James Cook

British explorer, cartographer and naval officer (1728–1779)

Captain James Cook, FRS (27 October 1728 – 14 February 1779)[1] was a British explorer, navigator and cartographer, the greatest of the 18th century. He sailed through the Pacific Ocean three times, mapped many areas and recorded several islands and coastlines on European maps for the first time. He was the first British sailor to visit both the east coast of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands. He made the first European maps of Newfoundland and New Zealand. He wrote extensively about all his discoveries.

James Cook, portrait by Nathaniel Dance, c. 1775, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

He sailed twice around the world. He crossed the Antarctic Circle and visited islands and landscapes in North America and the South Pacific. During his trips, he spent a lot of time on science and improving maps. He wrote books about what he found.

Cook was born in Marton, Yorkshire, England.[1] He was a son of a Scottish farmer. He was educated at the school in Great Ayton and at 17 he began work in a shop at Staithes.[1] At 18, Cook became a sailor and an apprentice to John Walker of Whitby. Walker's business was transporting coal.[1] Cook learned mathematics and navigation from Walker. He studied as much as he could about navigation and science.

In 1755, he joined the Royal Navy. During the Seven Years' War, he participated in the conquest of Canada. After the war, he was sent on three expeditions all over the world with the ship Endeavour.

His goals on these missions were:

Cook was killed in the Hawaiian Islands in a dispute about a stolen boat.

Death of Captain James Cook


Cook died on the morning of 14 February 1779.[2] Cook and his men launched from Resolution with a company of armed marines. Cook's party numbered eleven: Cook, Marines Lt Molesworth Phillips; Sgt Gibson; Corporals Thomas and Ledyard and six privates.[3] They went directly to the ruling chief's enclosure where Kalaniʻōpuʻu was still sleeping.[4] They woke him and directed him, urgently but without threat, to come with them. As Cook and his men marched the ruler out of the royal enclosure, Cook himself held the hands of the elder chief as they walked away from the town toward the beach. Kalaniʻōpuʻu's favorite wife,[5] saw them as they were leaving and yelled after her husband, but he ignored her and did not stop. She called to the other chiefs and the townspeople to alert them to the departure of her husband. Two chiefs, Kanaʻina (Kalaimanokahoʻowaha),[6][7] the young son of the former ruler, Keaweʻopala,[8] and Nuaa, the king's personal attendant,[9] followed the group to the beach with the king's wife behind them pleading along the way for the aliʻi nui to stop and come back.[10]

By the time they got to the beach, Kalaniʻōpuʻu's two youngest sons, who had been following their father believing they were being invited to visit the ship again with the ruler, began to climb into the boats waiting at the shore.[11] Kānekapōlei shouted to them to get out of the boat and pleaded with her husband to stop. The ruler then realized that Cook and his men were not asking him to visit the ship, but were attempting to abduct him. At this point he stopped and sat down.[12]

A cropped version of the original painting by Cleveley which was discovered in 2004 and depicts Captain Cook as a violent man
One of the most famous reproductions of 'Death of Captain Cook' by John Cleveley the Younger, Aquatint Francis Jukes. It depicts Cook as a peacemaker
Painting, Death of Captain Cook by eyewitness John Webber

Cook's men were confronted on the beach by an elderly kahuna who approached them holding a coconut and chanting. They yelled at the priest to go away, but he kept approaching them while singing the mele.[13] When Cook and his men looked away from the old kahuna, they saw that the beach was now filled with thousands of Native Hawaiians.[14] Cook told Kalaniʻōpuʻu to get up but the ruler refused. As the townspeople began to gather around them, Cook and his men began to back away from the hostile crowd and raise their guns. The two chiefs and Kānekapōlei shielded the aliʻi nui as Cook tried to get him to his feet.[15] Some of the crowd called up Cook was going to take their chief;one man advanced toward Cook but was stopped by a marine bayonet. Cook saw the danger of the crowd attacking him; the man who had advanced toward him claimed that his brother had just been killed by the ship's guns and he would be avenged. Cook fired twice at the man; first with a blank and then with ball striking his assailant in the groin. Cook saw that his designs were opposed, and that he could not succeed without bloodshed, ordered Lt Phillips to withdraw the marines and get into the boats. Cook was then hit on the head with a stone and shot and killed the man who had thrown it. The officer in the boats gave an order to fire. Cook and Philips in the rear of the guard perceiving the general fire without orders and ran to the shore to put a stop to it. Unable to make themselves heard they joined the guard who fired as they retreated. Cook reached the margin of the water between the fire of the boats and waved with his hat for them to cease firing and to come in.[16]

Kanaʻina angrily approached Cook, who reacted by striking the chief with the broad (flat) side of his sword. Kanaʻina jumped at Cook and grabbed him. Some accounts state that Kanaʻina did not intend to hit Cook while other descriptions say the chief deliberately struck the navigator across the head with his leiomano.[17] Either way, Kanaʻina pushed Cook, who fell to the sand. As Cook attempted to get up, Nuaa lunged at him and fatally stabbed him in the chest with a metal dagger, obtained by trade from Cook's ship during the same visit. Cook was stabbed just under the shoulder blade which passed through his body[18] Cook fell with his face in the water. This caused a violent, close-quarters melee between the Hawaiians and Cook's men.[19] Phillips killed the Chief who stabbed Cook with his sword[18]

