Captain Cook information

Expat Smoggie

Well-known member
I was wondering if any posters have access to more detailed information on our famous Captain that might help me paint picture of his life in Yorkshire and his family? I have access to history books etc so I'm not short of RN information but I'd appreciate anything leaning more to his home life.

Cheers
 

fmttmadmin

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Captain Cook in Cleveland by Cliff Thornton is an old book now 1978 but he knew his stuff.
There are a couple more recent ones you can buy in the museums - the best place to start is visiting the Birthplace Museum, Marton, the Cook Schoolroom Museum Gt Ayton then finally Capt Cook museum in Whitby set in the home of John Walker where the 17 year old James Cook joined as an apprentice in the family mercantile firm and learned the trade.
Do the museums in that order and you will learn a great deal about James Cook early family life.
His married family life was almost all spent away at sea. His wife Elizabeth survived all his sons and was a widow for 50 years.
James Cook final visit to the area came between voyages when he stayed at the big old house next to the old church, Ayton Church. His sister wanted to talk to James about their dad going into care. As in she was going to move to Redcar with her husband and look after James senior. That house is probably still standing at the Marske end of the High Street, once on the seafront.
 

fmttmadmin

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This much more recent book is also really good.

TitleCaptain James Cook: Yorkshire's Most Famous and Enigmatic Explorer
AuthorJohn M. Graham
ContributorCaptain Cook Schoolroom Museum Trust
PublisherJohn M Graham, on behalf on The Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum Trust, 2019
ISBN1526207834, 9781526207838
 

Expat Smoggie

Well-known member
Captain Cook in Cleveland by Cliff Thornton is an old book now 1978 but he knew his stuff.
There are a couple more recent ones you can buy in the museums - the best place to start is visiting the Birthplace Museum, Marton, the Cook Schoolroom Museum Gt Ayton then finally Capt Cook museum in Whitby set in the home of John Walker where the 17 year old James Cook joined as an apprentice in the family mercantile firm and learned the trade.
Do the museums in that order and you will learn a great deal about James Cook early family life.
His married family life was almost all spent away at sea. His wife Elizabeth survived all his sons and was a widow for 50 years.
James Cook final visit to the area came between voyages when he stayed at the big old house next to the old church, Ayton Church. His sister wanted to talk to James about their dad going into care. As in she was going to move to Redcar with her husband and look after James senior. That house is probably still standing at the Marske end of the High Street, once on the seafront.
Very interesting and thanks for sharing! Unfortunately I’m 6000 miles away so I can’t get to the museums but perhaps I can sometime in the near future.
 

fmttmadmin

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Am currently writing a new James Cook Marton information sign - so I should be able to tell you some information about what Marton, his home village, was like in the 18th century. I will tomorrow anyway when I look at the notes once again.
 

Expat Smoggie

Well-known member
Am currently writing a new James Cook Marton information sign - so I should be able to tell you some information about what Marton, his home village, was like in the 18th century. I will tomorrow anyway when I look at the notes once again.
That would be really great to read-- maybe we can connect as I can then explain a little more on my project. Feel free to drop me a line and I fill you in.
 

Redwurzel

Well-known member
His father was Scottish and worked as a supervisor/charge hand at Airy Hill Farm near the bottom of Roseberry Topping.

It is believed a local landowner paid for James Cook's schooling as it was expensive to go to school and uncommon for someone from his background in that period.

As Rob N will be able to back up his home as a young child was believed to be a cottage on the spot of a granite water fountain on the lawn of the former Marton Hall - only some stone arches survive next to the CC Birthplace Museum. The Hall was burnt down in the 1960s. The site of the cottage is marked though.

My grandad watched them take his cottage from Great Ayton in the early 1930s. I expect he bought this cottage with his Royal Navy wages. The area around Stokesley grew a lot of flax for sails in Cook's times, with quite a few local mills and the area provided men and officers for the Royal Navy and Merchant ships based on Whitby. There is a sailors trod acrosss the moors to Whitby from Great Ayton/Stokesley/Guisborough, hence the Jolly Sailors pub on the Moors road and graffiti of sailing ships in the ex Guisborough Jail.

My family had a RN member called Shout. His daughter married a male member of my family in Stokesley around 1820. When Middlesbrough started to take off a child of theirs moved to moved to the Boro in the late 1840s in one of the first streets and married a bricklayer (I guess it was a common occupation in early Victorian Middlesbrough).

