Captain James Cook (1728-1779)

Captain James Cook

James Cook, the renowned navigator, was bornon 27 October 1728 in the Cleveland village of Marton (now a suburb of Middlesborugh) on 27 October 1728. He was one of five children of James Cook, a Scottish farm labourer, and his locally-born wife Grace.

As a child, Cook moved with his family to Airey Holme farm at Great Ayton. Here, between 1736 and 1740 he was educated at the local school (now a museum), his studies being financed by his father's employer. At 13 he began work with his father who managed the farm.

In 1745, when he was 16, Cook left home to be apprenticed in a grocery and haberdashery shop in the fishing village of Staithes. According to legend, Cook first felt the lure of the sea while gazing out of the shop window.

After a year and a half in Staithes, William Sanderson, the shop's owner, found Cook unsuited to the trade. Sanderson took Cook to the nearby port of Whitby and introduced him to John and Henry Walker. The Walkers were prominent local ship-owners and Quakers, employed in the coal trade. Cook was taken on as a merchant navy apprentice in their small fleet of vessels plying coal along the English coast. His first assignment was aboard the collier Freelove, and he spent several years on this and various other coasters sailing between the Tyne and London. When his three-year apprenticeship was completed, Cook began working on trading ships in the Baltic Sea. He soon progressed through the merchant navy ranks, starting with his 1752 promotion to Mate (officer in charge of navigation) aboard the collier brig Friendship.

In 1755 he joined the Royal Navy , and in 1759 was promoted to master. For eight years he was engaged in surveying about the St Lawrence and the shores of Newfoundland.

In 1768-1771, in command of the Endeavour, he conveyed to the Pacific the expedition for observing the transit of Venus. During the return voyage, New Zealand was circumnavigated and charted; the east coast of Australia was surveyed and claimed for Britain; the strait between Australia and New Guinea was navigated.

In 1772-1775 Cook, now a commander, was in control of a second voyage of discovery in the Resolution and Adventure, to discover how far the lands of the Antarctic stretched northward. During intervals between Antarctic voyages, Cook visited Tahiti and the New Hebrides and discovered New Caledonia and other island groups.

Cook's third and last voyage, 1776-1779, was to discover a passage round the north coast of America from the Pacific. He surveyed the west coast of america from 45ºN as far as the Bering Strait, where he was compelled to turn back. Cook decided to winter in the Hawaiian Islands and it was there that he was killed in an encounter with hostile natives.

There are numerous statues and monuments to Cook in many parts of the world.

External Links

Wikipedia article on Captain James Cook

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