Captain James Cook

In 1762 the Northumberland was ordered to Newfoundland, to assist in the recapture of that island; and here the talents and assiduity of our hero were again conspicuous. Greatly improved by his winter's studies, he was now still more able to make nautical surveys, and these he carried on to a considerable extent on the coast of Newfoundland; laying down bearings, marking headlands and soundings, and otherwise placing on record many facts which proved highly advantageous to future voyagers, especially those engaged in fishing speculations.

Towards the close of this year (1762) Mr. Cook returned to England, and was married at Barking, in Essex, to Miss Elizabeth Batts, who has been spoken of as a truly amiable and excellent woman. In the following year, through the intervention of Captain (afterwards Admiral) Graves, the governor of Newfoundland, who was well acquainted with Cook's worth, he was appointed to survey the whole coast of that island, which he accomplished with great ability, as well as Miquelon and St. Pierre, which had been ceded to the French. Cook then returned to England, but did not remain long. His constant friend, Sir Hugh Palliser, assumed the command at Newfoundland, and took Mr. Cook with him, bearing the appointment of marine surveyor, and a schooner was directed to attend upon him in his aquatic excursions. His charts and observations, particularly on astronomy, brought him into correspondence with the members of the Royal Society; and some scientific observations on the eclipse of the sun were inserted in the 57th volume of the Philosophical Transactions.

Here may be said to close the first chapter in Cook's life. We have traced him from the humble home of his father, an obscure peasant, through the early part of his career, till his thirty-fourth year, at which time he had gained a footing among the most learned men in England. The youthful aspirant will observe that this enviable point had not been reached without patient study. Cook could have gained no acquaintanceship with members of the Royal Society, nor could he have placed himself in the way of promotion, had he been contented to remain an illiterate seaman.

FIRST VOYAGE ROUND THE WORLD. Prepared by diligent self-culture, Cook was ready for any enterprise which circumstances might produce. The project of a voyage of discovery, involving certain important astronomical observations, fortunately came under discussion while he was in a state of hesitation as to his future movements. The principal object of the expedition was to observe a transit of the planet Venus over the face of the sun, which could only be done somewhere in the Pacific or Southern ocean. The transit was to happen in June 1769. The Royal Society, interested as in the phenomenon for the sake of science, applied to George III to fit out an expedition suitable to take the observations. The request was complied with; and no other man being so well calculated to take the command it was given to Cook. The appointment was quite to the mind of our hero, and he was soon ready for sea. He received the commission of a lieutenant from his majesty, and the Endeavour, of 370 tons, was placed at his disposal. About this time Captain Wallis returned from his voyage of discovery, and reported Otaheite (now called Tahiti) to be the most eligible spot for the undertaking. That island was therefore fixed upon for the observation. Mr. Charles Green undertook the astronomical department, and Mr. Banks (afterwards Sir Joseph) and Dr. Solander, purely through love of science, and at great expense to themselves, obtained permission to accompany the expedition.

The Endeavour was victualed for eighteen months, armed with 12 carriage guns and 12 swivels, and manned with a complement of 84 seamen. Every requisite preparation was made for such a voyage that human fore sight could suggest; trinkets and other things were put on board to trade with the natives; and on the 26th of August 1768, they sailed from Plymouth Sound for the hitherto but little explored South Seas. On the 13th September they anchored in Funchal roads, Madeira, and here commenced the researches and inquiries of the men of science. From hence they departed on the night of the 18th; and falling short of water and provisions on the Brazil coast, they put into the beautiful harbor of Rio Janeiro on the 13th November. The viceroy of this fine city could make nothing of the scientific intentions of the English, and was exceedingly troublesome and annoying. When told that they were bound to the South Seas to observe the transit of Venus, he could form no other conception of the matter than that it was the passing of the north star through the south pole. Numerous difficulties were thrown in the way of the departure of the voyagers after they had victualed and watered; and when they sailed, shots were fired at them from the fort of Santa Cruz, a heavy battery at the entrance of the harbor; and on inquiry, Mr. Cook ascertained that the pass for the Endeavour had not been sent from the city. A spirited remonstrance was made, and the viceroy apologised.