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Captain James Cook

Captain James Cook


Captain James CookCaptain James Cook, the famous English navigator, had risen from humble life and gained a high reputation by his courage, sagacity, nautical skill and important discoveries, before he immortalized his name by twice carrying the British flag around the globe. While the voyages were not attended with the romantic incidents that distinguished those of his predecessors, the results achieved were, in the main, more important and of greater lasting value to the world, both from scientific and commercial standpoints. He was born at Marton, Yorkshire, October 28, 1728, and was a son of a farm bailiff: His early education was limited, and for several years he followed the sea in the coal trade and obtained the position of mate. When the British navy was enlarged early in 1755, Cook entered as a volunteer. His intelligence and nautical skill attracted the notice of his superiors, by whom he was soon promoted.


In 1759 he took part in the siege and capture of Quebec, and was employed to make a survey of the whole river below Quebec. His chart was executed with such skill that it was published by order of the Admiralty. In September, 1759, Lord Colville appointed him master of his own ship, in which he remained on the Halifax station in the next winter. Here Cook employed his leisure in the study of mathematics and astronomy. In 1760 he helped to recapture Newfoundland from the Frend. Having returned to England, he married Elizabeth Batts in December, t762. He was appointed marine surveyor of Newfoundland in April, t764, and made valuable additions to geography and hydrography.


In 1768 Cook was raised to the rank of lieutenant, and selected to command the "Endeavor, It a vessel sent by the government to the South Pacific to observe the transit of Venus due June 3, 1769 and to make discoveries in geography and other sciences. He was accompanied by Charles Green, astronomer, Solander, a Swedish naturalist, and Sir Joseph Banks, eminent as a patron of scientific men. His crew consisted of forty..Que able seamen, besides officers, twelve marines and nine servants. He sailed from Plymouth, August 26, 1768, and on the 13th of November, anchored at Rio Janeiro, where he obtained fresh provisions. On the 11th of January, 1769, he was in sight of Tierra del Fuego, and three days later he entered Strait Le Maire. He doubled Cape Horn about January 22d, and in March he discovered islands in the Dangerous Archipelago, which he named Lagoon, Bow, Bird and Chain Islands. These were mostly inhabited and covered with vegetation. Arriving at Tahiti in April, 1769, he found the natives peaceable, but addicted to stealing. One native, who snatched a musket frotu a sentinel and ran away, was pursued and shot dead.


On the 3d of June, the sky was clear and the transit of Venus was observed with perfect success at Tahiti. Two of the marines were so captivated with the beauty of Tahiti or of the women that they deserted and took refuge in the mountains, intending to remain on the island but they were caught and brought back. On the 13th of July the "Endeavor " departed from Tahiti, carrying a native named Tupia, who wished to visit England. Before the end of July, Cook reconnoitered six small islands, which he named Society Islands." On the 6th of October, 1769, a land of great extent with high mountains in the interior was discovered. This was the north island of New Zealand, the natives of which were hostile and ferocious. Cook, Banks and Solander went ashore and endeavored to open friendly communication with them, but failed. The English killed several of the savages in self-defense. Cook spent several weeks in exploring the coast of the island on all sides, and named the capes and bays.


In April, 1770, Cook resolved to turn northward, and sailed to Botany Bay, so called. by Sir Joseph Banks front valuable additions to the science of botany there made. The eastern coast of Australia was then explored, and the party arrived at York Cape 00 the 21st of August Returning by the Cape of Good Hope, Cook arrived in England in June, 1771, having performed his mission with great ability and applause. He was promoted to the rank of Commander in August, 1771.


