Artefact of the month - March 2007
In 1768 James Cook began the first of the three great Pacific voyages which would see him chart the whole ocean, from New Zealand to the Arctic, so accurately that his charts can still be used today.
Cook's ship for his first Pacific voyage was H.M. Bark Endeavour (1768-1771). Officially, Cook was to observe the transit of Venus. Unofficially, he was under secret orders to search for the great south land and claim it for Britain. By the voyage end the coastlines of New Zealand and eastern Australia had been charted, and the tally of the world's plant species increased by 10 percent.
Cook returned to England in 1771 and sailed again the following year with two ships, the Resolution and the Adventure and sailed further south than any other European. He circled Antarctica, but the ice surrounding the continent prevented the sighting of land. He returned to England in 1775 and was promoted to Captain.
In 1776 Cook set sail on his third voyage, again in Resolution, looking for a possible northern sea route between Europe and Asia. He became the first known European to reach the Hawaiian islands, and was the first European to land on Vancouver Island in British Colombia. On 14 February 1779 Cook was stabbed to death by Hawaiian islanders while investigating the theft of a boat by an islander.
The Library has several volumes relating to these voyages, the details of which are contained in our online catalogue.
Library online catalogue