Don't be put off my using the journals of James Cook and Jean-Francois la Perouse - the two greatest navigators of not just the 18th century but of all time - to make a point about the human condition not changing just because most of us own a mobile phone, two billion own a car, a house, have disposable income - our nature doesn't change.
The reason Cook returned to his fated doom in Hawaii was a faulty mast that sprung apart, sold by a dishonest merchant. The legend has it he was killed after he kidnapped a chief as means to get back to his ship after the locals became hostile.
The cheating mast merchant and religious beliefs killed Cook, not as the politically correct version had it that he got what he deserved. The kidnapped chief was Cook's only way to safety, so he believed. Having just spent a very enjoyable several weeks there, getting a tearful farewell, he could not imagine any but another warm welcome on his return to get a new mast.
Unfortunate timing, as in his absence the happier festive time of Lono came to an end. The chiefs skulked off to the hills and the commoner chiefs took their place. Cook was called "Lono" by the natives. He came back to an entirely changed regime. Lesson: Do your homework on local culture.
La Perouse's two-ship expedition came across a people (the Ainu, though he did not know it) on the Russian mainland but close to Japan and Korea whom he considered the finest he'd ever met, of such high moral outlook that he was certain they had no concept of theft.
Honest, dignified, "extremely fond of their children" these people's virtues showed in the quality of their clothing, their cleanliness, generosity, and refusal of gifts he offered them.
Contrast with an earlier visit to the Easter Islands (your columnist's distant relations I guess) to find the entire populace were pilfering, thieving, unclean primitives who had expended all their island's trees to use as rollers for their monumental stone statues. La Perouse departed overnight in disgust.
In Kamchatka, Russia, the hospitality was so profuse it embarrassed the Frenchmen. They met there a Russian aristocratic from St Petersburg who spoke French. As a 19 year old he had been exiled to this isolated Siberian locale for making indiscreet comments about Empress Elizabeth, fifty years separated from his noble family and civilisation.
Point: Never be indiscreet. But Karma can strike back. The Tsarist regime got theirs.
Cook's crew were a good part rabble whose lashing punishments happened quite frequently. An austere man, married, Cook never once indulged the women at any port of call, be they prostitutes or offerings by natives. (I use that term only to mean native to the land.)
His crew, on the other hand, did wallow in women, despite the certainty of contracting a sexually transmitted disease. La Perouse, also married, also restrained himself, as did the captain of his sister ship, Fleuriot de Langle. Proof that leaders lead by example and the led do not necessarily follow, nor know what's good for them.
Tutuila, in the Samoa Islands, at first gave the French explorers a full welcome. Just that La Perouse picked up a few warning signs, like the man who climbed into the longboat, picked up a mallet and started hitting the French crewmen.
La Perouse ordered four of his strongest men to hurl the man overboard. His people seemed to disapprove of his actions. But La Perouse felt uneasy and prepared to leave. De Langle, however, insisted his ship needed fresh water and went ashore.
The captain was brutally murdered, along with eleven others. His commander called him a victim of his own innocence in trusting these people. Yet he refused to retaliate, as mad he was. Famous for his humanitarian outlook, La Perouse did not want punish innocent people with random cannon fire.
Lesson: Read the body language, bro. Then you can make it tell a different story with a happy ending.
Off the coast of Hawkes Bay, Captain Cook got involved in an incident, the capture of Tiata, a young servant of the Tahitian sage, Tupaia, by Maoris who were trading with Cook. He fired a cannon at the fleeing kidnappers, Tiata leapt into the sea and the chastened warriors headed for home.
Several lessons: Beware the wolves in sheep's clothing. Every warrior is a wolf. If it's woolly but doesn't baa and glares at you - get out of there.