The British Library did an excellent exhibition on Captain Cook and his Voyages about 5 years ago. I went to a talk there and you could tell they were scared stiff of being called promoters of British colonialism. James Cook was ahead of his time both on a social and technical level. His maps are very detailed and accurate, considering the technology of the time the maps are pretty unbelievable. His was able to deal with all ranks and all members of British society from the bottom to the top (extremely rare then), his rose from what is working class to almost upper middle class (very rare then), he also help integrate a non white pacific islander into London society, treating him as an equal - a first? I have forgotten his name but I am sure other posters can help you out.

Lieutenant/Captain Cook never claimed Australia etc for the British Crown - his main objective was to increase scientific and geographic knowledge. However what he found out laid the foundation for that to happen. A key event in Australia was setting up the first penal colony around 1788 @ Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour). This was 9 years after Cook was killed.
 

fmttmadmin

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The James Cook house auctioned in Great Ayton and re-erected in Melbourne, Australia was actually the home of James Cook senior, the father of the Captain. Very clever work by the auctioneers indeed. They didn't exactly lie about it.
Captain Cook might possibly have visited his dad in the house once when he journeyed between voyages to the village with his wife but he certainly didn't stay in the cottage, let alone ever live there.
The Polynesian islander that Cook took to see the King and to dine at Kirkleatham Hall amongst other places was Omai. One of the aims of the 3rd voyage was to return Omai back to his island near Tahiti. Cook worked closely with a Polynesian prince and priest on his first voyage called Tupaia - he acted as translator and navigator and was revered by many of the peoples they encountered on the voyage. Tragically he died, like many in the crew, after taking ill from the appalling disease of the European staging post in Indonesia, on the way back to Britain.
Cook was schooled by Quakers and then worked for the Quaker shipping family the Walkers in Whitby. He remained friends with the Walkers through his life. We don't know how much of the Quaker faith and beliefs rubbed off on Cook but he was not a missionary he was a scientist. He at no point attempted to convert anyone to Christianity. The Quakers did not engage in the Slave Trade in fact they were vehement in their opposition against it. The Walkers made their money shipping coal and timber in the North Sea working out of Whitby at that time one of the main ports and ship building centres in the country.
 

Redwurzel

Well-known member
Cheers Rob - that is interesting information. I remember seeing paintings of Tupaia @ the British Library. One was in Captain Cook's London house having dinner with him and his guests.

The quakers bit was new to me - I always beleived the quaker school at GA was set up in Victorian times. They must have been there in numbers before that.
 

Expat Smoggie

Well-known member
The James Cook house auctioned in Great Ayton and re-erected in Melbourne, Australia was actually the home of James Cook senior, the father of the Captain. Very clever work by the auctioneers indeed. They didn't exactly lie about it.
Captain Cook might possibly have visited his dad in the house once when he journeyed between voyages to the village with his wife but he certainly didn't stay in the cottage, let alone ever live there.
The Polynesian islander that Cook took to see the King and to dine at Kirkleatham Hall amongst other places was Omai. One of the aims of the 3rd voyage was to return Omai back to his island near Tahiti. Cook worked closely with a Polynesian prince and priest on his first voyage called Tupaia - he acted as translator and navigator and was revered by many of the peoples they encountered on the voyage. Tragically he died, like many in the crew, after taking ill from the appalling disease of the European staging post in Indonesia, on the way back to Britain.
Cook was schooled by Quakers and then worked for the Quaker shipping family the Walkers in Whitby. He remained friends with the Walkers through his life. We don't know how much of the Quaker faith and beliefs rubbed off on Cook but he was not a missionary he was a scientist. He at no point attempted to convert anyone to Christianity. The Quakers did not engage in the Slave Trade in fact they were vehement in their opposition against it. The Walkers made their money shipping coal and timber in the North Sea working out of Whitby at that time one of the main ports and ship building centres in the country.
I was wondering if you have any detailed information on his scientific focus? Did he discover any new ways of mapping or anything related? Moreover what was his connections to astronomers at the time or the astronomical society? I understand his had a lot of connections but I’m too sure where to look for this information. I’ve found snippets but nothing very interesting or detailed.
 

Redwurzel

Well-known member
Apologies to Rob,

First Voyage was about Transit of Venus which I think helped work out longtitude more accurately?

