Cook was the first to map the island of Newfoundland, before embarking on three voyages in the Pacific Ocean during which he made the first European contact with the coasts of Australia and Hawaii, as well as the first official circumnavigation of New Zealand.
Little more than a teenager, Cook joined the British merchant marine and in 1755 he enlisted in the Royal Navy. He took part in the Seven Years” War, which involved the major European powers of the time, and later surveyed and mapped much of the mouth of the St. Lawrence River during the siege of Quebec. The skill he demonstrated in this task helped bring Cook to the attention of the Admiralty and the Royal Society. It was a pivotal moment in both Cook”s career and in British overseas leadership and exploration, culminating in his appointment in 1766 as commander of the ship HMS Endeavour, aboard which he made the first of his three voyages to the Pacific Ocean.
On these voyages, Cook sailed thousands of miles, in areas of the globe then largely unexplored. Combining seamanship, courage and the ability to effectively lead men in adverse conditions, as well as a great talent for cartography, he reached unknown and dangerous areas that he mapped, recording for the first time on European charts the location of several islands and unexplored coastlines, examining and describing their characteristics. His charts map the coasts of numerous territories, from New Zealand to Hawaii, with a precision of detail and a scale of representation never reached before.
In 1779 Cook was killed in Hawaii in a violent confrontation with the natives during his third exploratory voyage in the Pacific. He left a legacy of scientific and geographical knowledge that would influence his posterity at least until the 20th century. Today, Cook is honored with numerous monuments and memorials around the world.
Cook was born in the village of Marton, in the County of Yorkshire, now a suburb of the city of Middlesbrough. He was baptized in the local church of St. Cuthbert, where even today you can read his name in the parish register. Cook was the second of eight children of James Cook, a Scottish farm laborer, and a native woman, Grace Pace of Thornaby-on-Tees. In 1736, his family moved to Airey Holme”s farm in Great Ayton, where his father”s employer, Thomas Skottowe, paid the tuition for his school, now turned into a museum. In 1741, after five years of elementary school, he began working for his father, who had since become superintendent of the farm. As a hobby he used to climb a nearby hill, Roseberry Topping, enjoying the opportunity to have moments of solitude. Cook”s Cottage, the last home of his parents, which he probably had the opportunity to visit, is now in Melbourne, where it was transported from England and reassembled brick by brick in 1934.
In 1745, at the age of sixteen, Cook moved twenty-two miles north to the fishing village of Staithes to begin his apprenticeship as store boy to grocer and haberdasher William Sanderson. Historians have much speculated whether it was here that Cook first felt an attraction to the sea, contemplating it through the store windows.
After eighteen months, not feeling fit for shopkeeping work, Cook moved again, going to the nearby port town of Whitby and there was introduced to Sanderson”s friends, John and Henry Walker. The Walkers were prominent local shipowners, of the Quaker religion, with interests in the coal trade. Their home is now the Captain Cook Memorial Museum. Cook was hired as a merchant marine apprentice in their small fleet of coal ships engaged along the English coast. His first assignment was aboard the coal ship Freelove; on it and other ships he spent several years sailing between Tyne and London.
As part of his apprenticeship, Cook applied himself in the study of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, navigation and astronomy, all subjects that would come in handy someday in command of his own ship.
After completing his three-year apprenticeship, Cook began working on merchant ships in the Baltic Sea. Beginning in 1752, with his promotion to second-in-command aboard the coal ship Friendship, he quickly climbed the merchant marine ladder. In 1755, less than a month after being offered command of the Friendship, at a time when Britain was rearming for the Seven Years” War, he decided to join the Royal Navy as a volunteer. Although he was aware that he would have to start on the lowest rung of the naval ladder, Cook understood that his career would advance much more rapidly in the service and enlisted at Wapping on June 7.
