James Cook

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     James Cook was born 27 October 1728 in Marton-in-Cleveland, Yorkshire. In 1746 he was apprenticed to John Walker of Whitby a ship owner, and at 21 was rated able seaman. In 1755 he was in command of a ship. He volunteered as an able seaman in the Royal Navy and rose in the ranks to master of HMS Pembroke 1757. During the Seven Year’s War between France and Great Britain he commanded a captured ship and took part in the siege of Louisburg in Nova Scotia and the assault against Quebec. From 1763-1768 he commanded the schooner Grenville while surveying the coast of Newfoundland.
     From 1768 to 1776 Cook made three voyages of exploration and discovery for the Royal Society.

The First Voyage 1768-1771

     Edmund Halley proposed to determine the parallax (the apparent shift in the position of an object when observed from different places) of Venus by using the passage of Venus across the face of the Sun. This would, in turn, make it possible to determine the distance between the earth and the sun. Halley’s proposal was that the exact moments of ingress and egress would be determined at several widely separated observatories to determine the duration of the transit, and then calculate the angular separation between the various observatories, and finally, the distance between the earth and sun required by the resulting parallax.
     Since the transit in 1769 would be visible only in the Pacific Ocean the Royal Society determined to send an expedition under the command of Captain James Cook to observe the transit from the island of Otaheite in the South Pacific. They left England on July 30, 1768 on the bark Endeavour and arrived at Tahiti on April 15, 1769.

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     As they prepared for the observation their quadrant, the instrument by which the transit was to be measured was stolen and dismantled by the native. However, it was recovered and reassembled just in time for the transit. The last two weeks before the even the sky was overcast and heavy rain fell. But on June 3 the weather cleared and the necessary observations were made.
     The map in the design of the Norfolk Island stamp is not an old map, but a contemporary one drawn in the manner of older maps with unknown areas. identified. Regions unexplored at the time of the event are marked unknown. Areas discovered or mapped by Cook are shaded dark. The eastern coast line of North America is strangely shaped and Florida is missing, though it was known at the time.

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     Cook charted New Zealand and eastern Australia, and discovered the Admiralty and Society Islands. He returned to England on June 12, 1771, passing through New Guinea, Java and the Cape of Good Hope. Cook went on to lead two more voyages of discovery before his death in 1779.

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