Captain James Cook (1728-1779) *oil on canvas *127 x 101.6 cm *1775-1776Captain James Cook FRS RN who lived 7 November 1728 – 14 February 1779 was an English navigator, cartographer and explorer ultimately rising to the rank of Captain in the Royal Navy. Cook was the first to map Newfoundland prior to making voyages into the Pacific Ocean during which he explored the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands as well as being the first to circumnavigate New Zealand.

In 1755 Cook joined the Royal Navy having spent time in the British merchant navy as a teenager. He saw the Seven Years War, and during the siege of Quebec, mapped much of the entrance to the Saint Lawrence River. This allowed General Wolfe to make a famous attack on the Plains of Abraham, and helped to bring Cook to the attention of the Royal Society and the Admiralty. This notice came at a crucial moment in his career and led to his commission in 1766 as commander of HM Bark Endeavour for the first of three Pacific voyages.

Cook recorded several islands and coastlines and charted many areas on European maps for the first time. His achievements can be attributed to a combination of seamanship, high level surveying and cartographic skills. His courage in exploring dangerous locations to confirm the facts (for example exploring around the Great Barrier Reef), an ability to lead men in adverse conditions, and boldness both with regard to the extent of his explorations earned him respect.

Cook died in Hawaii during his third exploratory voyage in the Pacific in 1779


“Captainjamescookportrait” by Nathaniel Dance-Holland – from the National Maritime Museum, United Kingdom. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.