James Cook was born in Yorkshire in 1728 and first went to sea at the age of 17years on a merchant shipping vessel.
When the seven years war began in 1755, Cook decided that serving in the Royal Navy would be a good career move and enlisted as an able seaman. He served on HMS Eagle and quickly rose to become Master’s mate. By 1757 he had passed the examinations that would allow him to command his own ship.
During the war Cook charted and mapped the St Lawrence river. Later he went on to map the coast of Newfoundland.
Cook’s mapping skills brought him to the attention of the Royal Society and in 1766 he was asked to go to Tahiti to chart the transit of Venus across the sun. On his return home he charted the coast of New Zealand and landed on Australia’s eastern coast at a place he named Botany Bay. He arrived back in England in 1771.
In 1772 the Royal Society asked Cook to undertake a second voyage to locate Terra Australis, a land which was believed to exist to the south of the Australian continent. Cook’s ship, the Resolution, did cross the Antarctic circle but Cook did not reach Antarctica.
In 1776 Cook embarked on a third voyage. He travelled to the South Pacific and on January 18th 1778 became the first European to set foot on Hawaii. Leaving Hawaii he charted the north American coast from California to the Bering Strait. In 1779 Cook returned to Hawaii where he remained for a month. Shortly after leaving his ship, the Resolution, was damaged and was forced to return to Hawaii. Arguments broke out with the natives and Cook and his men were forced to return to the ship. As Cook launched one of the rowing boats he was hit on the head and fell. He was then stabbed to death by the natives.