On December 21, 1762, Cook married Elizabeth Batts (1742-1835), daughter of Samuel Batts, one of his mentors and manager of The Bell Inn at Wapping, at St. Margaret”s Church in Barking, then Essex County. The couple had six children-James (1763-1794), Nathaniel (1764-1781), Elizabeth (1767-1771), Joseph (1768-1768), George (1772-1772), and Hugh (1776-1793). When not at sea, Cook lived in the East End neighborhood of London. He attended services at St. Paul”s Church in Shadwell, where his son James was baptized. To commemorate his life in London”s East End, the Stepney Historical Trust recently posted a plaque at 326 “The Highway,” Shadwell”s main street, corresponding to 88 Mile End Road where the Cook home stood. Cook has no known direct descendants: all of his children died early or without descendants.
Cook”s first boarding was on the ship HMS Eagle, with the rank of master mate. In October and November of 1755 he took part in the capture of a French warship and the sinking of another, actions for which he was promoted to the rank of master (or sailing master) in addition to maintaining his other duties. His first command was in March 1756, when he briefly became commander of the Cruizer, a small cutter following the Eagle when it was on patrol.
In June 1757 Cook passed his second lieutenant”s exams at Trinity House in Deptford, earning the right to sail and command a ship in the Royal Fleet. He then embarked on the frigate HMS Solebay as a second lieutenant, under the orders of Commander Robert Craig. During this period, he served in several minor actions in the seas around the British Isles.
The Conquest of Canada (1758-63)
During the Seven Years” War, he served in North America on HMS Pembroke, a 60-gun vessel of the Royal Navy, again as master. In 1758 he took part in the amphibious assault that allowed the taking of the fortress of Louisbourg from the French. Cook then participated in 1759 to the siege of Quebec city, demonstrating immediately his great talent in topography and cartography, drawing maps of the mouth of the St. Lawrence River; work that facilitated the task of General Wolfe to carry out later the famous surprise attack on the plains of Abraham of 12-13 September 1759. The attack, which ended with a clear victory of the British troops and the death of both commanders in chief, would later be decisive in the conflict between France and Great Britain for the destiny of New France, determining the creation of Canada.
Cook”s skill in topography was then used during the 1760s to chart the rugged coastline of the island of Newfoundland, aboard HMS Grenville. Cook charted the northwest coastline between 1763 and 1764, the south coast between the Burin Peninsula and Cape Ray between 1765 and 1766, and the west coast in 1767.
During this period Cook employed local pilots to point out the “hidden rocks and dangers” along the south and west coasts. During the 1765 season, four pilots were engaged at a daily pay of 4 shillings each: John Beck for the west coast of “Great St. Lawrence,” Morgan Snook for Fortune Bay, John Dawson for Connaigre and Hermitage Bay, and John Peck for “Bay of Despair.”
During his stay in Newfoundland, Cook also conducted astronomical observations, in particular of the eclipse of the Sun on August 5, 1766. By obtaining an accurate estimate of the time of the beginning and that of the conclusion of the eclipse and comparing them with the times at a known location in England, it was possible to calculate the longitude of the observation site in Newfoundland. This result was reported to the Royal Society in 1767.
Cook”s five years in Newfoundland resulted in the first accurate large-scale map of the island, enhanced with hydrographic surveys of the coastline; they were the first scientific charts to use precise triangulation to establish land contours. During this time Cook further developed his skill in topographic practice, gained by working in very often difficult conditions, soon attracting the attention of the Admiralty and the Royal Society, at a crucial time not only for his personal career but also in view of future British overseas explorations. Cook”s map would still be used as a reference by all those who would navigate Newfoundland”s waters for the next 200 years.
It was as a result of the work done in Newfoundland that Cook wrote how it was his intention to go not only “…beyond where anyone has gone before, but as far as it is possible for a man to go.”
The first journey (1768-1771)
On May 25, 1768, the Admiralty commissioned Cook to make a voyage to the Pacific Ocean to observe the 1769 transit of Venus in front of the Sun (June 3-4 of that year). At the age of 39, he was then promoted to lieutenant to grant him sufficient status to be appointed commander of the expedition. For its part, the Royal Society agreed that Cook would receive one hundredth of a guinea as a gratuity in addition to his naval pay.
