[Editor: This article about James Cook was published in The Blue Mountain Echo (Katoomba, NSW), 26 October 1928.]
Captain James Cook.
To declare that any man is the greatest whom the world has seen in his particular vocation, savors of hyperbole; but there appears to be universal agreement that James Cook was the greatest navigator of all time. As a circumnavigator, he undoubtedly has no peer, not the least remarkable of his achievements being the successful manner in which he conserved the health of his crews, particularly against the dreaded scurvy, then the bane of seafarers’ lives.
Son of a humble farm laborer, in Yorkshire, the illustrious sailor was born on October 27, 1728, consequently the bicentenary of his birth occurs to-morrow, and will receive fitting celebration throughout the civilised world, particularly in England, America, and Australia. He was successively bailiff and grocer’s assistant, until the age of 19, when he answered the call of the sea, and for nine years served in various vessels trading in the North Sea.
With the advent of the Seven Years War he joined the navy, where his able seamanship, combined with his instinctive charting ability, speedily won him fame as a surveyor. He effected excellent work in charting the River St. Lawrence, and was chosen by the Imperial Government to survey the coast of Newfoundland and its neighboring islands. So efficiently did he perform this task, that his maps, although compiled 170 years ago, still are the standard charts for navigation of those waters.
In 1767, Cook was selected to command the Endeavor, which had been equipped to proceed to Tahiti to observe the transit of Venus. On this memorable voyage, Cook’s companions were men whose fame almost equals his own, Joseph Banks, Daniel Solander, and Charles Green. Having performed the astronomical duty of the trip, the Endeavor circumnavigated New Zealand, and then sailed West, to the coast of Australia, which was sighted on April 20, 1770. Nine days later, the good ship dropped her anchor in Botany Bay; and on May 7 Port Jackson was named, but not entered. Proceeding North, the Endeavor skirted the Great Barrier Reef; and on August 22 Cook landed for the last time on Australian soil, and formally annexed the country to Great Britain. He touched at Batavia on October 11, and reached England safely on July 13, 1771, after a voyage which stirred the imagination of the whole world. During this journey, he proved that Australia and New Guinea were separate islands, and compiled a chart of the Eastern coast of Australia, whose accuracy is the wonder of navigators, in view of the fact that he lacked a chronometer.
On a second voyage to the South Seas, which lasted from July 13, 1772, until July 14, 1774, Cook discovered New Caledonia and Norfolk Island, penetrated deeply into the Antarctic regions, and traversed the South Pacific Ocean from side to side, returning to England via Cape Horn, after having circumnavigated the globe.
On July 12, 1776, he left on his third, and last, voyage to the South Seas, with the object of discovering a passage from the Pacific to the Atlantic, either Eastward round America, or Westward round Asia. After having made valuable discoveries in the South Seas, he sailed North along the coast of America, in a vain search for a connecting strait between the two oceans. In September, 1778, he turned South to Winter in the Hawaiian Group, where, on February 14, 1779, he was killed by natives.
This remarkable man, whom tradition — erroneously — credits with the discovery of Australia, was responsible for its annexation to the Crown; and it was due to the solicitations of his boon friend and companion, Sir Joseph Banks, that England decided to settle it with colonists. In Australia, therefore, he looms as a national hero, to whom oblation is made on the significant dates of his career.
In England and America, he is revered as the instrument which opened a new world to trade and commerce, and did much to establish the wealth of those great trading nations.
For many years, the Government of N.S.W. has collected and preserved manuscripts, memorials, and relics of Cook and his voyages. These are housed in the Mitchell Library and Australian Museum, where to-morrow they will be viewed by thousands, when commemorating the memory of one of the most remarkable seamen which history records.
The Blue Mountain Echo (Katoomba, NSW), 26 October 1928, p. 2
boon = something which is beneficial, helpful or useful; a blessing, a godsend; (archaic) a favour or request; (archaic) bountiful, generous, kind, pleasant; a close or special companion or friend; convivial, jovial, merry (regarding a companion or friend)
Hawaiian Group = the Hawaiian group of islands (the Hawaiian Islands are an archipelago of eight major islands, along with various smaller islands and several atolls; formerly known as the Sandwich Islands)
Newfoundland = a large island off the eastern coast of Canada (it was settled by English colonists in 1610, became a Crown colony in 1825, a Dominion of the British Empire in 1907, and joined the Canadian Confederation in 1949)
N.S.W. = an abbreviation of New South Wales (a colony in Australia from 1788, then a state in 1901)
oblation = the act of offering something, such as thanks, worship, or even a sacrifice, to a deity (such as the presentation of bread and wine to God in the Eucharist)
Seven Years’ War = a world war which occurred during 1756-1763, which was fought between two groups of allied nations, one side consisting of Great Britain, Portugal, and the German states of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, Hanover, Hesse-Kassel, Prussia, and Schaumburg-Lippe, and the other side consisting of France, the Habsburg Empire (Austria), Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the German state of Saxony (in North America, both sides were assisted by various American-Indian tribes)