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His five seasons in Newfoundland produced the first large-scale and accurate maps of the island's coasts and were the first scientific, large scale, hydrographic surveys to use precise triangulation to establish land outlines. Cook's maps were used into the 20th century, with copies being referenced by those sailing Newfoundland's waters for years. Following on from his exertions in Newfoundland, Cook wrote that he intended to go not only "farther than any man has been before me, but as far as I think it is possible for a man to go".

On 25 May , [23] the Admiralty commissioned Cook to command a scientific voyage to the Pacific Ocean. The purpose of the voyage was to observe and record the transit of Venus across the Sun which, when combined with observations from other places, would help to determine the distance of the Sun. Once the observations were completed, 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.

He then voyaged west, reaching the southeastern coast of Australia on 19 April , and in doing so his expedition became the first recorded Europeans to have encountered its eastern coastline. On 23 April, he made his first recorded direct observation of indigenous Australians at Brush Island near Bawley Point , noting in his journal: " Cook originally named the area "Stingray Bay", but later he crossed this out and named it " Botany Bay " [32] after the unique specimens retrieved by the botanists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander.

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It is here that Cook made first contact with an aboriginal tribe known as the Gweagal. After his departure from Botany Bay, he continued northwards. On 24 May, Cook and Banks and others went ashore. Continuing north, on 11 June a mishap occurred when Endeavour ran aground on a shoal of the Great Barrier Reef , and then "nursed into a river mouth on 18 June ". Leaving the east coast, Cook turned west and nursed his battered ship through the dangerously shallow waters of Torres Strait. Searching for a vantage point, Cook saw a steep hill on a nearby island from the top of which he hoped to see "a passage into the Indian Seas".

He climbed the hill with three others, including Joseph Banks. On seeing a navigable passage, he signalled the good news down to the men on the ship, who cheered loudly. Cook later wrote that he had claimed possession of the east coast when up on that hill, and named the place 'Possession Island'.

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However, the Admiralty's instructions [35] did not authorise Cook to annex New Holland Australia and therefore it is unlikely that any possession ceremony occurred that August. Importantly, Banks, who was standing beside Cook, does not mention any such episode or announcement in his journal. In his revised journal entry, Cook wrote that he had claimed the entire coastline that he had just explored as British territory. He returned to England via Batavia modern Jakarta , Indonesia , where many in his crew succumbed to malaria , and then the Cape of Good Hope , arriving at the island of Saint Helena on 12 July Cook's journals were published upon his return, and he became something of a hero among the scientific community.

Among the general public, however, the aristocratic botanist Joseph Banks was a greater hero. Cook's son George was born five days before he left for his second voyage. Shortly after his return from the first voyage, Cook was promoted in August to the rank of commander. On his first voyage, Cook had demonstrated by circumnavigating New Zealand that it was not attached to a larger landmass to the south. Although he charted almost the entire eastern coastline of Australia, showing it to be continental in size, the Terra Australis was believed to lie further south.

Despite this evidence to the contrary, Alexander Dalrymple and others of the Royal Society still believed that a massive southern continent should exist. Cook's expedition circumnavigated the globe at an extreme southern latitude , becoming one of the first to cross the Antarctic Circle on 17 January In the Antarctic fog, Resolution and Adventure became separated.

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Cook almost encountered the mainland of Antarctica but turned towards Tahiti to resupply his ship. He then resumed his southward course in a second fruitless attempt to find the supposed continent. On this leg of the voyage, he brought a young Tahitian named Omai , who proved to be somewhat less knowledgeable about the Pacific than Tupaia had been on the first voyage.

He then turned north to South Africa and from there continued back to England. His reports upon his return home put to rest the popular myth of Terra Australis. Cook's second voyage marked a successful employment of Larcum Kendall's K1 copy of John Harrison 's H4 marine chronometer , which enabled Cook to calculate his longitudinal position with much greater accuracy. Upon his return, Cook was promoted to the rank of post-captain and given an honorary retirement from the Royal Navy, with a posting as an officer of the Greenwich Hospital.

He reluctantly accepted, insisting that he be allowed to quit the post if an opportunity for active duty should arise. A third voyage was planned, and Cook volunteered to find the Northwest Passage. He travelled to the Pacific and hoped to travel east to the Atlantic, while a simultaneous voyage travelled the opposite route. The voyage was ostensibly planned to return the Pacific Islander Omai to Tahiti, or so the public was led to believe. The trip's principal goal was to locate a Northwest Passage around the American continent.

From the Sandwich Islands, Cook sailed north and then northeast to explore the west coast of North America north of the Spanish settlements in Alta California. He anchored near the First Nations village of Yuquot. Relations between Cook's crew and the people of Yuquot were cordial but sometimes strained. In trading, the people of Yuquot demanded much more valuable items than the usual trinkets that had worked in Hawaii. Metal objects were much desired, but the lead, pewter, and tin traded at first soon fell into disrepute.

