James Cook was born on October 27, 1728 in Marton, (near modern Middlesborough), Yorkshire, Britain. Cook commanded three voyages of discovery for Great Britain, and sailed around theworld twice. He was the first British ship commander to circumnavigate the globe in a lone ship. Cook was also the first British commander to prevent the outbreak of scurvy by regulating his crew’sdiet, serving them citrus fruit and sauerkraut to prevent the disease. He is considered one of the world’s greatest explorers.
Cook was an apprentice to a shipping company at age 15, and joined theBritish Navy in 1755 at the age of 27. In 1768, the British Admiralty appointed Cook, then a Lieutenant, to lead a scientific expedition that would sail to the island of Tahiti in the south Pacific toestablish an astronomical observatory. Their mission was to measure an eclipse of the sun by Venus. The Admiralty selected Cook because of his proven skills as a navigator, and for his interest inastronomy. He set out on August 12, 1768 in His Majesty’s Bark Endeavour, arriving in Tahiti on April 13, 1769. On June 3, 1769, Cook successfully measured the time it took Venus to transit the sun, and bydoing so obtained data that would help scientists to accurately determine the size of the solar system.
Cook was also issued secret orders to seek the great southern continent (“Terres AustralesIncognita” or unknown lands in the south) that geographers long believed kept the world in balance. In Cook’s day, the discovery of new lands often lead to great wealth for the nation claiming thoselands. His orders were secret because the Admiralty did not want Britain’s international competitors to know about this aspect of Cook’s expedition. Cook searched for Terres Australes to no avail,determining that no such great continent existed.
In October 1769, he was the first European to land on New Zealand. The Islands were sighted previously by Dutch Captain Able Tasman in 1642, 127 years...