He set sail on August 26, 1768 on the ship HMS Endeavour (a brig with a pole, whose name would be the inspiration for the Space Shuttle Endeavour), rounded Cape Horn and on April 13, 1769 arrived in Tahiti. There he built a small fort-observatory – Fort Venus – to observe the transit, but due to the poor accuracy of the scientific instrumentation of the time, the results of the measurements were not as conclusive as hoped.
Once the observations were completed, Cook opened the secret sealed orders of the Admiralty, which commanded him to explore the South Pacific and search for the mythical continent Terra Australis, about the existence of which Cook himself had doubts, but that the Royal Society (and in particular Alexander Dalrymple) claimed existed.
With the help of an indigenous Tahitian called Tupaia, who had extensive knowledge of the marine geography of the South Pacific, the expedition reached New Zealand. Cook was thus the second European (after Abel Tasman in 1642) to land in New Zealand. He circumnavigated it completely, thus discovering the Cook Strait that separates the North Island from the South Island and that Tasman had not sighted, although he had guessed the existence of a passage. He accurately traced the New Zealand coasts making only minor errors, calling “Banks Island” what was actually a peninsula and failing to determine whether Stewart Island or Rakiura was an island separated from the mainland.
He then sailed westward, reaching the southeastern coast of Australia on April 19, 1770. His expedition became the first European to explore the coastline of the new continent. On April 23 he made his first recorded observation of Aboriginal Australians at Brush Island near Bawley Point – now in New South Wales – noting in his journal:
On April 29, Cook and his crew docked on the mainland on the peninsula of Kurnell. Cook first baptized the area as Stingray Bay for the numerous stingrays they found there and fished in abundance, but later changed the name to Botany Bay, after the recovery of unique plant specimens by botanists Joseph Banks and Daniel Carlsson Solander. Also in Botany Bay he had the first direct contact with the aboriginal tribe known as Gewagal. When, later, Captain Arthur Phillip arrived with the “First Fleet” in 1788, he considered the bay unsuitable for founding a colony and docked further north, where today is the city of Sydney.
Leaving the landing at Botany Bay, they sailed north. On June 11 an accident occurred when the Endeavour ran aground on a shoal belonging to the Great Barrier Reef and “they were forced to repair at the mouth of a river on June 18, 1770″. The Endeavour – seriously damaged – was run aground for repairs at the mouth of the Endeavour river, near present-day Cooktown; consequently the voyage was delayed by two months. Repaired the ship, they resumed the sea and crossed the Strait of Torres between Australia and New Guinea: it was the second European ever to pass through it after the passage of Luis Váez de Torres in 1604. On August 22 Cook landed at Possession Island where he solemnly claimed to the British Crown the entire coastline that he had explored. He then returned to England calling at Batavia, today”s Jakarta, Indonesia, where many men succumbed to malaria, reached the Cape of Good Hope and arrived in St. Helena July 12, 1771.
Another remarkable aspect of this voyage was that up to this point no man of the crew had fallen victim to scurvy, an exceptional fact for those times. Cook forced the men to eat citrus fruits and sauerkraut, relying, among the first, on James Lind”s discoveries about the disease. It was the stage of Jakarta, known for its malaria epidemics, however, to be fatal for many of the crew, including Tahitian Tupaia, the Finnish secretary and fellow scientist Banks, Herman Spöring, astronomer Charles Green and illustrator Sydney Parkinson. Lieutenant Hicks, Cook”s second, also passed away on May 26, 1771.
On July 10, 1771 Nicholas Young, the boy who had first seen New Zealand, was again the first to sight England (specifically the Lizard Peninsula).
Cook”s journals, which recounted how the crew of the Endeavour circumnavigated the globe, catalogued thousands of species of plants, insects and animals, met new ethnicities and scoured huge continents, were published in 1773 and he soon became something of a hero in the scientific community.
