James Cook was born on October 27, 1728 in Marton, England. At the age of 18 James Cook became an apprentice with a shipping company. His first voyages he worked on ships that carried coal to English ports. In 1755, during the French – Indian war, Cook joined the British navy. In 1759 he was given a dangerous wartime mission. He was to enter French territory and survey the St. Lawrence river for the British navy. The charts that he made during this voyage contributed to the capture of the French city of Quebec later in that year.

James Cook made three voyages to the Pacific. His first voyage, in 1768, the navy appointed Cook to lead an expedition to Tahiti. On the Endeavour they left in August and reached Tahiti in April of 1769. On the island scientists watched the planet Venus pass between the Earth and the Sun. This was the main goal of this voyage but cook had been given secret orders to find an unknown continent in the south pacific. He was told to find it because geographers believed that it kept the world in balance, however Cook was unable to find it. In October of 1769 Cook became the first European man to visit New Zealand. In April of 1770 the Endeavor sailed to Botany Bay on the east coast of Australia. Cook claimed the entire east coast of Australia for Great Britain. He returned to England in July of 1771. During this voyage, from 1678 – 1771, Cook became the first ship captain to prevent an outbreak of scurvy. Cook had heard that scurvy was caused by a lack of fresh vegetables and fruits. To prevent an outbreak he served his sailor’s fruit and sauerkraut. In July of 1772 Cook set off on his second voyage to the pacific.

Cook had left England with the Resolution and the Adventure. This expedition was Cook’s second attempt to find the unknown southern continent. During this voyage Cook sailed farther south than any European had ever gone. Cook faced many dangers in the cold Antarctic waters. Jagged mountains and ice as high as 18 meters often blocked the way of the ships. High winds that pushed the icebergs towards the ships increased the danger. Cook circled Antarctica but the ice kept him from sighting land. In 1773 and 1774 Cook became the first European to visit a number of Pacific Islands, including the Cook Islands and New Caledonia. He arrived back in England in July of 17775 and was promoted to a captain. Cook’s final voyage was in July of 1776. Cook took two ships, the Resolution and the Discovery, to find a possible northern sea route between Europe and Asia. Cook first sailed to New Zealand and some other Pacific Islands. In January of 1778 James Cook became the first European to go to the Hawaiian Islands. Cook named them the Sandwich Islands to tribute Britain’s chief naval minister, the Earl of Sandwich. Later that year Cook sailed to the northwest coast of North America. He was the First European to land on Vancouver Island. Cook then continued up the coast and sailed Bering Strait and then entered the Arctic Ocean.

The walls of ice in the Arctic Ocean blocked the expedition so Cook headed back to the Sandwich Islands in August. In February of 1779 an Islander stole a boat from the Discovery at Kealakekua Bay. Cook tried to investigate the theft of the boat but was stabbed to death in a fight with Islanders on February 14, 1779. The expedition returned to England in October of 1780.  James Cook accomplished many things in his lifetime. He had surveyed and charted thousands of kilometers of coast and solved many mysteries of the Pacific Ocean.

He opened the northwest American coast trade and colonization. He also discovered the Hawaiian Island, which he called the Sandwich Islands, and was the first European man to set foot on New Zealand and Vancouver Island.  James Cook played a very important part in the formation of Canada. The maps he made of the St. Lawrence river helped the British conquer the French. If he had never gone on these voyages Canada would now be under French rule and we would be living, talking, and acting differently. He opened the northwest American coast to trade which led to the colonization of North America.

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William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team)
William completed his Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in 2013. He current serves as a lecturer, tutor and freelance writer. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, walking his dog and parasailing. Article last reviewed: 2022 | St. Rosemary Institution © 2010-2024 | Creative Commons 4.0

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