James Cook Biography

James Cook Biography

James Cook was an explorer and navigator who served the Royal Navy. He made valuable contributions to European knowledge of the world through his adventurous voyages. Take a look at his biography and a brief timeline of the important events in his life.
Historyplex Staff
James Cook was an English explorer, navigator and cartographer, who emerged as the Captain of the Royal Navy. He was the first to explore Newfoundland before he made three journeys to the Pacific Ocean. During these voyages, he discovered the first European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands. He was the first one to complete a circumnavigation of New Zealand. Let us take a look at the biography of James Cook and take an overview of the milestones in his life.

Born on November 7, 1728, in the village of Marton in Yorkshire, James Cook was the son of a Scottish farm laborer, James Cook and his wife Grace. When he was 8 years of age, Cook's family shifted to Great Ayton. James attended a local school for five years after which he started working with his father. He developed a liking for adventure during his early years when he used to climb the Roseberry Topping. In 1745, Cook moved to the village of Stathles and served in a grocery business. While looking out of the shop window, he could observe a sea, which he was attracted to. Perhaps, this was where his love for the waters developed. In around two years from then, he was transferred to a nearby town called Whitby. There he was introduced to John and Henry Walker. The Walkers were ship-owners in the business of ships.

In Whitby, James Cook served in the merchant navy. On his first assignment on the collier Freelove, he spent many years traveling between London and Tyne. He also got involved in learning algebra, geometry, trigonometry, astronomy, and navigation. After three years, he took up to ship trading in the Baltic Sea. In 1755, he chose to work for the Royal Navy and was a part of the Seven Years' War. During this war, James Cook participated in the siege of Quebec City, mapping the entry point to the Saint Lawrence River. His feat of mapping the coast of Newfoundland proved to be a breakthrough in his career. In 1955, he became an able seaman and later promoted to Master's Mate. By 1757, he was eligible to handle a ship of the King's fleet.

His journey to the Pacific Ocean to record the transit of Venus across the Sun marked his first voyage. He began the journey in 1768 when he sailed from England, rounded the Cape Horn, and sailed westward across the Pacific and reached Tahiti on April 13, 1769. James Cook then mapped the entire coastline of New Zealand. He reached the coast of Australia in 1770 making it the first European expedition to the east. On the 29th of April, Cook reached the landmass that is now known as Kurnell. His ship met with an accident while sailing northward. The repairs of the ship took around seven weeks, delaying the voyage. Fighting with the difficulties he faced during his journey, he arrived in England on July 12, 1771.

His travel as a Commander in search of the Terra Australis, was his second voyage, in which he circumnavigated the globe at a high altitude of the South. His journey at this high southern altitude made him the first person to cross the Antarctic Circle. On his return, he earned a promotion to the rank of Captain and was given an honored retirement from the Royal Navy. He soon became the proud winner of the Copley Gold Medal.

His zeal for the waters led him to plan a third voyage in 1776. He set out in search of the famous Northwest Passage. In 1778, he became the first one from Europe to visit the Hawaiian Islands. He traveled along the coast of California mapping the inlet to Alaska and charted the extent of Alaska. In 1779, he returned to Hawaii where he was unwelcome. It is believed that he was struck by the villagers there and was stabbed to death.

A Quick Timeline

1728: James Cook was born on November 7, 1728.
1755: He volunteered for the Royal Navy.
1757: He successfully completed his Master's examination and qualified to handle ships of the King's fleet.
1762: On December 21, he married Elizabeth Batts, the daughter of one of his mentors, Samuel Batts.
1766: Cook was hired by the Royal Society to travel to the Pacific to examine the transit of Venus across the Sun. He began the expedition in 1768.
1773: On January 17, during his second voyage, Cook crossed the Antarctic Circle and became the first one to do so.
1778: This year marked his visit to the Hawaiian Islands, where he was the first European to reach.
1799: He died on the 14th of February in 1799.

James Cook's life was indeed an adventurous journey. His sailing expeditions have made a huge contribution to the European knowledge of the Pacific Ocean. He used his navigation skills in discovering many new landmasses and created accurate maps of the regions discovered. His seamanship was accompanied by courage and leadership qualities. He is held in high regard till date.