Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Wednesday's Today in History

James Cook

Captain James Cook FRS RN (October 27, 1728 (O.S.) – February 14, 1779) was an English explorer, navigator and cartographer. Ultimately rising to the rank of Captain in the Royal Navy, Cook made three voyages to the Pacific Ocean, achieving the first European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia, the European discovery of the Hawaiian Islands, and the first recorded circumnavigation and mapping of Newfoundland and New Zealand.

After service in the British merchant navy as a teenager, he joined the Royal Navy in 1755, seeing action in the Seven Years' War, and subsequently surveying and mapping much of the entrance to the Saint Lawrence River during the siege of Quebec. This allowed General Wolfe to make his famous stealth attack on the Plains of Abraham, and helped to bring Cook to the attention of the Admiralty and Royal Society at a crucial moment both in his personal career and in the direction of British overseas discovery, and led to his commission as commander of the HM Bark Endeavour and the first of his three Pacific voyages in 1766.

Cook accurately charted many areas and recorded several islands and coastlines on European maps for the first time. His huge achievements can be attributed to a combination of excellent seamanship, his superior surveying and cartographic skills, courage in exploring dangerous locations to confirm the facts (for example dipping into the Antarctic circle repeatedly and exploring around the Great Barrier Reef), ability to lead men in adverse conditions, and boldness both with regard to the extent of his explorations and his willingness to exceed the instructions given to him by the Admiralty.

After Cook and his crew departed, a storm damaged the Resolution, forcing a return to Kealakekua. Suddenly wary, the natives could not understand how a god could have allowed this to happen. Their respect for Cook waned, and relations between the Hawaiians and the foreigners grew tense. A misunderstanding led to a fierce battle, and Cook was killed by angry natives.

Cook died in Hawaii in a with Hawaiians during his third exploratory voyage in the Pacific in 1779.

1 comment:

Jonathan Moorhead said...

"Cook died in Hawaii in a with Hawaiians during his third exploratory voyage in the Pacific in 1779."

Quit teasing us - how did he die?