under sail, wrecked on a lee shore, in storms and in cities are luminous.”—Pacific Yachting
In Western myths and imagination, the Pacific is the home of soft, warm, gentle trade winds, idyllic island lagoons and waving palms—the exotic earthly paradise of escapists, adventurers and romantics. Until James Cook showed otherwise, eighteenth-century Europeans also believed this ocean to contain a great southern continent of untold riches and beauty. The islands of the South Pacific can indeed be enchanting, their charm often exceeding expectations, but as European mariners realized when they first arrived here in the sixteenth century, the Pacific Ocean is also a region of ferocious tropical cyclones, treacherous, reef-littered atolls, wearying doldrums and mind-numbing distances.
This book is maritime artist and historian Gordon Miller’s tribute to the humble little ships that first ventured across the great Pacific, and the brave sailors that manned them. It is a brief, selective and condensed story of the charting, exploitation and occupation of the Pacific Ocean, mostly in small, wooden ships, with only wind and human muscle for power. These maritime pioneers united North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, the entire Pacific Ocean, all the coasts that surround it, and all the islands within.
Even confined to the last four centuries of oceangoing sail, this is a large and complex story—a story brought to life by Miller’s carefully researched text and masterfully rendered maritime paintings.