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Biography: English Captain James Cook

written by: Tarun Goel•edited by: KennethSleight•updated: 7/26/2011

Captain James Cook and his ships traveled across the world. He is famous for making the Australian and New Zealand coastlines known to Europeans and the rest of the world. His undying spirit and unmatched cartographic skills make him one of the best sea explorers to have ever existed on earth.

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    Captain James Cook - Seaman of Unmatched Brilliance

    As an explorer, Captain James Cook was an untamed spirit that wanted to see unexplored regions of the world. Captain Cook Methods devised by him in the mid 17th century are still used by some old school sea explorers. His navigation charts are studied by many Universities and have become an integral part of numerous Royal Navy museums in England. He was born in a poor family, which made him a hard worker by birth. He worked at numerous places before sailing in the sea. His first sea voyage was as a laborer carrying coal in the ships. He managed to carry coal on his back along with learning seamanship. Sea exploration, cartography, and ship handling are the three things that he learned while being a laborer.

    This quote will explain why he was considered as free spirit, "Ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for man to go."

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    Journeys across the Pacific

    James Cook traveled across the length and breadth of the world. However, it is his three voyages to the Pacific have endured the test of time. Mariners, adventurers, and historians are equally interested in Captain James Cook and his voyages. Initially, he wanted to find the great Antarctica land, which everyone in the world thought existed but none knew where. He failed twice in his search for the great Southern Continent, but his failures did not discourage him. He reached the eastern coastline of Australia through sea route and made it known to the world. He discovered a tremendous amount of scientific information about the Pacific Ocean and paved way for other voyagers to sail smooth across the vast ocean.

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    The Transit of Venus

    The Endeavor was the first ship led by Captain Cook for the Transit of Venus from 1769 to 1771. The main aim of this expedition was to study the transit of Venus across the sun so that distances of different planets from Earth could be calculated in miles. They were also keen to know more about the then unknown southern lands. Discovering these lands was not the primary motive of the expedition but Captain Cook took it upon himself to do so. After accomplishing his primary mission, Captain Cook decided to head his ship towards the Southern part of the Pacific Ocean, which was yet unexplored.

    The observation of the Transit of Venus was an important mission as it would help scientists figure out the actual distance between the Earth, Sun, and different planets. Hourglasses, knotted ropes, experimental food, and scurvy were companions of Captain Cook on this journey. On June 3, 1769, they witnessed the transit of Venus from an island. However, this transit of Venus did not solve anything for mankind butit allowed Captain Cook to reach the unknown lands of Southern Pacific. Three years after they had set sail on an unknown journey, they reached their homeland. Even today, many places, bays, rivers and geographical locations in Australia and New Zealand are known by the names Captain Cook had given to them, totalling over 50 in all.

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    HMS Resolution and HMS Adventure were the two ships led by Captain Cook on his second journey of the Pacific Ocean between 1772 and 1775. This time James Cook was no longer a Lieutenant, he had been promoted to the rank of a Commander. On this journey, he was supposed to continue from the same point where he had left off in his previous voyage. He had to go further south in the Pacific Ocean and look for the mysterious Terra Australis. Discovering South Sandwich Islands and taking possession of South Georgia for United Kingdom were two of his many achievements on the expedition. Captain Cook lost contact with the HMS Adventure but he continued his journey alone on HMS Resolution. On this journey, he could not reach the mainland Antarctica but his expedition made him even more popular in his country and Europe.

    He was given an honorary retirement from the Royal Navy, after his second voyage. However, the traveler inside him never backed and eventually he got another chance to dive deep into the unknown waters of the Pacific in 1776, at an age of 48 years. By this time, he had become a Captain and he was even more determined to reach the mainland Antarctica.

    His last journey culminated with his death. He died in the Oceania in a scuffle with the local people on one of the islands. His aim was to find a sea-link to the Antarctic and Pacific Ocean but he died before he could achieve his goal on 14 February 1779.

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    Captain Cook and His Ships

    HMS Endeavor was the ship that carried James Cook to the transit of Venus.

    Length: 32 m, Beam: 8.92 m

    Class: Bark, Sail Plan: 3321 square yards

    Speed: 7-8 knots, Armament: 12 swivel guns

    HMS Resolution was his second ship during his journey across the Pacific.

    Length: 33.73 m, Beam: 9.3 m

    Class: Collier, Ex-mercantile, Propulsion: Sail

    Complement: 110, Armament: 12 swivel guns

    The HMS Adventure accompained James Cook on his third journey across the Pacific, which eventually ended in his death.

    Length: 40 m, Beam: 8.7 m

    Class: Barque, Propulsion: Sail

    Complement: 81, Armament: 34 pdrs

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    The Timeline

    October 1755 - Participated in war, capturing of a French Warship

    March 1756 - Gained temporary control of a patrolling ship

    1760 - 1767 - Mapped the coasts of Newfoundland and developed coastal maps of the islands in the vicinity.

    February 1768 - Sets sail on his first Pacific Voyage as a Lieutenant of HMS Endeavor.

    Late 1772 - Sets sail on his second Pacific Voyage

    January 1776 - Sets sail on his third and last Pacific Voyage.

    14 February 1779 - Died in a scuffle at the age of 50 years.

    1785 - Coat of Arms granted to Captain Cook's widow by King George III

    1928 - Captain Cook honored by the government by putting his image on Hawaiian Sesquicentennial half-dollar.

    2006 - Royal Research Ship James Cook was added to UK's Royal Research Group.