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Monday, November 10, 2014

FALL CIRCLE PACIFIC ADVENTURE 2014: Day 8--Captain James Cook

Captain James Cooke was the greatest British and Pacific navigator.  Born to a Scottish farm laborer in 1728, he had only four years of formal schooling, spent some time as a shop boy, then signed on as a deckhand at the age of 18.  He joined the navy at the age of 27 and in two years took command of the Pembroke, a 64-gun ship.  However, something about him, probably cartographic ability, convinced the British admiralty that he was best suited for scientific expeditions rather than fighting or plundering.


In 1768 at the age of 40, he led a crew of 94 from Plymouth, England west into the uncharted waters of the Pacific Ocean.  Their primary mission was to observe the transit of Venus off what is known today as Tahiti.  The Endeavor, all of 106 feet long, one-sixth the length of the Crystal Symphony, enjoyed a three year cruise with Joseph Banks, a rich nobleman as benefactor and chief scientist.  He brought with him on board four personal servants and two large dogs, and went on to become President of the Royal Society.

Trip #1 on the Endeavor  (above--red path):
Observed the transit of Venus on June 3, 1769, as predicted by Sir Edmund Halley of comet fame.  This sighting helped determine the distance of Earth from the Sun.
Charted 2400 miles of New Zealand’s coastline, where the Maoris took Cook to be a god.
•Was the first European to see Australia, but ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef.
Returned via Batavia (now Indonesia), where his crew caught malaria, but everyone survived scurvy by drinking a vile soup of vegetables found when they made landfall.
Cook, now a Commander, in 1772 began a second three-year journey (green) on  the 120 foot long HMS Resolution, sponsored by the Royal Society, with the Adventure as the second ship.

Without Joseph Banks, who wanted artists, musicians and an upper deck, and was denied.
Sailed around Antarctica to find the mythical southern continent, which he had already discovered as Australia.  They got within 100 miles of this second continent, but never  actually saw Antarctica.
Was given safe passage by Benjamin Franklin, even though there was a war going on between the colonists and British.
On January 17, 1773 the two ships became the first to cross the Antarctic Circle.
One leg lasted 17 weeks over 11,000 miles without seeing land.  The Crystal Symphony will cruise  4395 miles in 9 days, also without seeing land from Honolulu to Auckland.
The Adventure returned earlier from weariness, for ten of the crew were eaten on New Zealand, but the Resolution took 3 years and 18 days on a 70,000 mile journey, earning Cook a Captaincy.


Wife Elizabeth had endured difficult days during those six years, with three of their six children dying.  Less than a year later, on July 12, 1776, Captain Cook began trip #3 (blue), sailing on the same Resolution to find a North American passage.  He had a full crew, two cows, calves and a bull to give away as gifts.  On board were George Vancouver, (left) who would later lead expeditions, and had a city named after him, plus the infamous William Bligh (right--doesn't look at all like Humphrey Bogart), who later commanded the Bounty, which suffered a mutiny.  Ship #2 was the Discovery.

They began by sailing south and west for Tasmania and New Zealand.  On January 18, 1778, Captain Cook and his men were the first Europeans to sight Kauai, although that name and the Hawaiian Islands came later, for  Cook named us the Sandwich Islands in honor of the Earl of Sandwich who was then acting Lord of the Admiralty.

They then sailed for the northern portion of North American to find that passage, but failed, and returned to Hawaii, this time Kealakekua Bay, where the native Hawaiian received him as their god Lono.
After partying for two weeks, refreshed and victorious, the Resolution left Hawaii, but soon returned when a storm broke one of the ship’s mast.  This second time, the Hawaiians figured out that Cook was not a god, and in a scuffle February 14, 1779, they killed the 50-year old Cook and four seamen.
The ships went back to search for the Northwest Passage, failed, again, and returned to England after a journey of four years and three months.  A rather ignominious end to the legend of Captain James Cook, who has no descendants.  No major film of the Great Mapmaker, but here is a one hour 40 minute TV program.

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