Four of the Royal Marines (Corporal James Thomas and Privates Theophilus Hinks, Thomas Fachett, and John Allen) were killed and three (Including Phillips) were wounded; these three and three other marines made it to the boats.[18] The remaining sailors and marines, heavily outnumbered, continued to fire as they retreated to their small boat and rowed back to their ship, killing several of the angered people on the beach, including possibly High Chief Kanaʻina. Lt Gore had the ships cannon fired on the crowd[20] Cook's ships did not leave Kealakekua Bay until 22 February; they had remained for another week to continue repair of the mast and collect better-quality drinking water.[17] They were obliged to fire upon the attacking natives and killed a number without loss to themselves.[21] To terrorize the natives two of the dead warriors were beheaded and the heads stuck on the bows of the pinnances[22]

A young William Bligh, the future captain of HMS Bounty, later claimed to have been watching with a spyglass from Resolution as Cook's body was dragged up the hill to the town by the Native Hawaiians, where it was torn to pieces by them.[23] In fact the natives honoured Cook as a great Chief by the treatment of his remains. On the 22 and 23 of February the remains of Cook were returned to the ship. These were gathered up and buried in the Bay. Ironically the cutter which had been the cause of Cooks death could not be returned as it had been burned for iron.[24]

Cook's Family


He had four sons and one daughter. Their names were Elizabeth Cook, Hugh Cook, George Cook, Nathaniel Cook and Joseph Cook.

His father, James Cook, had three sisters and two brothers. Their names were Mary Cook, who died at four; Margaret Cook; William Cook; Jane Cook and John Cook.[25]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Cook, James (1728–1779)". Cook, James (1728-1779) Biographical Entry. Australian National University. 1966. Retrieved 2010-05-28. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  2. Book Notes: A Monthly Literary Magazine and Review of New Books. Siegel-Cooper. 1901. p. 54.
  3. Sparks, Jared (1847). Life of John Ledyard, American Traveller. C.C. Little and J. Brown. p. 152.
  4. O'Sullivan, Daniel (30 March 2008). In Search of Captain Cook: exploring the man through his own words. I.B.Tauris. p. 224. ISBN 978-0-85771-350-6.
  5. Oregon Teachers' Monthly. 1903. p. 3.
  6. Dibble, Sheldon (1843). History of the Sandwich Islands. Press of the Mission seminary. p. 38.
  7. Taylor, Albert Pierce (1922). Under Hawaiian Skies: A Narrative of the Romance, Adventure and History of the Hawaiian Islands. Honolulu: Advertiser Publishing Company, Ltd. p. 66. OCLC 479709.
  8. Young, Kanalu G. Terry (25 February 2014). Rethinking the Native Hawaiian Past. Routledge. p. 55. ISBN 978-1-317-77669-7.
  9. Day, Arthur Grove; Stroven, Carl (1 December 1993). Day, A. Grove (ed.). True Tales of Hawaii & the South Seas. Mutual Publishing LLC. p. 318. ISBN 978-0-935180-22-0.
  10. Withey, Lynne (January 1989). Voyages of Discovery: Captain Cook and the Exploration of the Pacific. University of California Press. p. 387. ISBN 978-0-520-06564-2.
  11. Kuykendall, Ralph Simpson (1 January 1938). The Hawaiian Kingdom. University of Hawaii Press. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-87022-431-7.
  12. Chambers, John H. (2006). Hawaii. Interlink Books. p. 55. ISBN 978-1-56656-615-5.
  13. Hawaiian Historical Society Reprints. s.n. 1791. p. 70.
  14. Bown, Stephen R. (2008). Madness, Betrayal and the Lash: The Epic Voyage of Captain George Vancouver. Douglas & McIntyre. p. 30. ISBN 978-1-55365-339-4.
  15. Tregaskis, Richard (November 1973). The warrior king: Hawaii's Kamehameha the Great. Macmillan. p. 115. ISBN 978-0-02-619850-9.
  16. Sparks, Jared (1847). Life of John Ledyard, American Traveller. C.C. Little and J. Brown. p. 147.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Williams, Glyndwr (2008). The Death of Captain Cook: A Hero Made and Unmade. Harvard University Press. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-674-03194-4.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Sparks, Jared (1847). Life of John Ledyard, American Traveller. C.C. Little and J. Brown. p. 148.
  19. Meares, John (1791). Hawaiian Historical Society. Reprints (1787, 1788 and 1789. p. 76.
  20. Sparks, Jared (1847). Life of John Ledyard, American Traveller. C.C. Little and J. Brown. p. 150.
  21. Sparks, Jared (1847). Life of John Ledyard, American Traveller. C.C. Little and J. Brown. p. 151.
  22. Journal of Captain Cooks last Voyegue by John Rickman p.336
  23. Collingridge, Vanessa (2003). Captain Cook: the Life, Death and Legacy of History's Greatest Explorer. Ebury Press. p. 413. ISBN 978-0-09-188898-5.
  24. Journal of Captain Cook's last Voyage by John Rickman pp.337-338
  25. "james cook family - Google Search". www.google.co.tz.