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Sunday, 13 July 2014

Captain James Cook

Captain James Cook was born in a two-room mud and thatch cottage in the village of Marton (in present-day Middlesbrough) on November 7, 1728.

The second of nine children, his father, James Cook, was an agricultural laborer who eventually became a bailiff and landowner.

Cook went to the local village school, Postgates School at Great Ayton. The old school house is now a museum. His father's boss, the Lord of the Manor at Great Ayton, paid for James' schooling.

At the age of 16, Cook was apprenticed to Mr William Sanderson a grocer and haberdasher in the fishing village of Staithes. According to tradition, it is during his time there that Cook first felt the lure of the sea while gazing out the shop window.

At the age of 18 he was apprenticed to a firm of shipwrights at Whitby, where he taught  himself mathematics and astronomy, skills he would need one day to command his own ship.

Cook married Elizabeth Batts (1742–1835), the daughter of Samuel Batts, keeper of the Bell Inn, Wapping, at St Margaret’s Church, Barking in 1762. They spent about four years together in the remainder of his life.

The Royal Survey engaged Cook to travel to the South Pacific to witness the transit of Venus as it passed between the earth and the sun. Cook, at the age of 39, was promoted to lieutenant and named as commander of the expedition, which sailed from England on August 26, 1768. Two naturalists, including the founder of Kew Gardens, Joseph Banks and three artists came on board The Endeavour with all their equipment. It was the first time a scientific expedition had traveled on a naval ship with official blessing. Despite it being cloudy during the transit of Venus, the successful results set the pattern for subsequent voyages such as Darwin’s journey in the Beagle.

Endeavour replica in Cooktown harbour

On October 7, 1769 Cook sighted New Zealand on his Pacific voyage and set the way for the colonization of the country.

James Cook, still holding the rank of lieutenant, sighted the south-eastern coast of what is now Australia on April 19, 1770. In doing so his expedition became the first recorded Europeans to have encountered its eastern coastline. Ten days later James Cook and his crew of HMS Endeavour arrived at and named Botany Bay, near present-day Sydney.

To counteract scurvy on board during the long voyage, Cook introduced lime and lemon juice, carrot marmalade, sauerkraut (cabbage reserved in brine, an unpopular food due to its German origins) and brewers malt extract.

The portable soup, which sustained Cook and his crew on this three-year voyage, was made from pease flour and the long boiling of the most rotten parts of the meat so that it was reduced to the consistency of glue. Some sailors that refused to eat this concoction were flogged.

Cook returned from his first voyage in 1771 to find two of his children, a baby boy and a small girl had died in his absence. His four surviving sons all died young- two at sea and Cook has no known direct descendants.

Cook recorded his journeys meticulously in his journals (which were published 1773-84) , including An Account of a Voyage Round The World 1768-71.

John Webber's Captain Cook, oil on canvas, 1776

The word "taboo" comes from the Tahitian "tatao" and was introduced by Cook in 1769.

On January 17, 1773 Captain James Cook and his crew become the first Europeans to sail below the Antarctic Circle. Cook wrote a week earlier in his journal:
"In the afternoon we passed more ice islands than we had seen for several days. Indeed they were now so familiar to us, that they were often passed unnoticed; but more generally unseen on account of the thick weather."

In 1773 Captain Cook explored the coasts of New Zealand, the first recorded circumnavigation of the two islands. He brewed New Zealand’s first beer with a recipe that includes tea leaves and spruce.

On January 18, 1778 Captain Cook became the first known European to discover the Hawaiian Islands, which he named the "Sandwich Islands," in honor of his sponsor, John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.

The old cottage (Aireyholme Farm) that Cook lived in Great Ayton (his family moved there in 1736) as a boy was removed stone by stone to Australia.

When not at sea, Cook lived at 88 Mile End Road, Tower Hamlets, in the East End of London.


A tortoise, which was presented by the King of Tonga in 1773 to Captain Cook, died as recently as 1966.

Cook recorded in Tahiti the traditional Polynesian sport of surfing. In 1778 when he arrived in Hawaii the natives took him to Lono, the god of surfing on his giant canoe.

Captain James Cook was killed at Kealakekva Bay, Hawaii on February 14, 1779. There was a scuffle as Cook tried to retrieve one of his boats, which had got stolen. He was struck from behind and clubbed to death by the islanders. King George III wept when he heard of Cook's demise.

The Death of Captain James Cook, 14 February 1779, an unfinished painting by Johann Zoffany, circa 1795.[51]

Source Food For Thought by Ed Pearce

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