Born: James Cook was born on 27th October 1728 in Marton in Cleveland. His parents were James Cook, a day labourer from Roxburghshire, and Grace Pace from Thornaby.
Educated: His father found work at Aireyholme Farm, and James attended the Postgate School at nearby Great Ayton. At seventeen he went to work in a shop in Staithes. Eighteen months later he was taken on as an apprentice by John Walker, a Whitby shipowner. James learnt seamanship over nine years in the coastal coal trade between Newcastle and London. In 1755 he enlisted in the Royal Navy and two years later he passed the examination for ship’s master.
Married: On 21st December 1762, James Cook married Elizabeth Batts, the daughter of Samuel Batts, landlord of The Bell inn at Wapping.
Family: James and Elizabeth Cook had six children: James, Nathaniel, Elizabeth, Joseph, George and Hugh. Of these, three died in infancy and only James lived into adult life.
Home: When not at sea, James Cook lived in his East London home.
Known for: James Cook spent several years in Canada during the Seven Years War (1756-63). He was employed in surveying maps there for the Royal Navy. This helped the British to capture Quebec from the French and established Cook’s reputation as a navigator. In 1766 the Admiralty gave him the command of an expedition to observe the transit of Venus across the Sun. The expedition was part of the Royal Society’s quest for an accurate means of determining longitude at sea and it won Cook national fame. It was the first of Captain Cook’s three voyages to the opposite side of the globe, particularly to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Ocean. He mapped the entire coastline of New Zealand, discovered many Pacific islands and mapped parts of the Australian coast that no European had visited before. He sailed further south than any expedition before him.
Died: James Cook was killed at Kealakekua Bay on Hawaii on 14th February 1779, aged 50.
Further Information: “Captain Cook in Cleveland” Cliff Thornton (2006): “Captain James Cook: A Biography” Richard Hough (1994)