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Captain James Cook

1728 - 1779

James Cook (1728-1779) was born in Yorkshire, England, son of a Scottish labourer and his Yorkshire wife. After an apprentiship on a Baltic trade ship, in 1755 he joined the British Navy, serving as a Ship's Master in the Seven Years War in Canada and Newfoundland. Cook gained notice through his remarkable survey and chart making abilities and was appointed Surveyor of Newfoundland (1763-1767).

In 1768, he was promoted to Lieutenant and given command of HMS ENDEAVOUR expedition to observe a Transit of Venus and prove or disprove the existence of a southern continent. On this first voyage of exploration (1769-1771), Cook's list of achievements included surveying New Zealand and the eastern coast of Australia.

In 1772, Cook was made commander of another expedition to the Pacific region to scour the southern latitudes and finally lay to rest the mystery of the Great South Land. Cook captained HMS RESOLUTION with Tobias Furneaux in HMS ADVENTURE, in his second voyage (1772-1775). The ships circumnavigated the globe in the high southern latitudes finally disproving the existence of a southern continent. The expedition visited several Pacifc Island groups and brought a Tahitian, O'Mai, back to England.

Cook, now Post-Captain, commenced his third and final voyage with HMS RESOLUTION and HMS DISCOVERY in 1776, searching for a Northwest Passage and returning O'Mai to Tahiti. After exploring the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) and the Alasakan coastline, the expedition returned to Hawaii in November 1778. Here Cook was killed in a confrontation with the Hawaiians. The expedition returned to England in October 1780 and James Cook was widely mourned as the greatest navigator of his age.