Lessons From An Explorer

by | May 10, 2020

I was reading a bit of history the other day and came across the record of James Cook, who is credited with the founding of Anchorage. My, what achievements he accomplished in his short fifty year lifespan – and what devastating losses!

A Wonderful Student

Cook was born in the small hamlet of Marton in Yorkshire to a Scottish farm laborer. At an early age he showed an aptitude for math, had a way with people, and was a great student. He excelled at nearly everything he did. He moved to Whitby at the age of 20, which is where he was introduced him to the sea,  and there his future was set. It is said that some people hear the call of the sea, and that was true for James Cook.

Commander of Expeditions

Between the ages of 20 and his death at 50, he served three years as a merchant navy apprentice, volunteered for services in the Royal Navy, and commanded three scientific expeditions of the Pacific Ocean, which took him here, to Anchorage, as well as other parts of North America, New Zealand and Hawaii, which is where he was eventually killed. In the midst of all that travel, he found the time to meet and marry Elizabeth Batts. They had six children, and lost all six of those children.

A Difficult Life For His Family

I think about how difficult life must have been in an age with no modern medicine, no communications, no advanced weapons (only cannon balls), no radar, no survival gear – none of the technological advances we take for granted today. I think about the raw courage and tenacity it took to get on a wooden ship and set sail to literally map the unknown. I think about how lonely it must have been for his wife, Elizabeth, to watch him leave each time, not knowing if or when he would ever return home.

I think about the joy they both felt at the birth of six beautiful children, only to lose them all before they ever reached adulthood. I think about the ways in which losses like that alter one’s perception of life.

His Wife Survived

Elizabeth lived to be 63 years old. I do not know what provisions James made for her continued support back in the day. She had no children to care for her and the records I saw did not indicate extended family. Life is complex and difficult, filled with joys and heartache. Joy is a wonderful wave to surf. Heartache is best navigated with the support of family and friends. In between, are all the other moments.

Did He Have a Plan?

I would like to think that James Cook, being a man of science, calculation and learning, considered the nature of his work and the likelihood of sudden disaster at sea, and chose to make some provision for his family in the event he failed to come home from one of his voyages.

An Estate Plan Can Protect the Ones You Love

Today, we live in a different world very foreign to the experience of James and Elizabeth Cook. But we still face our own challenges, threats known and unknown. And today, more than ever before, we still need a plan to protect those we love.

If you would like some help navigating the ocean waves present in your own life story, simply call my office at (907) 334-9200 and let’s schedule a Vision Meeting. I look forward to seeing you.

Blogs by The Law Office of Constance A. Aschenbrenner


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