The most valuable items which the British received in trade were sea otter pelts. During the stay, the Yuquot "hosts" essentially controlled the trade with the British vessels; the natives usually visited the British vessels at Resolution Cove instead of the British visiting the village of Yuquot at Friendly Cove. After leaving Nootka Sound, Cook explored and mapped the coast all the way to the Bering Strait , on the way identifying what came to be known as Cook Inlet in Alaska. In a single visit, Cook charted the majority of the North American northwest coastline on world maps for the first time, determined the extent of Alaska, and closed the gaps in Russian from the west and Spanish from the south exploratory probes of the northern limits of the Pacific.

He headed northeast up the coast of Alaska until he was blocked by sea ice. His furthest north was 70 degrees 44 minutes. Cook then sailed west to the Siberian coast, and then southeast down the Siberian coast back to the Bering Strait. Cook returned to Hawaii in After sailing around the archipelago for some eight weeks, he made landfall at Kealakekua Bay , on 'Hawaii Island' , largest island in the Hawaiian Archipelago. Cook's arrival coincided with the Makahiki , a Hawaiian harvest festival of worship for the Polynesian god Lono.

Coincidentally the form of Cook's ship, HMS Resolution , or more particularly the mast formation, sails and rigging, resembled certain significant artefacts that formed part of the season of worship. It has been argued most extensively by Marshall Sahlins that such coincidences were the reasons for Cook's and to a limited extent, his crew's initial deification by some Hawaiians who treated Cook as an incarnation of Lono.

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After a month's stay, Cook attempted to resume his exploration of the northern Pacific. Shortly after leaving Hawaii Island, however, Resolution ' s foremast broke, so the ships returned to Kealakekua Bay for repairs. Tensions rose, and a number of quarrels broke out between the Europeans and Hawaiians at Kealakekua Bay. An unknown group of Hawaiians took one of Cook's small boats. The evening when the cutter was taken, the people had become "insolent" even with threats to fire upon them. The following day, 14 February , Cook marched through the village to retrieve the king.

They pleaded with the king not to go. An old kahuna priest , chanting rapidly while holding out a coconut, attempted to distract Cook and his men as a large crowd began to form at the shore. The king began to understand that Cook was his enemy. The esteem which the islanders nevertheless held for Cook caused them to retain his body. Following their practice of the time, they prepared his body with funerary rituals usually reserved for the chiefs and highest elders of the society.


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The body was disembowelled , baked to facilitate removal of the flesh , and the bones were carefully cleaned for preservation as religious icons in a fashion somewhat reminiscent of the treatment of European saints in the Middle Ages. Some of Cook's remains, thus preserved, were eventually returned to his crew for a formal burial at sea. Clerke assumed leadership of the expedition and made a final attempt to pass through the Bering Strait.

James King replaced Gore in command of Discovery. After their arrival in England, King completed Cook's account of the voyage. He was a modest man, and rather bashful; of an agreeable lively conversation, sensible and intelligent. In temper he was somewhat hasty, but of a disposition the most friendly, benevolent and humane.

James Cook - Wikipedia

His person was above six feet high: and, though a good looking man, he was plain both in dress and appearance. His face was full of expression: his nose extremely well shaped: his eyes which were small and of a brown cast, were quick and piercing; his eyebrows prominent, which gave his countenance altogether an air of austerity. At that time the collection consisted of artefacts collected on Cook's three voyages throughout the Pacific Ocean, during the period —80, along with documents and memorabilia related to these voyages. Many of the ethnographic artefacts were collected at a time of first contact between Pacific Peoples and Europeans.

The provenance of the collection shows that the objects remained in the hands of Cook's widow Elizabeth Cook, and her descendants, until Alexander, and William Adams. Cook's 12 years sailing around the Pacific Ocean contributed much to European knowledge of the area. Several islands such as the Sandwich Islands Hawaii were encountered for the first time by Europeans, and his more accurate navigational charting of large areas of the Pacific was a major achievement.


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To create accurate maps, latitude and longitude must be accurately determined. Navigators had been able to work out latitude accurately for centuries by measuring the angle of the sun or a star above the horizon with an instrument such as a backstaff or quadrant. Longitude was more difficult to measure accurately because it requires precise knowledge of the time difference between points on the surface of the earth. The Earth turns a full degrees relative to the sun each day. Thus longitude corresponds to time: 15 degrees every hour, or 1 degree every 4 minutes.

Cook gathered accurate longitude measurements during his first voyage from his navigational skills, the help of astronomer Charles Green , and by using the newly published Nautical Almanac tables, via the lunar distance method—measuring the angular distance from the moon to either the sun during daytime or one of eight bright stars during night-time to determine the time at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich , and comparing that to his local time determined via the altitude of the sun, moon, or stars. National Library of Australia. Retrieved 4 September Retrieved 31 July National Archives of Australia.

Retrieved 3 September Retrieved 21 September The Argus. Melbourne: National Library of Australia. Cook Journals vol. Cambridge: Hakluyt Society. The Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks: — Lying for the Admiralty. Retrieved 24 July Part 2 of 4 — Britain on DocuWatch — free streaming British history documentaries".

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