The Wayback Machine -


Of all the British naval heroes over the centuries, perhaps the best known - with the sole exception of Nelson - was Captain James Cook. Unlike the other naval heroes, however, Cook was a man of peace, not war. He never commanded a ship of the line, and it was indeed ironic that he died in "battle". Cook's voyages, between 1768 and 1779, were voyages of discovery, and he carefully charted for the world, most of the South Pacific, as we know it today.

In 1771 Captain James Cook was asked to lead another expedition in order to determine if there was a great south land between South America and New Holland. If there was, the British wanted to claim it as many still believed it must exist.

When it was decided to send two ships Cook was relieved to know that, if one were holed, as was the Endeavour from the Great Barrier Reef, the other could save the crew. As he wished, two more Whitby colliers were selected, the Resolution of 461 tons and the Adventure of 336 tons.


Left: Captain James Cook. Right: Sir Joseph Banks who declined to go on this voyage.

Cook in the Resolution and Lieutenant Furneaux commanding the adventure sailed from Plymouth on the 13th July, 1772. They took on fruit and meat at Cape Town, began to see icebergs in December and, on the 17th January, 1773, the first ships were across the Antarctic Circle. They came near to discovering Antarctica but turned north-east then east to New Zealand. Furneaux visited Van Diemen's Land briefly; eventually he returned to Britain nearly a year before Cook.

The Resolution.

For some months Cook charted Pacific Islands, then searched south for any land, twice more crossing the Antarctic Circle, in February, 1774, to the most southerly point ever reached. Travelling north again he felt certain there was no southern continent. He called at Easter Island and was then welcomed back to Tahiti.

Cook Bay, Moorea, Tahiti, still looks much as it did when first visited by Cook.

Tahitian chief and family visited Cook on board the Resolution.

Tahitian canoes as seen during the visit of Captain Cook.

One of the best known places Captain Cook visited was the Island of Otaheite, known today more familiarly as Tahiti. During the time he was there, he had a chance to observe various ceremonies, including those involved with death. This engraving is titled "Representation of the Body of Tee, a Chief as preserved after Death, in Otaheite." This is one of the famous engravings published by Alexander Hogg about two hundred years ago, depicting the Voyages of Captain Cook


Cook then visited Tonga which he called the "Friendly Islands" ( see Tonga - Recollections of an Early Visitor ) after which he discovered Norfolk Island in 1774 and noted that its famous pine trees were a different species from those he had seen on New Caledonia. From New Zealand, he sailed via Cape Horn stopping at Cape Town and on the 30th July, 1775, Cook anchored at Portsmouth, after three years and about seventy thousand miles. In all this journey, only four men had died, not one of them from scurvy.

The king and his people honoured Cook. He was given the rank of post captain and appointed a Captain of the Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich. For his scientific work, he was made a Fellow of the Royal Society.

Oceania-The Last Voyage of Captain Cook

Captain James Cook - The First Voyage

Tonga - Recollections of an Early Visitor

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