62 Facts About James Cook


Captain James Cook was a British explorer, cartographer and naval officer famous for his three voyages between 1768 and 1779 in the Pacific Ocean and to New Zealand and Australia in particular.


James Cook made detailed maps of Newfoundland prior to making three voyages to the Pacific, during which he achieved the first recorded European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands, and the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand.


James Cook saw action in the Seven Years' War and subsequently surveyed and mapped much of the entrance to the St Lawrence River during the siege of Quebec, which brought him to the attention of the Admiralty and the Royal Society.


James Cook mapped lands from New Zealand to Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean in greater detail and on a scale not previously charted by Western explorers.


James Cook surveyed and named features, and recorded islands and coastlines on European maps for the first time.


James Cook displayed a combination of seamanship, superior surveying and cartographic skills, physical courage, and an ability to lead men in adverse conditions.


James Cook was the second of eight children of James Cook, a Scottish farm labourer from Ednam in Roxburghshire, and his locally born wife, Grace Pace, from Thornaby-on-Tees.

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In 1745, when he was 16, James Cook moved 20 miles to the fishing village of Staithes, to be apprenticed as a shop boy to grocer and haberdasher William Sanderson.


Historians have speculated that this is where James Cook first felt the lure of the sea while gazing out of the shop window.


James Cook was taken on as a merchant navy apprentice in their small fleet of vessels, plying coal along the English coast.


James Cook attended St Paul's Church, Shadwell, where his son James was baptised.


James Cook then joined the frigate HMS Solebay as master under Captain Robert Craig.


James Cook surveyed the northwest stretch in 1763 and 1764, the south coast between the Burin Peninsula and Cape Ray in 1765 and 1766, and the west coast in 1767.


James Cook's maps were used into the 20th century, with copies being referenced by those sailing Newfoundland's waters for 200 years.


For its part, the Royal Society agreed that James Cook would receive a one hundred guinea gratuity in addition to his Naval pay.


Once the observations were completed, James Cook opened the sealed orders, which were additional instructions from the Admiralty for the second part of his voyage: to search the south Pacific for signs of the postulated rich southern continent of Terra Australis.


James Cook then sailed to New Zealand where he mapped the complete coastline, making only some minor errors.


Endeavour continued northwards along the coastline, keeping the land in sight with James Cook charting and naming landmarks as he went.


James Cook sought to establish relations with the Indigenous population without success.


At first James Cook named the inlet "Sting-Ray Harbour" after the many stingrays found there.


The crew's encounters with the local Aboriginal people were mostly peaceful, although following a dispute over green turtles James Cook ordered shots to be fired and one local was lightly wounded.


James Cook named the island Possession Island, where he claimed the entire coastline that he had just explored as British territory.


James Cook's journals were published upon his return, and he became something of a hero among the scientific community.


James Cook's son George was born five days before he left for his second voyage.


On his first voyage, James Cook had demonstrated by circumnavigating New Zealand that it was not attached to a larger landmass to the south.

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James Cook almost encountered the mainland of Antarctica but turned towards Tahiti to resupply his ship.


James Cook then resumed his southward course in a second fruitless attempt to find the supposed continent.


On his return voyage to New Zealand in 1774, James Cook landed at the Friendly Islands, Easter Island, Norfolk Island, New Caledonia, and Vanuatu.


James Cook discovered and named Clerke Rocks and the South Sandwich Islands.


James Cook then turned north to South Africa and from there continued back to England.


James Cook's log was full of praise for this time-piece which he used to make charts of the southern Pacific Ocean that were so remarkably accurate that copies of them were still in use in the mid-20th century.


James Cook reluctantly accepted, insisting that he be allowed to quit the post if an opportunity for active duty should arise.


James Cook's fame extended beyond the Admiralty; he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society and awarded the Copley Gold Medal for completing his second voyage without losing a man to scurvy.


James Cook travelled to the Pacific and hoped to travel east to the Atlantic, while a simultaneous voyage travelled the opposite route.


James Cook unknowingly sailed past the Strait of Juan de Fuca and soon after entered Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island.


James Cook anchored near the First Nations village of Yuquot.


James Cook then sailed west to the Siberian coast, and then southeast down the Siberian coast back to the Bering Strait.


James Cook became increasingly frustrated on this voyage and perhaps began to suffer from a stomach ailment; it has been speculated that this led to irrational behaviour towards his crew, such as forcing them to eat walrus meat, which they had pronounced inedible.


James Cook's arrival coincided with the Makahiki, a Hawaiian harvest festival of worship for the Polynesian god Lono.


James Cook took the king by his own hand and led him away.


At this point, the king began to understand that James Cook was his enemy.


The esteem which the islanders nevertheless held for James Cook caused them to retain his body.


Some of James Cook's remains, thus preserved, were eventually returned to his crew for a formal burial at sea.


On his second voyage, James Cook used the K1 chronometer made by Larcum Kendall, which was the shape of a large pocket watch, 5 inches in diameter.


James Cook succeeded in circumnavigating the world on his first voyage without losing a single man to scurvy, an unusual accomplishment at the time.

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James Cook tested several preventive measures, most importantly the frequent replenishment of fresh food.


James Cook became the first European to have extensive contact with various people of the Pacific.


James Cook correctly postulated a link among all the Pacific peoples, despite their being separated by great ocean stretches.


James Cook theorised that Polynesians originated from Asia, which scientist Bryan Sykes later verified.


In New Zealand the coming of James Cook is often used to signify the onset of the colonisation which officially started more than 70 years after his crew became the second group of Europeans to visit that archipelago.


James Cook carried several scientists on his voyages; they made significant observations and discoveries.


Several officers who served under James Cook went on to distinctive accomplishments.


George Vancouver, one of James Cook's midshipmen, led a voyage of exploration to the Pacific Coast of North America from 1791 to 1794.


Henry Roberts, a lieutenant under James Cook, spent many years after that voyage preparing the detailed charts that went into James Cook's posthumous atlas, published around 1784.


The 250th anniversary of James Cook's birth was marked at the site of his birthplace in Marton by the opening of the Captain James Cook Birthplace Museum, located within Stewart Park.


The Royal Research Ship RRS James Cook was built in 2006 to replace the RRS Charles Darwin in the UK's Royal Research Fleet, and Stepney Historical Trust placed a plaque on Free Trade Wharf in the Highway, Shadwell to commemorate his life in the East End of London.


In 2002, James Cook was placed at number 12 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.


In 1931, Kenneth Slessor's poem "Five Visions of Captain James Cook" was the "most dramatic break-through" in Australian poetry of the 20th century according to poet Douglas Stewart.


The Australian slang phrase "Have a Captain James Cook" means to have a look or conduct a brief inspection.


James Cook appears as a symbolic and generic figure in several Aboriginal myths, often from regions where James Cook did not encounter Aboriginal people.


Maddock states that James Cook is usually portrayed as the bringer of Western colonialism to Australia and is presented as a villain who brings immense social change.


Robert Tombs defended James Cook, arguing "He epitomized the Age of Enlightenment in which he lived," and in conducting his first voyage "was carrying out an enlightened mission, with instructions from the Royal Society to show 'patience and forbearance' towards native peoples".