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Captain James Cook for Kids

Captain James Cook

James Cook was a British explorer, navigator and cartographer. A cartographer is someone who draws maps. He became a Captain in the Royal Navy. Cook drew detailed maps of Newfoundland. He did this before he made three trips to the Pacific Ocean. He was the first European to arrive on the east coast of Australia and Hawaiian Islands. He is also the first person to travel all the way around New Zealand.

James Cook was born in Marton in Yorkshire. He was the second of eight children. In 1736 his family moved to a farm at Grant Ayton. His father's employer paid for James to attend the local school. After he went to school for five years, he started working with his father. When he didn't have to work he climbed the local hill to enjoy some solitude.

In 1745, Cook, who was sixteen, moved to Staithes. This was a fishing village. He went to be an apprentice for a shop owner. People think that this may be where James Cook began gazing out the shop window at the sea and wanted to go to sea.

He worked at the shop for eighteen months. He didn't like working in a shop. He travelled to Whitby and was introduced to friends of the shop owner. The friends were ship owners and Quakers. Cook began to serve in the merchant navy. He was an apprentice that took coal along the coast of England. The first ship he was assigned to was the Collier Freelove. While he was an apprentice, he also studied things like algebra, geometry and trigonometry. He also studied navigation and astronomy. These were the same skills he would need to command a ship of his own.

He was an apprentice for three years. After the completion of his apprenticeship, he worked on trading ships that sailed the Baltic Sea. He was promoted through the ranks very quickly. Soon after he received the promotion to Mate, he was offered his own ship to command. He volunteered for the Royal Navy. Soon after he became involved in the Seven Years' War. James Cook realized that it would serve him better to be in the military service and joined the Navy in 1755.

During the Seven Years' War he was master of the Pembroke in North America. In 1758 he left to capture the Fortress of Louisbourg. This was a French vessel. He then helped to seize Quebec. 

He was very good at drawing maps and surveying the land. For this reason he was made to be responsible for mapping the opening of the St. Lawrence River. This allowed General Wolfe to make his attack on the Plains of Abraham.

In the 1760's he mapped the coast of Newfoundland.

In 1766 Cook was hired by the Royal Society to cross the Pacific Ocean and observe the way Venus travelled across the path of the sun. it was on this voyage that he reached the east coast of Australia. They landed at Botany Bay which was named due to the types of specimens found by Daniel Solander and Joseph Banks. It was at Botany Bay that he met the first Aboriginal tribe.

Cook died on his third voyage. His job was to survey the area and draw maps of the islands. He died in 1779 at the age of 51.

Read more at the Captain Cook Museum and at the BBC Website

One in a series of articles about History.

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