The second journey (1772-1775)
Shortly after his return from the first voyage, Cook was promoted in August 1771 to the rank of Commander of the Royal Navy and again commissioned by the Royal Society for a further voyage, this time in search of the legendary Terra Australis. On his first voyage Cook had demonstrated by circumnavigating New Zealand that it was not connected to any larger land mass to the south. Despite the fact that he had mapped almost the entire east coast of Australia, demonstrating its continental dimensions, it was still believed that Terra Australis must be located further south. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, Alexander Dalrymple and other members of the Society refused to believe that a southern continent did not exist.
Cook assumed command of HMS Resolution while Tobias Furneaux was placed in command of HMS Adventure. The captain was also asked to test the Larcum Kendall K1 marine chronometer on this voyage. The Longitude Commission had asked Kendall to copy and develop John Harrison”s fourth watch model (the H4) useful for navigation at sea.
On August 1, Cook made his first call for supplies at the port of Funchal in the Madeira Islands. After a further provisioning stop at the Cape Verde Islands two weeks later, he sailed south to the Cape of Good Hope. The Resolution dropped anchor in Table Bay on October 30 with the entire crew in good health, thanks to Cook”s imposition of a strict diet and maximum hygiene. It was here that the Swede Anders Sparrman joined the expedition as a botanist.
The ships left the Cape on November 22, 1772 and headed to the South Atlantic area where the French navigator Bouvet had claimed to have sighted land, which he called Cape Circumcision. At the beginning of December the two commanders sailed in a thick fog and sighted “ice islands”. Cook, however, did not find the island that Bouvet claimed to be at a latitude of 54 °. So the expedition went further south and circumnavigated the globe at a very southern latitude. Cook thus became the first European to cross the Antarctic Circle on January 17, 1773 reaching 71°10” South. In the mists of the Antarctic, the two ships at one point found themselves separated. Furneaux first headed towards the predetermined meeting point of Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand, traced by Cook in 1770. Here he lost about ten of his men in a violent clash with the Māori. The Adventure arrived in Queen Charlotte Sound on May 7, 1773, while the Resolution reached the rendezvous on the 17th. From June to October the two ships explored the South Pacific. Cook had almost reached the shores of the Antarctic continent when he was forced to return to Tahiti to refuel the ship, reaching it on August 15. Here Omai of Ra”iātea Island embarked on the Adventure (Omai later became the second Pacific islander, after Ahu-toru, to visit Europe before returning to Tahiti with Cook in 1776).
After landing at Tonga in the Friendship Islands the ships returned to New Zealand to winter, but were again separated, this time by a storm, on October 22. On this occasion the appointment in Queen Charlotte Sound was missed. Furneaux then sailed back to the motherland. Cook instead continued to explore the Antarctic region, reaching again 71°10” S on January 31, 1774.
Continuing the navigation he discovered New Caledonia (September 4) and the Australian Sandwich Islands. Cook sailed definitively to the motherland in November 1774. On the way back, crossing the South Pacific, he docked again in Tonga and then on Easter Island arriving, five weeks later, in Tierra del Fuego where he remained for two weeks. He then headed in the South Atlantic. Unexpectedly he sighted a land covered with snow and ice on which he landed on January 17, 1775 in a sheltered bay that he called Possession Bay. He traced part of the coast, but he was not particularly fascinated by the discovery and even described the desolation:
Arrived at the southern end of that land he realized that it was not the much sought after Antarctic continent, then called the southern cape Cape Disappointment and gave the island the name of South Georgia.
On March 21, the Resolution anchored at Table Bay where she spent five weeks taking advantage of the opportunity to restore the rigging. She arrived at home in Spithead, Portsmouth, on July 30, 1775, after having visited along the way Saint Helena and the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha. The extraordinary journey was over and all the inferences about the existence of the legendary Southern Continent definitely buried.
