James Cook

British explorer Captain James Cook in one history’s most famous explorers. He conducted three expeditions to the Pacific, opening up countless new lands to the western world – including New Zealand, Australia and countless islands. In all of this, he would sail from the Arctic to the Antarctic – perhaps the most prolific naval explorer in history.

Captain James Cook

Episodes

James Cook – Part 1 – Canada

In part 1 of our series on British explorer James Cook, we look at the man’s younger years, plus his life in the Royal Navy – focusing on his time in the Seven Years’ War, and several years surveying the coast of Newfoundland. We’ll finish with Cook being appointed to command the HMS Endeavour – which will be the beginnings of one of the most famous voyages of exploration in history.

James Cook’s charts of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Download this episode or listen online.


James Cook – Part 2 – First Voyage: Tahiti

In part 2 of our series, James Cook takes command of the Endeavour and sets out to Tahiti to record the Transit of Venus.

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James Cook – Part 3 – First Voyage: Tahiti and Terra Australis

In part 3 of our series on James Cook, our English explorer arrives in Tahiti to conduct a survey of the Transit of Venus. After that, he explorers the surrounding islands, then goes in search of Terra Australis.

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James Cook – Part 4 – First Voyage: New Zealand and Australia

In this episode, we wrap up James Cook’s first historic voyage. It will include exploring New Zealand and Australia, a near-sinking of Endeavour, and then a long voyage back to England. Along the way, the expedition will be rocked by deadly illnesses. 

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James Cook – Part 5 – First Voyage: Around the World

In part five of our series, James Cook and Endeavour sail to Batavia, then around Africa to complete their first epic voyage by circumnavigating the world.

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James Cook – Part 6 – Second Voyage: Terra Australis

In part six of our series, we begin the second voyage of James Cook. This time, Cook has two ships, Resolution and Adventure. He sails to the other side of the world – searching for the hidden southern continent – Terra Australis. 

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James Cook – Part 7 – Second Voyage: South Seas and the Southern Atlantic

In part 7 of our series on James Cook, our British explorer sails around the islands of Polynesia and Micronesia, then plunges south into the Antarctic Ice. We wrap up the voyage with some discoveries in the South Atlantic.

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Maps

Cook’s first voyage, 1769-1771.
Source: By AlexiusHoratius at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41516799

Cook’s second voyage – 1772-1775.
Source: By Jon Platek – self-made, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17405980

Resources

There are a lot of books about Cook available. Most tend to use the journals of Cook and his fellow travelers to tell the story of his voyages. Earlier biographies tend to gloss over the more unsettling parts of these voyages. Below are a few books and online resources I used in putting together the Cook series.

Captain Cook’s Journal: First Voyage – Online version of Cook’s journal. Originally published in 1893. Cook is not the most dynamic writer, but it’s still valuable material – and annotated to help understand the context of things.

Captain James Cook: A Biography by Richard Hough. Well done, detailed, and workman-like telling of Cook’s life.

Farther Than Any Man: The Rise and Fall of Captain James Cook – By Martin Dugard. Doesn’t dive too heavily into the details at times, but it’s entertaining and well-paced.

James Cook: The Story Behind the Man Who Mapped the World – By Peter FitzSimons. Focuses on Cook’s expedition, contrasting Cook and Joseph Banks.

James Cook’s charts of Newfoundland and Labrador. Here are a few of Cook’s charts. The detail is incredible for the time.

Wikipedia pages

Examples of the art of Sydney Parkinson

Captain Cook Society – Website devoted to Cook.