Captain James Cook 1
It is Yorkshire England 1738 and a ten year old boy climbs a hill. He will take three voyages of discovery and he will become a hero, the greatest explorer in history, Captain James Cook. He was a modern hero for a modern times, everybody wanted to know about him. The British make him the symbol of imperial power but his detractors see him as a conqueror and a coloniser. The propaganda painted Cook as the discoverer of Australia.
In 16 years of marriage, Elizabeth and James Cook had six children but spent very little time together. Elizabeth Cook burnt all her husbands letters at the end of her life. What is the true story of Captain James Cook, historians have asked. Who is the man behind the British Imperial propaganda? James Cook started life in the moors of England in Yorkshire. He was born in the village of Martin and moved to Great Ayton where the lord of the manor took an interest in the upbringing and education of the young James Cook. The church of Great Ayton still stands today where the young James would have attended. The laird paid for James to go to school.
The hills of Yorkshire were the playground for the young James who was claimed to be stubborn but not unpopular. He would climb hills like Roseberry Topping and all over the world he would climb the highest hills to get the lay of the land and his environment. He would have been able to see the coast and the colliers plying their trade out at sea. James went to Staithes and then to Whitby where he worked in a shop. He was apprenticed to John Walker as a ship builder and mariner. The Cook museum is still situated at Whitby where he served his apprenticeship.
The Walker family were a Quaker family and they were very sober and industrious which were also applicable to the young James Cook. This Quaker influence would stay with him all through his voyages. James Cook learned to sail in the NOrth Sea , the roughest seas in the world, in Whitby Colliers, very stable and solid wooden sailing ships. If you were trained in Whitby in East coast ships, you really knew your business. James Cook went to London to sign on with the Royal Navy as an able seaman. His father may have been given a financial inducement to join the Royal British Navy.
After just one month Cook is made Master's mate and advanced quickly. You needed to know somebody to get ahead but Cook got ahead by merit and talent. As Master it was his job to navigate the ship. The maps back then were not the scientific documents that we have today, they were usually highly inaccurate. If the British Government wanted to expand their empire they needed accurate maps. In 1756 britain and france begin the 7 years war. Two years later James Cook is sent to Canada and the campaign to topple the French forces at Fort Louisburgh. Walking along a beach Cook met a man using a plane table, a device that is a relevation to James Cook who realizes that this tool could revolutionize Naval chart making. James Cook could now make reliable and accurate maps that were scientific and precise.
It was the beginning of the science of surveying and the first chart he ever drew is still in Taunton in England. His first map is of a stretch of the St Lawrence River. It shows a more precise coastline and water ways that is valuable for military purposes. Maps could make sailing safer and then win wars. Cook shows his skills in the capture of Quebec. The ST Lawrence River was a horrendous traverse to navigate to get into Quebec. He had to get more than a hundred ships through the channel to Quebec. Cook carefully sounded the channel at night in long boats and then carefully guided the British ships to Quebec and the landing for the battle.
The Voyages of Captain James Cook Part 2 continued