James Cook

James Cook

The courageous British explorer sailed around the world twice before being killed in Hawaii


Artwork by Henry Wong


Quick Facts

Profession: explorer, cartographer, navigator

Famous for: mapping Australia and New Zealand, exploring the world

Born: October 27, 1728

Died: February 14, 1779, in Hawaii, then called the Sandwich Islands

Married to: Elizabeth Batts. They had six children.


Restless wanderer

Find words that mean: journey, joining, passage, land mass

James Cook was born in the northeast of England into a large family. In his teens, he became an apprentice in the merchant navy. In his 20s, he joined the Royal Navy. Cook is most famous for being the first Westerner to reach Australia and New Zealand and so both countries became colonies of Britain.

British scientists thought there must be a large continent in the southern hemisphere and Cook was sent to search for it. The search took him all the way around the world, twice. He was the first sailor to cross the Antarctic Circle and the first European to reach many lands, including Easter Island.

His last voyage was a bid to find the famed Northwest Passage, a sea route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans through the Arctic Ice. On his way there he found Hawaii, which he named the Sandwich Islands. But he was unable to find the route. He stopped off in Hawaii and then left to continue his search for the Northwest Passage. But a broken mast forced him to return to Hawaii where he was killed by islanders.

The ships

HMS Bark Endeavour

Choose the correct alternative

The word endeavour means to try/explore. HMS stands for His or Her Majesty's Ship. The Endeavour started out as a cargo/oil ship called the Earl of Pembroke. She - ships are always called she and no one really knows why - was 32m long and 29.74m wide. She was made of timber/steel. She had a shallow/deep bottom, which allowed her to be beached so she did not need a port/garage for sailors to go ashore. She had three masts and round/square sails.

"Ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for man to go"

HMS Resolution

This ship was a sloop, which also started life as a cargo ship. Her name was North Sea. Cook liked her so much he called her the ship of his navy/choice. She was very advanced for her time, and had the most modern entertainment room/compass, ice anchors and equipment to distil fresh water from sea water. She also carried 24 guns.


Choose the correct option

Captain Cook was also famous for making his crew sauerkraut to prevent a disease called scurvy. In those days, many sailors suffered from scurvy because they would be at sea for a long time without fresh and . Scurvy is caused by a lack of vitamin C. But today scientists think sauerkraut did little to prevent scurvy and it was Cook's practice of not allowing sailors to eat the from the bottom of pots that prevented the disease among his crew. The fat and copper reacted in such a way as to prevent absorption of vitamin C in the . Scurvy would cause people's gums to rot and their to fall out. If untreated, it is deadly.

True or false?

To test your memory, try answering without referring to the text. If you can't remember the details, read the piece again.

1 Cook started out working as a butcher's apprentice.
2 Cook was married with six children.
3 Scurvy is caused by a lack of fresh meat.
4 Cook sailed around the world twice.
5 Cook was killed on Valentine's Day.



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