The Wide Wide Sea

The Wide Wide Sea


From New York Times bestselling author Hampton Sides, the epic account of the most momentous voyage of the Age of Exploration, culminating in Captain James Cook's death

‘An astounding tale . . . recreated in swashbuckling detail . . . Sides delivers it with narrative urgency. The cast of characters is a joy’ Sunday Times

‘An enthralling account of Captain Cook’s final, fatal voyage… An excellent new book’ The Economist

‘A rollicking good read, with a tone that reminds me of David Grann’s recent tale of the 1741 Wager shipwreck . . . riveting’ Daily Telegraph

'Vivid and propulsive' New York Times


On July 12th, 1776, Captain James Cook, already lionized as the greatest explorer in British history, set off on his third voyage in HMS Resolution. Two-and-a-half years later, on a beach in Hawaii, Cook was killed – beaten and stabbed in a conflict with the indigenous population.

What brought Cook to these final moments, so at odds with his reputation? Renowned for his humane leadership, dedication to science and the curiosity and respect, not judgement, with which he greeted societies that were new to him, Cook had already mapped huge swathes of the Pacific and initiated first European contact with numerous native peoples.

The stated mission for his third voyage was to return a Tahitian man, Mai, who had become the toast of London high society, to his home islands. But Cook carried secret orders to venture north, to discover the fabled Northwest Passage and chart and claim lands before Britain’s imperial rivals. And Cook himself was different on his final, fatal voyage.

Deeply researched and vividly told, The Wide Wide Sea is at once a ferociously-paced, epic adventure and a searching examination of the consequences of the Age of Exploration from a master storyteller.


‘Sides has written a riveting book, deeply researched, light of touch and always judicious and full-sailed about an exceptional man’s final extraordinary journey’ SPECTATOR

'A wonderful, visceral yarn and an enthralling read, replete with brilliant detail' ROBERT MCCRUM


'Enthralling … as gripping as any well-paced thriller but a lot more interesting because it is also true' THE TIMES


'Splendid in every way… a marvellous nonfiction thriller' WALL STREET JOURNAL

Extraordinary … meticulous research shores up a fast-paced narrative’ FINANCIAL TIMES

'Viscerally dramatic … spellbinding... bold, dynamic, unusually vivid’ NEW YORK TIMES

'Unforgettable…a pulse-racing epic … a masterful work of history and storytelling' LOS ANGELES TIMES

Reads like a first-class epic thriller' TIME


  • An astounding tale
    Sunday Times

About the author

Hampton Sides

Hampton Sides is the author of the New York Times bestselling narrative histories On Desperate Ground, In the Kingdom of Ice, Hellhound on His Trail, Blood and Thunder, and Ghost Soldiers, which won the PEN USA Award for Nonfiction. He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
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