James Cook (1728–79), the son of a rural labourer, was eventually hailed as the prototype of the enlightened explorer. After his indentured service to Whitby shipowners, he joined the Navy in 1755. Cook assiduously applied himself to the intricacies of navigation, and between 1759 and 1767 he was appointed to various surveying operations around St. Lawrence and Newfoundland. In 1768 Cook was commissioned as lieutenant aboard the Endeavour to voyage to Tahiti to observe the transit of Venus. The success of this encouraged the admiralty to put together a second expedition to search for the unknown continent in the southern hemisphere. Cook was made commander of this mission and took with him the German scientist Johann Reinhold Foster and his son George Forster, and the artist William Hodges. The two ships — Resolution (Cook’s ship) and Adventure — sailed in 1772 and reached New Zealand in March 1773. Cook’s third and last voyage (1776–79) was to discover a passage around the north coast of America linking the Pacific and the Atlantic: it was during a stop-over at Hawaii that he was killed in a skirmish with the islanders.
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- James Cook, from A Voyage Towards the South Pole and Round the World (1777)
Stephen H. Gregg
- Macmillan Education UK
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