American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Memory, Exhibit Object Focus

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Captain Cook and the Pacific Northwest

Sea Otter
S. Smith, after John Webber.
" Sea Otter" in James Cook. A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean . . . Performed under the Direction of Captains Cook, Clerke, and Gore . . .1776, 1777, 1778, 1779, and 1780.
London: W. Strahan, 1780
Engraving
Rare Book & Special Collections Division (16.5)

Sailing under the British flag with the intention of locating the western gateway to the fabled Northwest Passage, Captain James Cook (1728-1779) devoted his third and final voyage to exploring the Pacific Basin and the northwest coast of North America from Oregon to Alaska. His account of the voyage included illustrations like this view of a sea otter on the west coast of Vancouver Island in present-day British Columbia. Cook was instructed to observe the flora, fauna, and geology he encountered and ". . . to describe them as minutely, and to make as accurate drawings of them, as you can . . ."

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