1902 Encyclopedia > Geography > Captain James Cook

(Part 36)

Captain James Cook

The three voyages of Cook form an era in the history of geographical discovery. All his work was thoroughly and completely done. He systematically surveyed every land he discovered, collecting information touching every branch of inquiry, so that his labours form a very large addition to geographical knowledge. James Cook was born near Whitby, Yorkshire, in 1728, and had been marine surveyor of Newfoundland and Labrador from 1763 to 1767. In the latter year he commissioned the "Endeavour" and sailed for Tahiti, with the object of observing the transit of Venus, accompanied by Sir Joseph Banks and Dr Solander, a pupil of Linnaeus. The transit was observed at Tahiti on Juen3, 1769. After exploring Tahiti and the Society group, Cook was six months surveying the two islands of New Zealand, and the coast of New South Wales from latitude 38º s. to the northern extremity. Passing through Torres Strait, he touched at Batavia, and arrived in England on June 12, 1771.

Cook’s second voyage was mainly intended to explore the region round the Antarctic Circle; and it may be mentioned that meanwhile a French ship, commanded by M. Kerguelen, had sailed southwards in 1771, and discovered the island which bears his name. Captain Cook was provided with two vessels built at Whitby, the "resolution," which he himself commanded, and the "Adventure" under Captain Furneaux, who had been with Wallis. After rounding the Cape the two vessels reached a south latitude of 57º15´. On March 26, 1773, captain Cook arrived at New Zealand and proceeded to the Society Islands, whence he made another voyage southwards between the meridians of 170º E. and 106º 54´ W. On this occasion he was stopped by ice in 71º 10´ S. During the second voyage Cook visited Easter Island, discovered several islands of the New Hebrides and New Caledonia; and on his was home by Cape Horn, in March 1774, he discovered the Sandwich Island group. Arrived at Spithead on July 30, 1774. The account of the second voyage was written by the young naturalist George Forster, whose subsequent work was so justly eulogized by Humboldt.

The third voyage was intended to attempt the passage from the Pacific to the Atlantic by the north-east. The "Resolution" and "Discovery" sailed in 1776, and Cook again took the route by the Cape of Good Hope. In 1777 he was at the Friendly group, and on January 18, 1778, he discovered the Sandwich Islands. He then proceeded to the North American coast, and, after a stay of a month in Nootka Sound, he proceeded northwards, fixed the position on the western extremity of America, and surveyed Behring Strait. On August 17, 1778, he was stopped by the ice in 70º 41´ N., and named the farthest visible point on the America shore Icy Cape. He then visited the Asiatic shore and discovered Cape North, bearing up on August 29 when he was in the 180th degree of longitude.

Returning to the Sandwich Islands, captain Cook was murdered by the natives of Hawaii. On February 14, 1779, his second, Captain Clerke, took the command, and proceeding to Petropaulowski in the following summer, he again examined the edge of the ice, but only got to 70º 33´ N. The ships returned to England in October 1780.

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