Another positive result of the second voyage was the successful testing of the marine chronometer devised by John Harrison, which facilitated the accurate measurement of longitudes.
Cook”s fame now extended beyond the Admiralty. He was made a fellow of the Royal Society, awarded the Copley Medal, portrayed by Nathaniel Dance-Holland, dined with James Boswell, and was described in the House of Lords as “the first navigator in Europe.”
Shortly thereafter Cook received an honorable discharge from the Navy, but that would not keep him away from the sea and sailing for long. A third voyage in search of the Northwest Passage was already planned. Cook would sail across the Pacific and ever eastward back to the Atlantic while another ship would take the opposite route.
The Third Journey (1776-1779)
On his last voyage Cook was again in command of the Resolution, while Captain Charles Clerke was in command of HMS Discovery. The purpose of the voyage was an attempt to discover the famous Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific via the northern part of North America. Initially, the Admiralty would have wanted Clerke to lead the expedition. Cook, who was officially retired, was supposed to follow their mission in the Pacific as an advisor. However, compared to his competitor, Cook was an expert on the Bering expeditions in the same seas they were to sail. Taking note, the Admiralty finally granted its trust again to the veteran explorer, appointing him as commander, while Clerke was relegated to the role of a supporting player. The intent was to make a “two-pronged attack”, with Cook and Clerke who would try to pass through the Bering Strait in the North Pacific and Richard Pickersgill on the frigate Lyon to attempt the route from the Atlantic. The Admiralty”s orders for Cook were inspired by an Act of the British Parliament which, reconfirmed in 1775, had promised a £20,000 prize to anyone who discovered the passage.
Cook stopped in Tahiti and then sailed north and in 1778 became the first European to visit the Hawaiian Islands, which he named “Sandwich Islands” in honor of its owner John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich; the First Lord of the Admiralty. He was also the first to tell about surfing. From Hawaii continued and explored the west coast of Canada, docking at Nootka Bay (Nootka Sound for the British) on Vancouver Island, crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca. He explored and charted the coast of North America, from California to the Bering Strait. After leaving Nootka Bay, Cook explored and mapped the coast to the Bering Strait, identifying what would later be known as Cook”s Inlet in Alaska. It would later be said that, in a single expedition, Cook had, for the first time on the maps of the world, drawn most of the northwest coastline of North America, determined the extent of Alaska, and filled in the serious gaps present in the early Russian (from the west) and Spanish (from the south) explorations of the northern Pacific boundaries.
The Bering Strait, despite several attempts, proved to be impenetrable. This voyage was very frustrating for Cook who began to suffer from stomach problems; according to some theories, these disorders were at the origin of his increasingly irrational behavior towards the crew.
Cook returned to Hawaii in 1779, where he met the local king Kalani`ōpu`u and, according to some recently disputed interpretations, was initially mistaken for Lono, the Hawaiian god of fertility. However, on February 14 near the bay of Kealakekua some natives stole one of the lifeboats of his ship – this kind of thefts was quite normal and usually some natives were taken hostage to obtain the restitution of the ill-gotten money – and Cook, in prey to irrationality, had a violent altercation with a large group of inhabitants of the island, in the dispute some shots were fired and Cook was stabbed to death.
Clerke took command of the expedition and made another attempt to pass through the Bering Strait, before succumbing to tuberculosis from which he was already suffering. He was replaced in command of the Resolution by Lieutenant John Gore while the Discovery passed under that of James King.
The Resolution and the Discovery finally arrived at Sheerness in Kent on October 4, 1780. News of Cook”s and Clerke”s deaths had already reached London some time ago, so their return home received only a muted welcome, but the machine of Captain Cook”s mythopoiesis was inexorably set in motion.
Numerous findings from this expedition are preserved at the Museum of Natural History, Anthropology and Ethnology Section of the University of Florence.
