October 27, 1728 – February 14, 1779
James Cook learned to sail as a member of the Merchant Navy in Witby. He quickly learned the skills required to become a captain: navigation, astronomy and mathematics. In 1755 he joined the Royal Navy and became involved in the Seven Year’s War in Canada.
Cook began his exploring as the captain of the Endeavour on a trip to Tahiti to record the transit of Venus across the sun. As part of the trip he was asked to search for a fabled southern continent. He became the second European to see New Zealand and mapped it thoroughly. He then sailed to the east coast of Australia – being the first European to ever see this coast. When he returned he was sent out again in hope of finding the southern continent – again failing, but this time proving enough that it did not exist. His third and final trip was to find a passage from the Pacific to Atlantic above the American continent. He traveled up the east coast and was turned back by ice. The trip came to Hawaii where he was killed by natives.
Captain Cook is known for his achievement in exploring and mapping the Pacific – opening up the world to the Europeans. He is also known for his care in reducing the incidence of scurvy among his crew. He lead by example, eating the same food as the crew, ensuring all supplies were split evenly and the diet was as full of fruit as possible.