Soon after his return the government resolved to send an expedition to search for the Southern or Antarctic continent, and Captain Cook was chosen for its commander. He departed in July, 1772, with two vessels, the "Resolution" and Adventure," and reached the Cape of Good Hope, October 29th. He anchored in Dusky Bay, New Zealand, in March, 1773, after being 127 days at sea, and navigating 3,660 leagues without seeing laud. He revisited Tahiti in August, and sailed southward until his progress was arrested by fields or mountains of ice, January 30, 1774. The most southern point he reached was 71°10', S. latitude, in 106°54', longitude. In July he explored the New Hebrides islands and had some friendly intercourse with the natives. He discovered in September, 1774, a large island, which he named New Caledonia. Having circumnavigated the globe a second time, he arrived at Portsmouth in July, 1775, and was received with every mark of approbation and honor. He bad lost only four men in a navigation of 20,000 leagues. Cook was raised to the rank of captain in August, 1775, and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1776. He published a well written journal of his voyage in two volumes in 1777. "No former expedition," says Jules Verne, he had reaped such a harvest of discoveries, and hydro graphical, physical and ethnological observations.


In 1776, Captain Cook was selected to command a third voyage in search of a northwest passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific. He was directed to go to the Cape of Good Hope, and thence proceed southward in search of some islands said to have been seen by the French in latitude 48° S. He was then to steer to Tahiti and sail thence to New Albion, that is, the west coast of North America. He departed in July, 1776, with the "Resolution," and was joined by the "Discovery" at the Cape of Good Hope.. It is to the honor of the United States that its government, after its independence or Great Britain had been declared, ordered its naval commanders not to molest, but to favor in every way, Cook's expeition. After he had visited New Zealand and Tahiti, he discovered in January, 1778, the Sandwich Islands, the natives of which were friendly. Proceeding northward, Cook explored the west coast of North America, and entered Behring Strait. In April, 1778, be penetrated to latitude 70"4I' N., where he was arrested by an insuperable barrier of ice.


He returned to Hawaii about December 1st, and explored the islands of the vicinity. He went ashore with ten men to recover a boat which had been stolen by a native. The English were assailed by a multitude of savages who killed Captain Cook and several of his men on the shore, February 14, 1779. His vessels continued to prosecute discoveries, and returned to England in October, 1780. The intelligence of the death of the famous of the circumnavigator was received with great grief, and various honors were paid to his memory. King George HI. granted a pension of £200 to his widow, and £25 to each of his children. The value of Cook's discoveries to the British Empire has steadily increased with the lapse of time, and the name of the circumnavigator has become a household word among civilized nations.




On the 2d of January, 1778, Captain Cook resumed his voyage northward, to pursue the grand object of discovering the northwest passage through Behring's Sea. He passed several islands, the inhabitants of which, though at an immense distance from Otaheite, spoke the same language. Those who came on board displayed the utmost astonishment at everything they beheld; and it was evident they had never seen a ship before. The disposition to steal was equally strong in these as in the other South Sea islanders, and a man was killed who tried to plunder the watering party; but this was not known to Captain Cook till after they had sailed. It was discovered that the practice of eating human flesh was prevalent. To a group of these islands and they were generally found in clusters Captain Cook gave the name of the Sandwich Islands, in honor of Earl Sandwich, then at the head of the Admiralty.


The voyage to the northward was continued on the 2d of February, and the long looked-for coast of New Albion British America was made on the 7th of March, the ships being then in latitude 44°33' north and after sailing along it till the 29th, they came to anchor in a small cove lying in latitude 49°29' north. A brisk trade commenced with the natives, who appeared to be well acquainted with the value of iron, for which they exchanged the skins of various animals, such as bears, wolves, foxes, deers, etc" both in their original state and made up into garments. But the most extraordinary sight was human skulls, and hands not quite stripped of the flesh, and which had the appearance of having been recently on the fire. Thieving was practiced at this place in a more skillful manner than they had before remarked; and the natives insisted upon being paid for the wood and other things supplied to the ships, with which Captain Cook scrupulously complied. This inlet was named King George's Sound but it was afterwards ascertained that the natives called it Nootka Sound. After making every requisite nautical observation, the ships being again ready for sea on the 26th, in the evening they departed, a severe gale of wind blowing them away from the shore. From this period they examined the coast, under a hope of finding some communication with the Polar Sea and one river they traced as high as latitude 61°30' north, which was afterwards named Cook's River.