The debate over the cause and manner of Cook”s killing has never subsided. It was probably a ritual murder consummated collectively, as the natives pounced on the corpse. On February 14, 1779 Cook marched to the village to take hostage the Hawaiian king Kalaniʻōpuʻu, took him by the hand and invited him to follow him with the excuse of showing him his ship, which the king did apparently of his own will. But one of his favorite wives and two captains noticed his departure; so they caught up with the group as they were on their way to the boats. Here they begged the king not to leave, until he stopped and sat down. An elderly priest began to chant while holding a coconut, attempting to distract Cook and his men, thus giving time for a large crowd of natives to join them on the beach. The Hawaiian king began to realize that he was the victim of a deception, refusing to move and, when in the following crowd Cook turned to help put the boats in the sea, he was hit with a stick to the head and then stabbed to death, falling face down on the shoreline.
As reported in the eye-witness accounts, collected by Captain James King and the sailors present “his body was immediately dragged ashore and surrounded by the enemies who, tearing the dagger from each other”s hands, showed a wild desire to reserve each a share of its destruction.” The Hawaiians then seized the body and dragged it far away. Four of Cook”s sailors were killed and two were wounded. In reality the natives did not make a gratuitous destruction of Cook”s remains, on the contrary his body was jealously preserved by the elders. Following the tradition of the tribal communities of the time, Cook”s body underwent funeral rituals similar to those reserved for the most important chiefs and elders of Hawaiian society. The body was then eviscerated, boiled to facilitate the removal of flesh, and the bones were carefully cleaned for preservation as if they were religious icons, in a manner somewhat reminiscent of the treatment given to the relics of European saints in the Middle Ages. Some of Cook”s remains, as some evidence confirms to that effect, were later returned to the British after a heartfelt appeal by the crew: on February 22, Cook”s few recovered remains were formally buried at sea in the depths of the bay to the tolling of bells and under the salvoes of cannons.
Despite the fact that images, testimonies and data of the time predominantly support the responsibility of the native Hawaiians in putting the weapons first, in 2004 was discovered in a private collection belonging to a family since 1851, the original painting of 1784 by John Cleveley from which many other contemporary paintings seem to be derived that had always given the image of a peacemaker Cook. Cleveley”s brother had been a member of Cook”s crew and the painting would seem to agree with the eyewitness accounts. The original depicts the captain in a fury and involved in hand-to-hand combat while he is intent on inciting his men against the native Hawaiians, suggesting that they, in order to defend themselves against the British sailors, were forced to kill him. The discovery of the original painting, however, has not changed the way most historians judge Cook”s calm relationship with the Hawaiians, and although on his last voyage it was reported by some of his contemporaries that he had become irrational and violent, David Samwell, who had sailed with Cook on the Resolution, wrote of him:
The reasons for Cook”s death were at the center of a wide-ranging and bitter debate between the two anthropologists Marshall Sahlins and Gananath Obeyesekere, which took place at the end of the 1990s and also involved other historians, sociologists and anthropologists. The main subject of the debate, which is still unresolved, hinges on the question of the rationality of the indigenous people: whether different from that of the Europeans (but equally valid) or similar (i.e. equally “rational”).The dispute between the two will lead to a series of publications and counter-publications, and still elicits very controversial responses from other historians, sociologists or anthropologists, with stances taken for one or the other (such as Borofsky for Sahlins).
The standard abbreviation “Cook” is used in the binomial nomenclature of several botanical species referenced to him. These include:
The Australian Museum acquired its “Cook Collection” in 1894 from the New South Wales government. At that time the collection consisted of 115 artifacts collected on Cook”s three voyages across the Pacific Ocean during the period 1768-1780, with documents and memorabilia relating to these expeditions.Many of the ethnographic artifacts were collected at the time of the first contacts between Pacific peoples and Europeans. In 1935 most of the documents and memorabilia were transferred to the Mitchell Library in the New South Wales State Library. The provenance of the collection shows that the items remained in the hands of Cook”s widow Elizabeth Cook, and her descendants, until 1886. In that year John Mackrell, great-grandson of Isaac Smith, Elizabeth Cook”s cousin, organized an exhibition of this collection, at the request of the NSW government, at the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in London. In 1887, the NSW government”s representative in London, Saul Samuel, purchased the items from John Mackrell as well as other memorabilia purchased from third parties and belonging to other relatives such as the Reverend Canon Frederick Bennett, Mrs. Thomas Langton, and H.M.C. Alexander and William Adams. The collection remained in the custody of the Colonial Secretary of NSW until 1894, when it was transferred to the Australian Museum.
