Explorer

James Cook

James Cook

James Cook - Explorer (1728 - 1779)

Starting out as a farm worker in Yorkshire, James Cook would become one of the most famous explorers and navigators. He was renowned for his detailed maps of the Newfoundland coast and his exploration of New Zealand and the east coast of Australia. He was also one of the many explorers to search for the fabled North West Passage.

This page details facts about James Cook's life and the events that shaped his history.

James Cook the Explorer - Fun Facts for Kids !

1: James Cook was born on 27th October 1728 in the Yorkshire village of Marton. His father, also James Cook, was a Scottish farm worker and his mother, Grace Pace, was from the local area.

2: In 1736 James Cook and his family moved to Great Ayton, where he attended school for five years before working as a farm labourer alongside his father.

3: In 1745 James Cook moved to the Yorkshire coast where, after a short stint as a shop boy, he became an apprentice in the merchant navy. He worked for a merchant, transporting coal down to London, and learned the basic skills of seamanship including navigation and astronomy.

4: James Cook began to work his way up the ranks until, on 17 June 1755, he joined the Royal Navy. Starting out as an able seaman, he soon earned promotion to boatswain and, in June 1757, he passed his Masterís exams.

5: James Cook was Master of the Pembroke when he served in North America during the Seven Years War. He took part in several assaults and sieges, and showed particular skill in cartography and surveying.

6: During the early to mid 1760s James Cook surveyed and mapped the coast of Newfoundland. The scale and accuracy of the maps he produced led the Admiralty to promote him to Lieutenant and give him command of a scientific voyage to observe Venus passing in front of the sun.

7: This rare event would need to be observed in the southern hemisphere so in August 1768, James Cook left England aboard HMS Endeavour and headed for the Pacific Ocean. Arriving at Tahiti in April 1769, he completed his observations and moved on to the next part of his mission, to search for a mythical southern continent known as Terra Australis Nondum Cognita (the unknown southern land).

8: James Cook continued on to New Zealand, where he mapped the coastline before sailing west to Australia. He arrived at the south east coast of Australia in April 1770, becoming the first European to see that part of Australia, and claimed it for Britain. He named it New South Wales.

9: James Cook made his first landfall in an area he would name Botany Bay. This name was given to area as a result of the discoveries made by the expeditionís botanists. He continued his expedition northwards and in June 1770 the Endeavour ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef.

10: The repairs, which took almost seven weeks, were carried out on a Queensland beach near a river. The river is now known as Endeavour River and the local town is called Cooktown. Following the repairs, he resumed his expedition and, in August, landed on an island that he named Possession Island.

11: On 22 August 1770, while on Possession Island, James Cook declared the east coast of Australia to be British territory in the name of King George III. Following this, he sailed the Endeavour to Batavia (modern day Jakarta) for a refit. While there many of his men contracted, and died from malaria, and Dysentery. He returned to England, arriving in July 1771.

12: In 1772 James Cook, newly promoted to Commander, was commissioned to lead another scientific expedition to search for Terra Australis. He left with two ships, HMS Resolution, which he commanded, and HMS Adventure, which was commanded by Tobias Furneaux, another officer in the Royal Navy.

13: James Cook also took and tested a copy of John Harrisonís timekeeper, which allowed him to measure his longitudinal position with greater accuracy than before. He was full of praise for this marine chronometer.

14: Cook led his expedition into the Antarctic Circle on several occasions, each time being forced to turn back by the freezing temperatures. Having become separated from James Cook when they encountered fog, Furneaux sailed to New Zealand before returning to England while Cook continued to explore.

15: After visiting Tahiti to resupply, he sailed south again and resumed his exploration. With Cookís methodical coverage of the area, it wasnít long before he was able to prove that Terra Australis didnít exist.

16: James Cook arrived back in England in July 1775. He received a promotion, from King George III, to Post-Captain. He was also made a Fellow of the Royal Society.

17: Wanting to return to sea, James Cook volunteered to go in search of the Northwest Passage. Once again commanding HMS Resolution, this time accompanied by HMS Discovery, he sailed to the Pacific Ocean to begin his search for a route to the Atlantic Ocean. James Cook sailed to Tahiti before heading north and encountering the Hawaiian Islands.

18: James Cook left Hawaii and sailed to North America, where he began his exploration of the west coast. Cook anchored in the Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island. While there, he traded with the Yuquot people. James Cook then continued his expedition and mapped the North American west coast as far as the Bering Strait.

19: James Cook continued north, sailing through the Bering Strait, and followed the Alaskan Coast until sea ice blocked his path. He returned through the Bering Strait, via the Siberian coast, and headed back to Hawaii. He arrived, at Kealakekua Bay, in 1779.

20: On arrival, James Cook was given a warm welcome and treated as a deity. However, relations had cooled by the time he left a month later. Four days after leaving, James Cook was forced to return to carry out repairs to the Resolutionís mast.

21: The islanders proved more hostile this time and one of Cookís boats was stolen. On 14 February 1779 James Cook attempted to take the king as a hostage. Some of the islanders became agitated and, during the furore that followed, Cook was struck on the head and stabbed to death.

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