They left this place on the 6th of June, but notwithstanding all their watchfulness and vigilance, no passage could be found. The ships ranged across the mouth of the straits in about latitude 60° where the natives of the islands, by their manners, gave evident tokens of their being acquainted with Europeans-most probably Russian traders. They put in at On Alaska and other places which were taken possession of in the name of the King of England. Proceeding to the northward, Captain Cook ascertained the relative positions of Asia and America, whose extremities he observed. On the 18th they were close to a dense wall of ice, beyond which they could not penetrate, the latitude at this time: being 70°44' north. The ice here was from ten to twelve feet high, and seemed to rise higher in the distance. A prodigious number of seals were crouching on the ice, some of which were procured for food. Captain Cook continued to traverse these icy seas till the 29th: he then explored the coasts in Behring's Straits, both in Asia and America and on the 2d of October again anchored at Oonalaska to refit and here they had communication with some Russians, who undertook to convey charts and maps, etc., to the English Admiralty; which they faithfully fulfilled. On the 26th the ships quieted the harbor of Samganoodah, and sailed for the Sandwich Islands; Captain Cook purposing to remain there a few months, and then to return to to Kamtehatka. In latitude 20°55', the island of Mowee Maui was discovered on the 26th of November and on the 30th they fell in with another, called by the natives Owhyhee Hawaii. This being of huge extent, the ships were occupied nearly seven weeks in sailing around it, and examining the coast.


Captain Cook found the islanders more frank and free from suspicion than any he had yet had intercourse with so that on the 16th of January, 17791 there were not fewer than a thousand canoes about the two ships, most of them crowded with people and well laden with hogs and other productions of the place. A robbery having been committed, Cook ordered a volley of musketry and four great guns to be fired over the canoe that contained the thief; but this seemed only to astonish the natives, without creating any great alarm. On the 17th the ships anchored in a bay called by the islanders Karakakooa. The natives constantly thronged to the ships, whose decks consequently, being at all times crowded, allowed of pilfering without fear of detection and these practices, it is conjectured, were encouraged by the chiefs. A great number of the hogs purchased were killed and salted down so completely, that some of it was good at Christmas, 1780.


On the 26th Captain Cook had an interview with Terreeoboo, King of the islands, in which great formality was observed, and an exchange of presents took place, as well as an exchange of names. The natives were extremely respectful to Cook i in fact, they paid him a sort of adoration, prostrating themselves before him: and a society of priests furnished the ships with a constant supply of hogs and vegetables, without requiring any return. On the 3d of February, the day previous to the ships sailing, the King presented them with an immense quantity of cloth, many boat-loads of vegetables, and a whole herd of hogs. The ships sailed on the following day, but on the 6th encountered a very heavy gale, in which on the night of the 7th, the "Resolution" sprung the head of her foremast in such a dangerous manner, that they were forced to put back to Karakakooa Bay in order to get it repaired. Here they anchored on the morning of the 11th, and everything for a time promised to go well in their intercourse with the natives.


