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September 22, 1999

James Cook

James Cook was a famous British Explorer who made three voyages to the Pacific Ocean and sailed around the world twice. He aided many advancements in cartography (map-making) and science. He was the first European to set foot on Hawaii, the east coast of Australia, and many other new lands.

James Cook was born on October 27, 1728 in Marton, England, near York. He was the son of a poor Scotsman. He was an apprentice on a ship at 18. On early boat travels he carried coal to English ports and made several voyages to the Baltic Sea. He joined the British navy in 1755 and his rank climbed quickly. In 1959, Cook led a voyage to Canada to chart the St. Lawrence River. His report aided the British army in conquering Quebec later that year. After the war Cook studied mathematics and navigation, and charted many lands.

In 1768 Cook commanded his first major expedition. The British navy requested him to aid in a study of Venus that required a trip to Tahiti. Cook left Plymouth on August 26, 1768 on the ship Endeavour. He sailed seven months to the island. The expedition took along an astronomer, two botanists, and artists to help document Venus from Tahiti. Cook went from England to the Canary Islands, down around the tip of South America, and then to Tahiti. They spent three months on the island, and the scientists collected ample information for their studies. After this Cook sailed west, continuing around the world. He was secretly told to also search for a theoretical southern continent. He never found it, but he did rediscover New Zealand and land on the east coast of Australia. He had to circle many islands to prove they were just islands, and not continents. He successfully prevented scurvy by feeding his crew fruits and sauerkraut. Cook’s first expedition returned home on July 13, 1771.

Cook’s second voyage was to again search for terra australis incognita, the "unknown southern land". On July 13, 1772 (exactly one year after his first return) Cook left England with the Resolution and the Adventure. Cook sailed far south, farther than any other European. There were many deadly perils- freezing water, ice burgs, fog, and violent winds. Cook circled Antarctica, but could spot only ice, no land. He discovered the Cook Islands and New Caledonia. He returned to England in 1775, having proved that there was no large continent in the far-south temperate zone.

Cook’s last voyage departed On July 12, 1776. He took the Resolution again and the Discovery. This time Cook was to find the Northwest Passage, a northern sea route between Europe and Asia. Cook went traveled down under South America again, and then traveled north. He discovered the Christmas Island and the Hawaiian islands, which Cook named the Sandwich Islands after Britain’s chief naval minister, the Earl of Sandwich. Then Cook sailed to Vancouver Island, and then up the west coast of North America. He passed through the Bering Strait and up into the Arctic Ocean. Walls of ice blocked any further progress, so they turned around and headed back to the Sandwich Islands. In February 1779 an islander stole a boat from the Discovery at Kealakekua Bay. Cook investigated the theft, and was stabbed to death in a fight with the islanders on February 14. The remainder of the expedition returned to England in October 1780.