Opening its doors on what would have been his 250th birthday in 1978, The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum is located as close to the actual spot he was born as one can get without being directly on top of the granite urn that marks the spot.
The legendary navigator and mariner is honored by themed gallery displays, events, temporary exhibitions and an education program. The museum’s more interesting features are the interactive displays, hosted by “Sidney Scurvy,” a computer generated sailor who takes you through the lives and times of the crew members on Cook’s ships.
Sidney describes the everyday lives of the crew members, including their diets, which is now considered memorable as the first successful food plan to stave off scurvy and keep the men alive while circumnavigating the world. While it was impractical in Cook’s time to travel with the fresh citrus recommended to cure the vitamin deficiency, his insistence on cleanliness, constant food restocking and the consumption of sauerkraut and wort of malt held it at bay.
Cook believed that he was bringing an enlightened vision of the world to the so-called “savage lands” that he and his crew were exploring. He brought Western livestock, crops, and weapons, and promoted a punitive justice system modeled after Britain’s. But when the Indigenous people of the South Pacific seemed uninterested in remaking their own cultures in the British model, Cook became increasingly violent and tyrannical.