Cook, aware of the nature of these barbarians, felt no small regret when he found that an affray had taken place between some seamen and the natives. The cause of the disturbance was the seizure of the cutter of the "Discovery" as it lay at anchor. The boats of both ships were sent in search of her, and Captain Cook went on shore to prosecute the inquiry, and, if necessary, to seize the person of the King, who had sanctioned the theft He left the" Resolution" about seven o'clock, attended by the lieutenant of marines, a sergeant, a corporal, and seven private men. The pinnace's crew were likewise armed, and under the command of Mr. Roberts the launch was also ordered to assist his own boat. He landed with the marines at the upper end of the town of Kavoroah, where the natives received him with their accustomed tokens of respect, and not the smallest sign of hostility was evinced by any of them and as the crowds increased, the chiefs employed themselves as before in keeping order. Captain Cook requested the King to go on board the" Resolution" with him, to which he offered few objections but in a little time it was observed that the natives were arming themselves with long spears, clubs and daggers, and putting on the thick mats which they used by way of armor. This hostile appearance was increased by the arrival of a canoe from the opposite side of the bay, announcing that one of the chiefs had been killed by a shot from the "Discovery's" boat. The women, who had been conversing familiarly with the English, immediately retired, and loud murmurs arose amongst the crowd. Captain Cook, perceiving the tumultuous proceedings of the natives. ordered Lieutenant Middleton to march his marines down to the boots, to which the islanders offered no obstruction. The captain followed with the King, attended by his wife, two sons and several chiefs. One of the sons had already entered the pinnace, expecting his father to follow, when the King's wife and others hung round his neck, and forced him to be seated near a double canoe, assuring him that be would be put to death if he went on board the ship.


Whilst matters were in this position, one of the chiefs was seen with a dagger partly concealed under his cloak lurking about Captain Cook, and the lieutenant of marines proposed to fire at him; but this the captain would not permit; but the chief closing upon them, the officer of marines struck him with his firelock. Another native grasping the sergeant's musket, was forced to let it go by a blow from the lieutenant. Cook, seeing the tumult was increasing, observed, that if be were to force the King off, it could only be done by sacrificing the lives of many of his people;" and was about to give orders to re-embark, when a man flung a stone at him, which he returned by discharging small shot from one of the barrels of his piece. The man was but little hurt, and brandished his spear, with threatening to hurl it at the captain; the latter, unwilling to fire with ball, knocked the fellow down, and then warmly expostulated with the crowd for their hostile conduct. At this moment a man was observed behind a double canoe in the act of darting a spear at Captain Cook, who promptly fired, but killed another who was standing by his side. The sergeant of marines, however, instantly presented, and brought down the native whom the captain had missed.


The impetuosity of the islanders was somewhat repressed; but being pushed on by those in the rear, who were ignorant of what was passing in front, a volley of stones was poured in amongst the marines, who, without waiting for orders, rep turned it with a general discharge of musketry, which was directly succeeded by a brisk fire from the boats. Captain Cook expressed much surprise and vexation: he waved his from each others' hands to wreak their sanguinary vengeance on the slain. The body was left some time exposed upon the rock and as the islanders gave way. through terror at their own act and the fire from the boats, it might have been recovered entire. But no attempt of the kind was made and it was afterwards, together with the marines, cut UP. and the parts distributed amongst the chiefs. The mutilated fragments were subsequently restored, and committed to the deep with all the honors due to the rank of the deceased. Thus February 14. 1779, perished in an inglorious brawl with a set of savages, one of England's greatest navigators, whose services to science have never been surpassed by any man belonging to his profession.


The death of their commander was felt to be a heavy blow by the officers and seamen of the expedition. With deep sorrow the ships' companies left Hawaii, the command of the" Resolution" devolving on Captain Clerke, and Mr. Gore acting as commander of the" Discovery." After making some further exploratory searches among the Sandwich Islands, the vessels visited Kamtchatka and Behring's Straits. Here it was found impossible to penetrate through the ice either on the coast of America or that of Asia, so th3.t they returned lo the south· ward. On the 22d of August, 1779. Captain Clerke died of consumption, and was succeeded by Captain Gore, who in his turn gave Lieutenant King an acting order in the" Discovery." After a second visit to Kamtchatka, the two ships returned by way of China, remained some time at Canton, touched at the Cape of Good Hope, and arrived at the mouth of the Thames, 4th of October, 1780, after an absence of four years, two months and twenty-two days, during which the "Resolution" lost only five men by sickness, and the "Discovery did not lose a single man.-W. CHAMBERS.


Captain James Cook

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