20. 08. 02: Tim Radford - Guardian, UK:

Captain Cook for the Harry Potter generation

Bob Bloomfield, of the Natural History Museum in London has embarked on an epic voyage of discovery. Following Admiralty orders first issued on July 30 1768, he will "carefully observe the nature of the Soil, and the products thereof; the Beasts and, Fowls that Inhabit or frequent it; the fishes that are to be found in the Rivers or upon the Coast and in what Plenty".

He won't need to bring any minerals or valuable specimens home because the museum already has 70m or so, some surviving from the original voyage of the Endeavour, under her master, James Cook. Like Cook, Dr Bloomfield will explore a great ocean, and like Cook, he will bring home enlightenment: especially he hopes, a new way of getting kids interested in science. He will not need to set sail. "There are very interesting things I want to build in to the explorations. For example they had distillation equipment on board; they were experimenting with how to purify water. Although it was before the real development of electricity, they were gentlemen testers of electrical equipment: they were electrocuting one another and finding they couldn't do it on humid days." Dr Bloomfield is head of public programmes at the great Victorian museum. His arrangement will not allow him quite as much time as Cook needed. The Admiralty spent: £11, 798 17s 1d on the Endeavour, and indirectly got Australia and New Zealand into the bargain. Dr Bloomfield's £74,500 award from Nesta, the national endowment for science, technology and the arts, would not finance a journey literally in Cook's wake. But he has already flown to Madeira, the first port of call for Captain Cook and his ship's. naturalist, Joseph Banks.

Almost every time Cook dropped anchor, he let fall a lesson in science. His voyages, for instance, became textbook studies in the role of diet in combating scurvy (September: Friday 16. Punished Henry Stephens, Seaman, and Thos Dunister, Marine, with 12 lashes each for refusing to take their allowance of fresh Beef). Dr Bloomfield is looking for ways to take young people with him on a voyage of the imagination. "I am trying to look through the eyes of two 12 year old boys on board and I want to build an adventure story through their eyes… hopefully to absorb science without their biding aware of it,", he says. "When they go to Madeira, one of the Midshipmen, is drowned, because he gets tied up in an anchor that goes over the side. That accident happened because the boat was so small they didn't have a capstan, and they didn't have any pulley systems. I hope to Introduce some basic ideas about how capstans and gears work, in the process of exploring, the story."