Library & Archives Blog – Valentines Day: The Death of Captain Cook!

It is Valentines Day and I discovered that Captain James Cook died on this day in 1779, unfortunately a rather gruesome killing by natives of Hawaii and his dismembered remains were buried at sea! I thought I would look at the early years of this intrepid navigator using one of the many books we have in the library. I chose ‘Life and Voyages of Captain Cook’ (1865).

Captain James Cook was born November 3rd 1728 in a small village called Marton in the North Riding of Yorkshire. He was one of nine children coming from an agricultural background. Lured, at the age of 13, to the sea, as an apprentice in a shop in Staithes or Snaith (originally known). His first sailing experience was working on the coal-trade vessels under Mr John Walker who recognised Cook’s diligence and encouraged him to acquire more knowledge, which would extend him from being a mere seaman. The coal-trade vessels had to voyage along dangerous coastline so this was an opportunity for him to hone his navigation skills. He continued with the coal-trade until 1753. After, he decided to try his hand at being in the Navy.

In 1759, following a commendation from Messrs. Walker, Cook obtained the post of master on the Eagle man-of-war where he had taken up a voluntary roll. Shortly after he was on the Mercury, a vessel sailing to attack Quebec, in North America. Through the diligence, intelligence and intrepidness Cook had managed narrowly to avoid the enemy. Following the conquest of Quebec, he was appointed master of Northumberland, leading eventually to a post in Newfoundland; a discovery of astronomy and assignments surveying the coast through 1764, ending the year with marriage to Miss Elizabeth Batts, who he adored. He continued these observations and surveys of this coastline, including an eclipse of the sun on August 5th 1766, calculating from that the longitude of Newfoundland. He returned to England in 1767, taking up abode with his family, however this was not for long…the voyages began…

If you would like to read and discover more, visit the library and, of course, wonder around the exhibits of the museum we have on Captain James Cook.

Lastly, I draw your attention to this entertaining picture from the Whitby Gazette June 1948. It looks like Cook is watching the replacement of the capstone during the reinstalling of the captain Cooks Statue after war.

Claire Marris Archive Development Officer