JAMES COOK was born the son of a day labourer on the 27th October 1728. He was destined to become one of the most admired men of his time – an admiration which continues to this day.
Having joined the British Merchant Navy as a teenager and later the Royal Navy, he saw action in the Seven Years’ War and subsequently surveyed and mapped much of the entrance of the St Lawrence River during the siege of Quebec.
This brought Cook to the attention of the British Admiralty and the Royal Society which led to his commission in 1768 as commander of His Majesty’s Bark Endeavour at 40 years of age.
Two hundred and fourty five years ago the Pacific was totally unknown, though it occupied almost half the terrestrial globe. It is said that the map of the Pacific Ocean is the greatest memorial to Captain Cook.
Cook was to embark upon three epic voyages around the world within a period of 11 years, meeting his untimely death on 14th February 1779 during his third voyage when he became involved in an altercation with the natives of Hawaii. Before his crew were able to intervene, he had been killed.
Some parts of his body were returned to the crew of Adventure and buried at sea. His men were shocked and saddened by the loss of a man they had come to admire as the greatest seaman ever to sail the seas.
Visit the Captain Cook Society to learn more.
The Young Gentleman Naturalist / Botanist
JOSEPH BANKS was born to privilege in London on 24th February 1743 to a wealthy Lincolnshire country squire, a member of the House of Commons and his wife Sarah. He was educated at Harrow School and later went to Eton College.
As a boy he enjoyed exploring the Lincolnshire countryside and developed a keen interest in nature, history and botany which only increased with age. His interests centred around natural history and, while on a visit to the British Museum, he met Daniel Solander who was a student of Carl Linneus.
As Banks’ influence increased, he became advisor to King George III and urged the monarch to support voyages of discovery to new lands, hoping to indulge his own interest in botany.
In 1766, Banks was elected to the Royal Society, and in the same year at 23, he went to Labrador and Newfoundland with a view of studying the natural history where he documented 34 species of birds, including the Great Auk, which became extinct in 1844.
Banks was appointed to a joint Royal Navy/Royal Society expedition to the South Pacific Ocean on HMB Endeavour, 1768- 1771 on which his botanical team identified the first major collection of Australian flora, describing many species new to science.
Banks personally funded this scientific venture to the region of ten thousand pounds and he was just 25 years of age when he commenced the voyage.
DR DANIEL CARL SOLANDER was born in Sweden on 19th February 1733.
He enrolled in Uppsala University in 1750 and studied languages and humanities. His professor of botany was the celebrated Carolus Linnaeus who was soon impressed by young Solander’s ability and persuaded his father to allow him to study natural history.
On a trip to England in 1760 to promote the new Linnean system of botanical classification, Solander met young Joseph Banks who later employed him and his assistant Herman Sporing, to join his scientific team on Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific Ocean on the Endeavour.
These were the botanists who inspired the naming of Botanist’s Bay (later to become Botany Bay), the first landing place of Cook’s expedition in Australian waters.
Solander was vital to the success of the botanical team for his ability to recognise and identify existing plant species and in describing this important collection of Australian plants.
He was 35 years of age when he commenced the Endeavour voyage.
SYDNEY PARKINSON was born in 1742 into a family of Quakers and was an honest and pious young man who was employed by Joseph Banks to join the team of naturalists on Endeavour’s circumnavigation of the globe.
He was one of two artists taken on the Endeavour by Banks but had to carry out the majority of the work when the other artist, Alexander Buchan, died not long into the voyage.
Parkinson himself was never to return to England as he was also to die from malaria after leaving Batavia at the age of 28.