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Captain James Cook; a life full of adventure, triumph, and struggle
By Nate Kerl
Ver. 2

Cook's early life

Few people have ever seen the places the past explorer, James Cook, has ventured. Cook sailed around to far reaches of the world reaching all seven continents during his lifetime. He traveled on three very lengthy journeys with two different sailing ships, encountering hardship and triumph along the way. Not many people ever get off their own continent today, little less back in the 1700's, but as the world would discover, Cook was ahead of his time.

James Cook was born in the village of Marton, Yorkshire on October 27, 1728; he was one of seven children born to a day laborer. Cook received basic schooling at the village school and was then sent to work for William Sanders in the nearby fishing village of Staithes. Here Cook developed a love and fascination for the sea, but he was not especially happy with his job amongst the hard working people of the land. In July 1746, at the age of 17, Cook gave into his temptations for the sea and became an apprentice to the Walker Family, ship owners, at the port of Whitby. Whitby was a bustling place, always full with many varieties of ships. Cook's job as an apprentice required him to become very familiar with the coal ships of the area and he soon learned the ins and outs of the colliers type ships. He worked hard and soon had his first voyage aboard the Whitby collier 'Freelove.' The coal ships or colliers were of sturdy construction, strong sailing abilities, and could handle a great deal of cargo and weight. Cook's expertise in this type of ship would bring him to use this type of ship for all three of his major voyages of world exploration.

While Cook was at Whitby, he educated himself a great deal in navigation and mathematics. By 1755, after nine years, and much service as ship's master, Cook left his ship and enlisted in the Royal Navy as an ordinary sailor. He boarded the Eagle, a 60-gun ship, and was sent to the North American Coast.

James Cook worked his way up through the ranks quickly in the navy, eventually rising high enough to command his own survey vessel. This was unusual for an enlisted man, but his experience at Whitby helped him have an upper hand over the other seamen. Cook's first mission was to map the estuary of the St. Lawrence River before Wolfe's naval assault on Quebec. Later he surveyed the coast of Newfoundland. Many sailors noted Cook's stellar work with mapping and surveying and how extremely accurate his drawings were. It was those surveys that gave Cook a name, along with information he carefully obtained from the observing and recording of the eclipse of the sun in 1766. Cook was rewarded for his work in Quebec in 1761; he received a bonus of 50 pounds, for "indefatigable industry in making himself the 'master of the pilotage.'" The surveys were so accurate and complete that they were in use until the beginning of the Twentieth Century.

Cook returned to England in 1762 and soon married Elizabeth Batts of Shadwell, the only daughter of a provincial family. In Elizabeth's seventeen years of marriage to Cook she saw him only every few years and even then only for a few months at a time. All of her six children and Cook seemed to have predeceased her. Comments on Cook's family and Elizabeths' death we hear from Cook himself not a word.

Cook's surveys and scientific observations, along with his own scientific ability and the patronage from his former commander, Sir Hugh Palliser, led to his new position as Captain of the "The Endeavour Bark" in 1768.

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This is an original biography, all work must be sourced, copyright © ver. 1: 1998; ver. 2: 2000 Nate Kerl

Captain James Cook, The World's Explorer

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