Born in England on 7th November 1728 (Gregorian dates), Cook began his maritime career on coal boats as an 18 year old. Cook learnt navigation & mathematics in his spare time and soon joined the Royal Navy to assist in the Seven Years War.
He helped to survey and map the entrance to Saint Lawrence River which helped the English gain victory over the French at Quebec. His talent in cartography was noticed by those higher in command and he was transferred to the ship “Northumberland” where he began surveying Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
Cook’s exceptional Newfoundland charts and his observation of a solar eclipse brought him to the attention of the Royal Society and the Admiralty. Cook was promoted to lieutenant and given command of H.M.B. Endeavour with a mission to observe the transit of venus across the sun (which was visible from the southern hemisphere).
He sailed from Plymouth on 26 August 1768 with a complement of ninety-four, including Joseph Banks and his retinue. By way of Cape Horn, they reached Tahiti on 13 April 1769 and duly made their observations on 3 June, meanwhile charting the islands and collecting natural history specimens.
Cook also had secret instructions to determine the existence of a southern continent propounded by geographical philosophers. Accordingly he sailed for New Zealand in August, circumnavigated the islands, charted its coast and took formal possession. This work finished, Cook decided ‘to steer to the Westward until he reached the east coast of New Holland’
Not even the modesty of Cook’s report could obscure the extent or importance of his achievements. His discoveries, apart from New South Wales, were not new, yet without a chronometer he had charted 5000 miles (8047 km) of coast with unusual accuracy. But he lamented his failure to find the southern continent and pleaded for another opportunity to seek it.
He was promoted commander and given charge of an expedition, himself in the Resolution and Tobias Furneaux captain of the Adventure. On this second voyage in 1772-75, Cook circumnavigated the world in high southern latitudes. Its chief importance for Australian discovery was in February and March 1773 when the Adventure, parted from the Resolution by fog and gales, made for the south coast of Van Diemen’s Land. Here Furneaux renamed Adventure Bay on Bruny Island, sailed round Tasman Peninsula and up the east coast to Flinders Island, but through bad weather failed to reach Point Hicks before proceeding to rendezvous with the Resolution in New Zealand. On his third voyage Cook, now post-captain and fellow of the Royal Society, visited Adventure Bay himself on 26 January 1777, on his way to New Zealand and Tahiti. He went on to explore the Pacific coasts of North America and Siberia. In November 1778 he was at the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), where at Kealakekua (Karakakooa) Bay he was killed by natives on 14th February, 1779.
Admire a man who was dedicated to navigation and had a rare talent in map-making. He changed the world as we knew it and as an Australian, I thank God for Captain James Cook!
Please note, there is an optional design for the back of this t-shirt (add £10) showing some of Cook’s maps, the HMB Endeavour and in contrast to the GPS, I put a sextant from Cook’s era in the design.