Published five years after Cook's death in Hawaii, the official account of Cook's third voyage was complicated by the deaths of both Cook and his second-in-command Charles Clerke. The task of compiling a complete account from the various journals produced during the voyage fell to James King - originally posted as second lieutenant aboard the RESOLUTION, but later appointed commander of the DISCOVERY after Clerke's death.
SignificanceBased on original journals produced during the expedition, this account is the official account of Cook's final expedition.
HistoryIn July 1776 Cook sailed from England in command of the RESOLUTION on his third and final expedition to the Pacific. His second-in-command was Charles Clerke aboard the DISCOVERY. The purpose of the expedition was to search for the North-West passage thought to have an outlet somewhere on the west coast of North America. The expedition was also tasked with returning the Polynesian Omai to Huahine after his two year sojourn in England.
After leaving the Cape of Good Hope, the two expedition ships sailed to Tahiti via Tasmania (anchoring in Adventure Bay), New Zealand, the Cook Islands and Tonga. Omai was landed at Huahine in late 1777 and Cook then sailed into the north Pacific for the first time, visiting the Hawaiian Islands in the process.
During the summer of 1778, the expedition explored and mapped the Pacific coast of North America between Oregon and Alaska and passed through the Bering Strait before turned back by impenetrable ice flows. The RESOLUTION and DISCOVERY then sailed back to Hawaii to avoid the winter and it was there that Cook was killed on 14 February 1779 at Kealakekua Bay.
Charles Clerke then took command of the expedition, but died of tuberculosis in August of the same year. He was buried in the cemetery at Petropavlovsk. As a result John Gore took command and the expedition returned to England in 1780.
Included amongst the expedition personnel was the accomplished artist John Webber, and as a result, the expedition produced a rich pictorial record.