James Cook, Captain – HMS Resolution, Part 3

You’ve come to London to visit by: car, train — even one through the Chunnel, hydrofoil or hovercraft, airplane or ocean liner. And, this series serves as an inspiration for how far travel has had to come. It is humbling to see how brave adventurers like Captain James Cook have brought us, step-by-step, in just the last 300 years.

Most of us coming to London as tourists, were guided by G.P.S. satellite systems, and it’s amazing to know that such a short time ago, real heroes, like Cook, ventured out in a huge unknown. These brave souls charted our planet and thereby allow us to chart our own destiny. We owe them a great debt of gratitude, indeed.

Continuing the saga, on Cook’s 2nd voyage to the South Pacific and Antarctica, botanist Joseph Banks wanted to join the expedition, but withdrew after Cook did not allow him an extra deck on the ship for his specimens! Also, another artist, William Hodges, accompanied them this time and painted a series of views of the Pacific Islands which showed dramatic and romantic landscapes which fascinated everyone in England! Artists had to share their precious gift, as photography was not yet available.

Imagine what Cook and his crew must have thought, seeing the great expanse of icy waste that is Antarctica. Between January 1773 and January 1774 Cook’s tiny wooden ships entered the Antarctic circle several times. The intense cold forced them to turn back when they were only 121 km from Antarctica’s coast.  What an accomplishment!

Even today, humans don’t rule in Antarctica, Nature does. With far less sophisticated equipment, Cook showed his excellent judgment. He always put human life first, before glory. Little did he know that Antarctica hid yet another continent, totally unknown at that time, by anyone living on earth, and it remained unknown. Cook still needed to “find” the Southern Continent, of legend. It was where he had already been, for that continent, “Terra Australis”, the great Southern Continent, was indeed Australia.

After Antarctica, Cook then traveled northward to New Zealand where he traded with the Maoris, and sailed onward to the island of Tahiti. Two Tahitian islanders decided to come back to England, with the expedition. But, the story has another chapter.

On Cook’s 3rd and final voyage, artist John Webber accompanied him. This voyage was to find the fabled North-West Passage (believed to link the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans), in the far north. Cook took HMS Resolution again, along with another Whitby collier, HMS Discovery.

After sailing up the Pacific Coast of the United States, (barely known to Europeans then), and butting up against an impenetrable wall of Arctic ice, Cook turned South, seeking sun. Captain Cook explored the Hawaiian Islands (named the Sandwich Isles, by him, for the First Lord of the Admiralty and sponsor of the expedition).

There, he was treated as a god by the Hawaiian islanders because the pale skinned people arrived during the festival of the god of peace, Lono. This festival confirmed the Hawaiian’s belief that Cook was an incarnation of the god; yet, soon, they saw he was all too mortal.

After a short time Cook’s ships left. But the expedition was forced to return a few days later because the Resolute needed repairs to her mast. This time the mood on shore had changed dramatically. Now, it was the War god’s time.

Tragedy struck. Cook tried to take the king hostage after the theft of a ship’s boat, and the islanders became alarmed. During a struggle, Cook was stabbed in the back and killed on 14 February, 1779. The crew were able to reclaim parts of his body and buried it at sea.

Captain Clerke took command of both of the ships, but he also died on the voyage. Lieutenant Gore finally brought the ships home to England.

In an unheard of tribute to Cook, the United States of America, ceded the land Cook’s monument stands on at Kaawaloa, Kealakekua Bay, to the people of Great Britain.

Captain James Cook is an unsung hero to most of us. His bravery, skill and judgment were unmatched and emphasizes why it is important to remember James Cook’s achievements in mapping the Pacific, New Zealand and Australia. His discoveries radically changed our understanding of world geography and proved him, in the words of a contemporary, to be  ‘the most able and enlightened navigator that England ever produced’.

You can read the other two parts of the series here:
Captain James Cook – Pacific Journey of Discovery
Captain Cook and new Pacific adventures

©2009 Mystic at Travel Vacation Review