Science and Navigation
Cook”s twelve years of sailing around the Pacific Ocean contributed greatly to European knowledge of the area. Several islands such as the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) were visited by Europeans for the first time, and his naval mapping of vast areas of the Pacific was an important and lasting achievement.
To create accurate maps, latitude and longitude must be determined very precisely. Navigators were able to accurately work out latitude for centuries by measuring the angle of the Sun or a star above the horizon with instruments such as the Davis quadrant (or backstaff) or quadrants in general. Longitude was more difficult to measure accurately because it required precise knowledge of the time difference between points on the Earth”s surface. The Earth rotates 360° relative to the Sun every day. So longitude varies with time: fifteen degrees every hour, or one degree every four minutes.Cook made accurate measurements of longitude during his first voyage due to his great navigational skills, the help of astronomer Charles Green, and using the newly published Nautical Almanac tables. These provided the data for determining longitude at sea by the lunar distance, obtained by the method of measuring the angular distance from the Moon or Sun during the day or from one of eight particularly bright stars at night, to determine the time at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, and comparing this with the local time determined by the height of the Sun, Moon, or stars. On his second voyage Cook used Larcum Kendall”s K1 chronometer, which was in the form of a large pocket watch 5 inches (13 cm) in diameter. This was a copy of the H4 clock made by John Harrison, which had turned out to be the first to be able to keep accurate time at sea when it was used aboard the ship Deptford en route to Jamaica between 1761 and 1762.
Cook managed to circumnavigate the globe on his first voyage without losing a single man to scurvy, an outstanding achievement for the time. He tested various preventive measures, but the most important proved to be the frequent provision of fresh food. He submitted a report on this important aspect of the voyage to the Royal Society, which awarded him the Copley Medal in 1776.
An innate observer, Cook was the first European to have extensive contact with a variety of Pacific peoples. He correctly postulated a connection between all the peoples of the Pacific, despite the fact that they were separated by large expanses of ocean (see Maleo-Polynesian languages). Cook theorized that Polynesians originated in Asia, as scientist Bryan Sykes would later actually verify. In New Zealand, Cook”s coming is often used to indicate the beginning of colonization.
Cook took several scientists with him on his voyages; they made numerous important observations and discoveries. Two botanists, Joseph Banks, and Swede Daniel Solander, participated in Cook”s first voyage. The two collected over 3,000 species of plants. Banks” studies would later greatly promote British settlement in Australia.
Several artists also sailed with Cook”s first voyage. Sydney Parkinson was heavily involved in documenting the botanists” findings, completing 264 drawings before his death near the end of the voyage. They were of immense scientific value to British botanists.Cook”s second expedition, on the other hand, made use of William Hodges, who produced remarkable landscape paintings of Tahiti, Easter Island, and other places visited.
Numerous officers who served under Cook went on later to distinguish themselves particularly well. William Bligh, Cook”s sailing master, was given command of HMS Bounty in 1787 and sailed to Tahiti bringing back the fruit of the breadfruit tree. However, Bligh is much better known for his crew”s famous mutiny that eventually left him adrift at sea in 1789. He later became governor of New South Wales, where he was the subject of another mutiny – the Rum Rebellion – the only armed uprising by an Australian government to ever succeed. George Vancouver, one of Cook”s midshipmen, later led the Vancouver Expedition, a voyage of exploration of the Pacific coast of North America, between 1791 and 1794. In honor of his famous former commander, Vancouver”s new ship was also christened Discovery. George Dixon had embarked on Cook”s third expedition and later commanded his own expedition. A second lieutenant of Cook”s, Henry Roberts, spent many years after that voyage preparing detailed maps that enhanced the commander”s posthumous Atlas, published around 1784.
