British author and historian Richard Hough wrote 2 books about Captain James Cook and called him “the last and greatest of the romantic navigators”. The 2nd book was a carefully researched biography that leaves little doubt about Hough’s belief that James Cook was the world’s greatest explorer. Cook traveled virtually non-stop from the age of 18 to 50, when he was murdered in Hawaii.
Cook’s 1st extensive voyage as Commander aboard the ship Endeavour had a goal. He was supposed to witness and report on the movement of the planet Venus across the sun in Tahiti. He left Plymouth, England, in August, 1768, and sailed with difficulty around South America to be in Tahiti on time. After seeing this celestial event, he decided to return to England by sailing west and discovered the east coast of Australia, which he explored. The Endeavor was almost lost when Cook got hung up on the Great Barrier Reef. He had no way of knowing it was there. He grew to really like 3 places on this voyage, which lasted for almost 3 years–New Zealand, South Africa, and Tahiti. He returned to all 3.
Cook married Elizabeth Batts when he was 34. When he left on his 1st voyage, they already had 2 sons, and he got her pregnant before he left on his 2nd voyage. Ultimately, they had 6 children. Most of them didn’t make it to adulthood. A skilled needlewoman, Elizabeth seemed to be supportive of his long voyages and outlived her husband by 56 years, dying at the age of 93.
Cook’s 2nd voyage on a ship called Resolution lasted from 1772 until 1775. During it he sailed to within 75 miles of Antarctica. He made a 2nd attempt to explore it on this same voyage. He also visited The Friendly Islands for the 1st time. Cook who was 6 feet and a couple of inches tall prided himself as a man who operated a well run ship. His crews never had scurvy and his men were consistently loyal to him.
Cook got Elizabeth pregnant again before leaving on his 3rd voyage, the one he didn’t return from. He left England in command of the HMS Resolution in 1776 intending to find the Northwest Passage by sailing as far east through the Arctic Ocean as he could. He didn’t make it to the Arctic Ocean, but he visited the Oregon Coast and learned a lot about the Bering Sea and Vancouver Island. Instead of trying to go farther north in changing weather, Cook decided to winter in Hawaii and sail north again later. He celebrated his 50th birthday on the Resolution in October, 1778, but died in February, 1779, while attempting to deal with the theft of a cutter by Hawaiians. His son James, a commander in the British Navy, drowned a few months later.
James Cook’s parents lived in a cottage in Yorkshire England, and it’s known that he visited his father between his 1st and 2nd voyages. Cook’s parents built this cottage. In 1934 Australia’s state of Victoria was celebrating the 100th birthday of its first permanent settlement, and Sir Russell Grimwade decided to buy and move Cook’s cottage to Melbourne before the Americans could get it. All bricks were numbered, packed in barrels, and shipped to Victoria where this cottage was reassembled. Even a clipping of the cottage’s original ivy was brought to Melbourne and attached to it. This cottage in Fitzroy Gardens is now the oldest dwelling in Australia and a popular tourist attraction with lots of information about Cook, his voyages, and his family.