James Cook was a British naval captain, navigator, and explorer, who explored the sea ways and coasts of Canada. He also conducted three expeditions to the Pacific Ocean, ranging from the Antarctic ice fields to the Bering Strait and from the coasts of North America to Australia and New Zealand. James Cook was the son of a farmhand migrant from Scotland. While he was still a child, his father became the foreman on a farm in a neighboring village. He showed signs of an inquiring and able mind and his fathers employer paid for his schooling in the village until he was 12 years old.
His early teens were spent on the farm where his father worked, but a brief apprenticeship in a general store in a coastal village north of Whitby brought him in contact with ships and the sea. At the age of eighteen, in 1746, he was apprenticed to a well-known Quaker ship-owner, John Walker of Whitby, and at age 21 was rated able sea-man in the Walker collier-barks-stout, seaworthy, slow 300 and 400 tonners mainly in the North sea trade. When the ships were laid up for refitting at Whitby during the worst months of winter James lived ashore and studied mathematics by night.
The night Whitby barks, constantly working for North Sea waters off a dangerous and ill-marked shore, offered James splendid practical training. He learned his seamanship there little to fear from any other sea. Promoted to mate in 1752, James Cook was offered command of a bark three years later, after eight years at sea. This opened up a career that would have satisfied the most working sea-men, but instead he volunteered as able sea-man in the Royal Navy. The navy offered a more interesting career for him.
Tall, of striking appearance, James almost immediately caught the attention of his superiors, and with excellent power f command, he was marked for rapid advancement. After advancing to masters mate, and boatswain, both noncommissioned ranks, he was made master of Pembroke at the age of 29. During the Seven Years War between Great Britain and France he saw action in the Bay of Biscay, was given command of a captured ship, and took part the siege of Louisburg in Nova Scotia and in the successful assault against Quebec. His charting and marking the more difficult reaches of the St.
Lawrence River contributed to the success of General Wolfs landing there. Based at Halifax during the winters, he mastered urveying with the plane table. Between 1763 and 1768, after the war had ended, he commanded the schooner Grenville while surveying the coasts of Newfoundland, sailing most of the year and working on his charts at his base in England during the winters. In 1766 he observed an eclipse of the sun and sent the details to the Royal Society in London. It was an unusual activity for a noncommissioned officer, and Cook was still rated only as master.
In 1768 the Royal Society, in conjunction with the Admiralty, was organized the first scientific expedition. He was quickly commissioned as ieutenant, and he was given a homely looking but extremely sturdy Whitby coal-hauling bark renamed it Endeavour, then four years old, of just 368 tons, and less then 98 feet long. Cooks orders were to talk to men of the Royal Society and their assistants to Tahiti to observe the southern continent, the so-called Terra Australis, which was philosophers argued must exist to balance the landmasses of the Northern Hemisphere.
The e leader of the scientists was the rich and able Joseph Banks. He was assisted by Daniel Solander, a Swedish botanist, as well as astronomers and artists. James Cook carried an early nautical almanac and brass sextants, but no chronometer on the first voyage. Striking south and southwest from Tahiti, where his predecessors had sailed west and west-northwest with the favoring trade winds, James found and charted all of New Zealand, a difficult job that took six months.
After that, instead of turning before the west winds for the homeward run around Cape Horn, he crossed the Tasman Sea north along its 2,000 mile eastern coast, surveying as he went, James successfully navigated Queensland Great Barrier Reef, since recognized as one of the greatest avigational hazards in the world, taking the Coral Sea and the Torres Strait in his stride. Once the bark touched on a coral spur by night, but it took the impact and was refloated. After the Endavour was grounded on the nearby Queensland coast and repaired, James Cook sailed it back to England.
He stopped shortly at Batavia for supplies, and, although the crew had been suprisingly healthy until then, thirty died of fever and dysentery contracted while on land. None of the crew, however, died of scurvy. This was because ensuring cleanliness and ventilation in the rews quarters, James Cook insisted on an appropriate diet that included cress, sauerkraut, and a kind an orange extract. The health in which he maintained his sailors in consequence made his name a naval byword. Back in England, he was promoted to commander and presented to King George III, and soon he began to organize another and even more ambitious voyage.
The success of the expedition of Joseph Banks and his scientists stimulated interest not only in the discovery of new lands but in the new knowledge in many other scientific subjects. The wealth of scientifically collected material from from the Endeavour voyage was nique. James Cook was now sent out with two ships to make the first circumnavigation of and penetration into Antarctica. Between July 1772 and July 1775 James Cook made what ranks as one of the greatest sailing ship voyages with a small former Whitby ship, the Resolution, and a consort ship, the Adventure. e found no trace of Terra Australis, though he sailed beyond latitude 70* S in the Antarctic, but he successfully completed the first west-east circumnavigation in high latitudes, charted Tonga and Easter Island during the winters, and discovered New Caledonia in the Pacific and the South Sandwich Islands nd South Georgia Island in the Atlantic. He showed that a real Terra Australis existed only in the landmasses of Australia, New Zealand, and whatever land might remain frozen beyond the ice rim of Antarctica.
And, once again, not one of his crew died of scurvy. Back in England, he was promoted to captain at last, elected a fellow of the Royal Society, and awarded one of its highest honors, the gold Copley Medal, for a paper that prepared on his work against scurvy. There was yet one secret of the Pacific to be discovered, whether there existed a northwest passage around Canada and Alaska or a ortheast one around Siberia, from Europe, it was thought that the search from the North Pacific might be successful.
The man to undertake the search obviously was James Cook, and in July 1776 he went off again on the Resolution, with another Whitby ship, the Discovery. This search was unsuccessful, for neither a northwest nor a northeast passage usable by sailing ships existed, and the voyage led to Cooks death. In a brief fracas with Hawaiians over the stealing of a cutter, James was slain on the beach at Kealakekua by the Polynesian natives. James Cooks voyaging left him comparatively little time for family ife.
Although, he had married Elizabeth Batts in 1762, when he was 34 years old, he was at sea for more than half of their marriage. The couple had six children, three of whom died in infancy. The three surviving sons, two of whom entered the navy, had all died by 1794. James Cook had set new standards of thoroughness in discovery and seamanship, in navigation, cartography and the sea care of mean, in relations with natives both friendly and hostile, and in the application of science at sea; and he had peacefully changed the map of the world more than any other single man in history.