Cook”s great contribution to science was internationally recognized early in his life. In 1779, as the American colonies were fighting Britain for their independence, Benjamin Franklin wrote to the captains of colonial warships at sea, recommending that if they came in contact with Cook”s ship, they were required to
Unbeknownst to Franklin, Cook had already met his death a month before this “pass” was written.
Cook”s voyages hold another unusual record: the first “female” to circumnavigate the globe was… a goat (the first of which on HMS Dolphin, under the command of Samuel Wallis. The animal was pressed into service as a personal milk supplier for Cook, aboard the Endeavour. When they returned to England, Cook presented her with a silver collar engraved with Samuel Johnson”s verses: Perpetui, ambita bis terra, praemia lactis Haec habet altrici Capra secunda Jovis. She was later left to graze on Cook”s farm outside London and, it was also reported, was admitted to the privileges of the Royal Naval hospital at Greenwich. Cook”s diary recorded the date of the death of “The Goat”: 28 March 1772.
One U.S. coin, the Hawaiian sesquicentennial half dollar, bears the image of Cook. Minted to mark the 150th anniversary of his 1928 discovery of Hawaii, the low number of specimens minted (just 10 008) made it a rare and expensive example of Early United States commemorative coins.The site where he was killed in Hawaii, Kealakekua Bayy, was marked in 1874 by a white obelisk raised on a 2.3 m2 area of open beach. This patch of land, although politically in Hawaii, was formally ceded to the United Kingdom.A town near the monument, Captain Cook, is named after Cook. Numerous Hawaiian commercial enterprises are named after him today. The Apollo 15 Endeavour Command and Service Module was named after Cook”s ship, HMS Endeavour. Another shuttle, the Discovery, was so named to commemorate the HMS Discovery of James Cook”s third voyage.
The first institution of higher education in North Queensland, Australia, opened in Townsville in 1970 and was named in his honor James Cook University. In Australian slang, the expression “Captain Cook” means “look.” Countless institutions, monuments, and place names reflect the importance of Cook”s contributions to the Anglo-Saxon world, including the Cook Islands, Cook Strait, Cook Peninsula, and Cook Crater on the Moon. Aorakimonte Cook, New Zealand”s highest peak, bears his name. Another Mount Cook is located on the border between the U.S. state of Alaska and the Canadian territory of Yukon.
One of the earliest monuments in honor of Cook in the United Kingdom is at The Vache, erected in 1780 by Admiral Hugh Palliser, a contemporary of the captain and then owner of the estate. A huge obelisk was erected in 1827 as a monument to Cook on the hill of Easby Moor overlooking his childhood village, Great Ayton, along with a smaller monument at the site of Cook”s former cottage.Another monument to Cook is at St. Andrew the Great Church on St. Andrew Street in Cambridge, where his son Hugh, a student at Christ”s College, is buried. Cook”s widow, Elizabeth, was also buried in the same church and in her will left money for the upkeep of the monument.The 250th anniversary of Cook”s birth was celebrated at the site of his birthplace in Marton, Middlesbrough, with the opening in 1978 of the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum, located at Stewart Park. A granite pot, just south of the museum, marks the approximate spot where he was born. Tributes to Cook also abound in post-industrial Middlesbrough, including an elementary school, and the Bottle ”O Notes, an urban artwork by Claes Oldenburg, erected in 1993 in the city”s public gardens. Also named after the captain is the James Cook University Hospital, a large teaching hospital that opened in 2003.In 2002, a BBC poll placed Cook at number 12 among the greatest Britons of all time in the television program 100 Greatest Britons.