Luben Boykov believes the story of Capt. James Cook’s time in Newfoundland is an important one that people need to know more about.
He hopes the bronze statue he sculpted and which will be officially unveiled in Corner Brook today will help raise the awareness of the rising naval officer who would go on to become one of the most famous explorers of the New World in the 18th century.
Cook was actually still seven years away from achieving the rank of captain when he finished the last of his five summers — from 1762 to 1767 — charting and mapping the rugged Newfoundland coastline. In the research into Cook’s life Boykov delved into after being commissioned to create the statue in 2005, he realized how Cook’s work helped establish the British presence in Newfoundland and helped provide a foundation for the expansion of the island’s population on a year-round basis and the subsequent growth of the island’s famous fishery. The work Cook did here didn’t just help him hone his navigational skills. It also propelled his eventual career as a great explorer of uncharted regions in the Southern Pacific and his legacy in history books as a luminary from the Age of Enlightenment.
“Like most Newfoundlanders, I had heard of Cook’s presence here, but had no idea to what extent he was important and instrumental in putting Newfoundland literally on the map,” said Boykov. “His charts were so innovative, accurate and advanced that some of them were in use right up until the early 20th century.”
There are numerous other statues honouring Cook in places he explored — like Australia and New Zealand, on his native British soil and even one in Halifax.
Most of them depict the glorious captain in typically poses, maybe holding a map under his arm or a navigational instruments at his side.
The statue Boykov has created for Corner Brook is unique in that it depicts a much younger Cook engrossed in the work at hand.
“He really is doing what he would have been doing in Newfoundland,” said Boykov. “He is using a navigational instrument and getting ready in this moment just before engaging in the action of using the quadrant. The concentration is expressed in his facial features.”
There are no known images of Cook in his mid to late 30s, the age he would have been while in Newfoundland. Boykov used two of the most renowned portraits of the older captain, namely those painted by contemporaries Nathaniel Dance and John Webber, and descriptions of his appearance written by those who would have encountered him to extrapolate what he may have looked like in his younger years.
The result is a seven-foot tall statue — about a foot taller than the man himself, with a piercing gaze.
Although he spent a lot of time and effort on researching and creating the sculpture, there has been uncertainty about the funding required for this project. Remaining positive it would eventually be worked out, Boykov invested his own funds and resources into continuing the work until the funding shortfall was resolved.
Continuing on was partly necessitated by the fact the rubber moulds he had created during the sculpting process would deteriorate and distort if left too long.
But it was his belief in the importance of the work, as well the same belief held by the project’s benefactor — Elinor Gill Ratcliffe, who recently contributed the funding needed — that made it happen.
“I was prepared to pursue this to the end,” said Boykov.
“As I was finishing the sculpture a month ago, I had no idea whether any funding would be made available for the project. I was convinced it had to be done and knew that one day, one way or the other, we would find a way to have it up in Corner Brook.”
Today’s official unveiling, which will be attended by Boykov and Ratcliffe, is scheduled for the Capt. James Cook National Historic Site at 11 a.m.
The Western Star