Captain James Cook
* 1728 – 1779 * England / America / Australia *
One of the world’s greatest explorers, Captain James Cook was born in Yorkshire, England on October 27, 1728. A very intelligent, loyal, and self confident man, Cook was a hero in many eyes. He was brilliant in navigation, very attentive to good hygiene and taking care of his crews. He was the son of a average family with a mom from Yorkshire and a Scottish father who was a simple laborer. Raised on a farm, he attended the school in his village of “Marton-in-Cleveland” and became a shopkeeper’s apprentice at age 17. 18 months later he changed apprenticeship to that under a Quaker coal-shipper at Whitby by the name of John Walker. During his apprenticeship, he learned navigation and mathematics. Walker was impressed with him and offered him a command which was turned down after embarking upon the H.M.S. Eagle graduating to Master’s Mate. After two years in Channel service, he gained another promotion, this time as Master of the Pembroke and took plight to cross the Atlantic in 1758 engaged in the siege of Louisburg, manning the ship “the Mercury” and conducting a survey of the Saint Lawrence River to assist the troops to sieze Quebec during the 7 years war. His high notability for such a feat gained him a transfer to Northumberland where he was tasked to survey the coasts of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia for four years all the while advancing his knowledge and studies. He was married to Elizabeth Batts of Shadwell, England in 1762 while on break from the Newfoundland Survey and was awarded his first command of the schooner Grenville and soon after published his Newfoundland charts and observations of the solar eclipse that put him on radar with the Royal Society and the Admirality. He became father to James Cook, Nathaniel Cook, Elizabeth Cook, Joseph Cook, George Cook, and Hugh Cook. He was shortly thereafter nominated over the first chosen candidate Alexander Dalrymple as the captain of the expedition to the South Seas to observe the transit of Venus with a secret mission to discover the mythical South Lands that is now known as Australia. Promoted from Master to Lieutenant, he was given the command of the Endeavor Bark. He embarked upon the expedition on August 26, 1768 overseeing a crew of 94 with assistance from an onboard astronomer, artists, and two botanists by the name of Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander. They sailed through the Madeira, Canary Islands, and Cape Verde Islands, past Rio de Janeiro, and around Cape Horn to Tahiti arriving on April 13, 1769 to observe the transit of Venus so the distance from the Earth to the Sun could be measured. He also charted numerous island and collected natural flora and faun of the lands he encountered. He followed through on his secret mission to discover the South Lands – and in August sailed to “re-discover” New Zealand (previously discovered by Abel Tasman in 1642), circumnavigated the islands, charted its coast, and took possession of the lands for Britain. He steered westward where he discovered the Eastern coast of “New Holland” on April 19, 1770 when land was spied by his Lieutenant Hicks that became “Australia”. They sailed north charting the coast and sought refuge on land to conduct repairs of the Endeavor. On April 29th, they landed at Stingray Bay that was later renamed “Botany Bay” collecting various flora and fauna that interested them. From Botany Bay they hit Bustard Bay onwards to Cape Townsend northward until they beached on the Great Barrier Reef for several weeks. They lost a bit of their surplus and equipment beaching into the Endeavor River. It took them 7 weeks to complete repairs but enough time to collect more flora and fauna and declaring the land for England taking possession of the whole Eastern Coast of modern day Australia. They then sailed for Batavia where they arrived early October that same year. More repairs and refitting had to take place delaying their departure until December 26th causing delay in their return to England until July 13, 1771. He didn’t realize he had discovered “The Great South Land” (a.k.a. Terra Australis) and pleaded for another chance to discover it. He was awarded a second expedition, manning the “Resolution” followed by the “Adventure” with scientists and artists from 1772 to 1775 circumnavigating the world in high southern latitudes. He officially discovered Australia in early 1773, and sailed around Tasmania. His third voyage from 1777-1778 on the “Resolution” again, visited Adventure Bay, searched for the Northwest Passage from the Pacific, explored the Bering Straight, the Pacific coasts of North America and Siberia. He arrived in the Sandwich Islands (now known as Hawaii) early 1779 during the “Makahiki” a great Hawaiian harvest festival involving the worship of the Polynesian God Lono. Quarrels fell between the locals and Cook with crew causing some to thieve Cook’s boats. Cook attempted to take the king “Kalaniopuu” hostage but failed and stabbed to death. He was killed on February 14, 1779 in Kealakekua Bay. In Honor of him and his discovery of Australia, the HMS Endeavor has been replicated as the HMB Endeavor.
Captain Cook has been billed with the discovery of Australia (for white / Western society), charted over 5,000 miles with unusual accuracy, solving many myths/legends of the Pacifi Ocean, opened the northwest American coast to trade/colonization, he set high standards for charting and navigation, was one of England’s most able cartographers/navigators/astronomers, and one of whom charted the transit of Venus so the distance from the earth to the sun could be measured. He was also the Western discoverer of many unique flora and fauna such as the Eucalyptus and the Kangaroo. He also theorized that Polynesians originated from Asia. His discoveries allowed England to establish a second British Empire.