James Cook

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Captain James Cook
BirthplaceMarton, (in present-day Middlesbrough) Yorkshire, England
Explorer, navigator, cartographer
EducationPostgate School, Great Ayton

Cook, James,

1728–79, English explorer and navigator. The son of a Yorkshire agricultural laborer, he had little formal education. After an apprenticeship to a firm of shipowners at Whitby, he joined (1755) the royal navy and surveyed the St. Lawrence Channel (1760) and the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador (1763–67). Cook was then given command of the Endeavour and sailed (1768) on an expedition to chart the transit of Venus; he returned to England in 1771, having also circumnavigated the globe and explored the coasts of New Zealand, which he accurately charted for the first time, and E Australia.

Cook next commanded (1772–75) an expedition to the South Pacific of two ships, the Resolution and the Adventure. On this voyage he disproved the rumor of a great southern continent, explored the Antarctic Ocean and the New Hebrides, visited New Caledonia, and by the observance of strict diet and hygiene prevented scurvyscurvy,
deficiency disorder resulting from a lack of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in the diet. Scurvy does not occur in most animals because they can synthesize their own vitamin C, but humans, other primates, guinea pigs, and a few other species lack an enzyme necessary for such
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, heretofore the scourge of long voyages. Cook sailed again in 1776; in 1778 he visited and named the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) and unsuccessfully searched the coast of NW North America for a Northwest PassageNorthwest Passage,
water routes through the Arctic Archipelago, N Canada, and along the northern coast of Alaska between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Even though the explorers of the 16th cent.
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. On the return voyage he was killed by natives on the island of Hawaii. During the course of his journeys Cook visited about ten major Pacific island groups and more than 40 individual islands, also making first European contact with a wide variety of indigenous peoples.


See the definitive edition of his journals, ed. by J. C. Beaglehole (4 vol. and portfolio, repr. 1999); selections from his journals, ed. by A. G. Price (1958, repr. 1969); biographies by A. Villiers (1967), J. C. Beaglehole (1974), R. Hough (1995), and F. McLynn (2011); A. Moorehead, The Fatal Impact (1966); H. Zimmerman, The Third Voyage of Captain Cook (1988); L. Withey, Voyages of Discovery (1989); G. Obeyesekere, The Apotheosis of Captain Cook (1992); N. Thomas, Cook (2003); G. Blainey, Sea of Dangers (2009).

Cook, James


Born Oct. 27, 1728, in Marton-in-Cleveland, Yorkshire; died Feb. 14, 1779, in the Hawaiian Islands. English navigator. Son of a day laborer.

Cook began serving on merchant ships in 1746, holding posts ranging from ship’s boy to master’s mate. In 1755 he transferred to the navy, and from 1759 to 1764 he served as a ship’s master in Canadian waters. From 1764 to 1767 he commanded a ship conducting a survey of the coasts of Newfoundland and the Yucatan Peninsula.

From 1768 to 1771 he was the commander of the ship Endeavour on a round-the-world expedition organized by the British Admiralty chiefly for the purpose of acquiring new territory in the Pacific Ocean. After rounding Cape Horn, Cook stopped at the island of Tahiti. In 1769 he charted for the first time the islands lying near Tahiti on the northwest and named them the Society Islands. He sailed around the coast of New Zealand in 1769–70, establishing that it was an island, explored the strait between North and South islands, and discovered the Great Barrier Reef and the east coast of Australia, which he declared a British possession and named New South Wales. Cook sailed west through the Torres Strait to Java and, rounding the Cape of Good Hope, returned to Great Britain in 1771, completing his voyage around the world.

A second voyage around the world, this time in an easterly direction (1772–75), was organized for the purpose of seeking territory in the antarctic region and exploring in detail New Zealand and other islands in the southern hemisphere. During this voyage Cook, sailing aboard the ship Resolution in January 1773, was the first in history to cross the antarctic circle (40° E long.). He reached 66°36’ S lat. and in the summer of 1773 made two more unsuccessful searches for the southern continent, going as far as 71° 10’ S lat. Even though Cook assumed that a continent or territory of significant proportions was located near the Pole in places inaccessible to ships, he gave up further exploration for it.

During the second voyage he discovered two Pacific atolls in the Tuamotu archipelago—Hervey Atoll and Palmerston Island in the Cook Islands group—as well as the southern group of the New Hebrides, New Caledonia, and Norfolk Island (1774). In the South Atlantic he discovered South Georgia Island and the South Sandwich Islands (1775). The naturalists who accompanied Cook—J. Banks and D. Solander on the first voyage and J. Forster and G. Forster on the second—collected valuable data on Australia, on the South Atlantic islands, and on the flora of the islands of Oceania.

In 1776, Cook was appointed leader of an expedition aboard the ships Resolution and Discovery to search for the Northwest Passage and to acquire territory in the northern Pacific. In 1777 he discovered three more atolls in the Cook Islands chain, the Ha’apai group of the Tonga Islands, Tubuai Island, and Christmas Island in the Line archipelago. Sailing beyond 21° N lat. in January 1778, he discovered five of the Hawaiian Islands, including Oahu and Kauai. In the summer of that year he explored and partly charted for the first time the northwestern coast of America from 54° to 70°20’ N lat. He discovered the southeastern Hawaiian Islands (Maui and Hawaii) in November 1778. Cook was killed in a skirmish with the Hawaiians.

More than 20 geographical locations have been named after Cook, including a mountain on New Zealand’s South Island, the strait between New Zealand’s North and South islands, two groups of islands in the Pacific Ocean, and an inlet on the coast of Alaska.


In Russian translation:
Pervoe krugosvetnoe plavanie D. Kuka: Plavanie na “Indevre” v 1768–1771 gg. Moscow, 1960.
Vtoroe krugosvetnoe plavanie kapitana D. Kuka: Plavanie k Iuzhnomu poliusu i vokrug sveta v 1772–1775 g. Moscow, 1964.
Tret’e plavanie kapitana D. Kuka: Plavanie v Tikhom okeane v 1776–1780gg. Moscow, 1971.


Svet, la. M. Istoriia otkrytiia i issledovaniia Avstralii i Okeanii. Moscow, 1966.
Bibliography of Captain James Cook, 2nd ed. Sydney, 1970.


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