It is one of science’s burning questions: Will the melting Arctic ice reveal a Northwest Passage – the very thing Captain Cook sought but never found?

The foremost British explorer of the 18th century, Captain James Cook circumnavigated the globe twice before setting a course for the North Pacific. Mostly celebrated for his explorations of the South Pacific, Cook also braved the frozen Arctic searching for a northern route to Asia.

This exhibition focuses on his journeys in the northeast Pacific during 1778 and 1779. Artifacts, art and hands-on activities for visitors of all ages bring to life this exciting era in history – a time of bold discoveries made dangerous by uncharted waters, rocky coasts and unrelenting ice.

The exhibition examines the legacies of Cook’s northern voyage, including changes to indigenous life. The intriguing issues at play in the North during Cook's expedition that are still relevant today, including different nations’ claims to the region and its resources.

Arctic Ambitions is presented in partnership with the Washington State History Museum.

Arctic Ambitions is an official program of the Anchorage Centennial Celebration. For more information about the Centennial, visit


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