21 Dec 1996 - 23 Oct 2009
Topical Philately Gallery - History on the Sea
James CookEnglish surveyor and explorer ( 1728 - 1779 ). A Yorkshire agricultural labourer's son, James Cook went to the sea as a common seaman in the Baltic trade and then, in 1755, in the navy. Becoming a master in 1759, he surveyed the St Lawrence river in preparation for James Wolfe's conquest of the French Canada and was present at the capture of Quebec. Thereafter he surveyed the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador. In 1768 Cook was sent in command of the Endeavour by British Admiralty to Tahiti to make observations for the Royal Society of the transit of Venus. He had secret instructions from the Admiralty to carry out extensive explorations in the southern Pacific Ocean, ans was accompanied by a scientific party, including the botanist Joseph Banks and his Swedish colleague Daniel Solander. It was thought that somewhere to the south, there lay a great undiscovered continent that was 'of greater extent than the whole civilized part of Asia'. After carrying out the astronomical observations in Tahiti, James Cook explored and surveyed a large part of the islands to which he gave the name of Society Islands in honour of the Royal Society in London. Although no vast southern continent was discovered, he reached the shores of New Zealand in October 1769 at Poverty Bay. For the next few months, until May 1770, he sailed right round them in a figure of eight, discovering the strait, now named Cook Strait, between the two islands, and charting the coast. He took possession of the islands for Britain. Then he sailed along the east coast of Australia for more than 4,500 m from Cape Howe to Cape York. It was on April 28th 1770 that he sailed into Botany Bay. Landing on Possession Island, off Cape York, he claimed the whole coast for Britain, and named the territory New South Wales. After surveying the southern coast of New Guinea he returned to England via the Cape of Good Hope in June 1771. On this voyage James Cook was not the first European to sight New Zealand, but he was the first to discover that it was two islands and not joined to some enormous southern continent. His efforts to explore the interior were baffled by the hostilityof the natives. Cook was also not the first European to sight Australia, but he was the first to survey its eastern coast, and to take possession for Britain. The following year James Cook made his second voyage of exploration in the ships Resolution and Adventure. In search of of the supposed southern continent, he sailed almost round the World on Latitude 60 S. He went south of the Antartic Circle for the first time on January 16th 1773. Thereafter, crossing the southern Pacific, he surveyed the Marquesas Islands, the New Hebrides, and New Caledonia, and reached 71 10' S, farther south than had ever previously been reached. On this second expedition Cook did not sight what we know as ice-covered Antartica, but he did virtualy prove that there was no luxuriant southern continent still undiscovered. Returning home in July 1775 he refused an appointment at the Greewich Observatory in order to undertake a third voyage to explore the Bering Strait. Leaving for the Pacific by way of the Indian Ocean, Cook discovered the Islands that were given his name, and then in January 1778 rediscovered the long-forgotten islands of Hawaii, which he named the Sandwich Islands in honour of his patron Lord Sandwich, the head of the British Admiralty. From there he sailed northward with the object of navigating the Bering Strait and discovered the so-called North West Passage between Pacific and Atlantic. He sailed along the coast of southern and western Alaska and through the Bering Strait, but at 70 41'N a 3-5 m wall of ice forced him to turn back southward. He returned to Hawaii, where he lost his life on February 13th 1779 in an unimportant encounter with a few pilfering natives. James Cook was undoubtedly one of the greatest explorers of all time, and indisputably the greatest British maritime explorer. The consequences of his geographical discoveries were immense. He surveyed many of the Pacific Islands, and proved that New Zeland and Australia were not joined and he supposed inhabited southern continent did not exist. In addition to all this, were his surveys of both the horth-eastern and north-western coasts of North America.
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