Jospeth Banks was taken another voyage? and he collected plants that were unique to the Pacific and Australia. These plants were taken to Kew Gardens. JB ws known as KGs first plant collector

Alaska trip was about trying to find NW passage.

Cook reduced scurvey in his crew by forcing them to take Lime Juice - hence Brits are called Limeys by Yanks.

Wan't part of the US Apollo Space programme called after Discovery and Endeavour - two of Cook's ships?
 

fmttmadmin

Administrator
Staff member
Apologies to Rob,

First Voyage was about Transit of Venus which I think helped work out longtitude more accurately?

Jospeth Banks was taken another voyage? and he collected plants that were unique to the Pacific and Australia. These plants were taken to Kew Gardens. JB ws known as KGs first plant collector

Alaska trip was about trying to find NW passage.

Cook reduced scurvey in his crew by forcing them to take Lime Juice - hence Brits are called Limeys by Yanks.

Wan't part of the US Apollo Space programme called after Discovery and Endeavour - two of Cook's ships?
Cook trained as a surveyor for the Royal Navy in Canada and had a real aptitude for it - he actually surveyed the St Lawrence River to allow General Wolfe to surprise Montcalm at the Battle of Quebec.
Cook was a member of the Royal Society and was selected for the First Voyage part sponsored by the Royal Society as he was a capable naval officer but it helped that he was also a proven surveyor and scientist. He helped with the astronomical readings together with the astronomer Charles Green. The Transit of Venus occurs twice a century and the first time it was messed up this time the Royal Society were taking no chances and sent off ships to different parts of the globe but their best hopes were with Green and Cook in Tahiti.
The passage of Venus in front of the sun allowed astronomers to do all sorts of measurements, like the size of the solar system.
Cook and Green were kind of successful in that they had a blurring of the outlines but were clever enough to largely get around this. When you think Cook was a second son of a labourer, he must have been a naturally gifted and very hard working mathematical genius. He trained the infamous Captain Bligh.
The super landed rich Joseph Banks part funded the voyage collecting flora and fauna - Cook gave them his cabin for this - and on his return Banks was the superstar, Cook largely overlooked, Banks set up the proto Kew Gardens from this voyage.
Mention of longitude, Cook was testing an early chronometer on these voyages. The watchmaker John Harrison invented a time mechanism that helped crack the problem of longitude and these voyages helped to make that massive step forward.
Scurvy - we have booked a lady from Australia called Debbie Gibson to speak at Captain Cook Birthplace Museum on Fri 21st Oct - part of her talk will be about the Monkhouse brothers, from Cumbria. One of them was supposed to log all the lemon juice, broth and sauerkraut the crew were eating and totally botched the job. They didn't know which one was responsible and actually came to the wrong conclusions. Cook continued to give his mariners all the possible cures and so no one actually died from scurvy. That was unheard of. Sadly, they didn't know why and used the wrong remedies afterwards.
 

fmttmadmin

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Cook used triangulation for surveying. The charts of Newfoundland he prepared for the Royal Navy were not superseded until 20th century satellite technology.
His navigational skills were passed on to William Bligh - who he trained. After the mutiny on the Bounty, Bligh was able to navigate by the stars and his navigation books. The mutineers kept the charts and chronometers. Bligh was at sea for seven weeks in a 23ft launch but he had a brilliant teacher in Cook and by dead reckoning managed to navigate to land. Amazing seamanship.
 

Expat Smoggie

Well-known member
Anyone care to provide information on Cook’s voyages to Hawaii and how they tied into science? Was there any part of his crew part of a science team other than Cook and Joseph Banks? Were the trips to Hawaii purely for botanical reasons? Hawaii (big island) has the largest view of the sky and therefore I was wondering if this was another reason for Cook’s visits?
 

redblood

Well-known member
Slightly off topic but you might also find the story of William Dawes who arrived in Sydney on the first fleet to be of interest.

I was a crane driver on the Sydney Harbour Bridge for ten years and I used to regularly walk past the observatory at Dawes Point.
Many people knew about the observatory but nobody knew about the man himself or his achievements, including myself.
I found out that he was a brilliant young child and was chosen to attend the Royal Academy at a very young age. He joined the
Royal Marines and upon arriving at Camp Cove ( Sydney ) he not only set up the observatory, he also led expeditions up the
Parramatta river in search of land suitable for farming and grazing.

He mapped and judged the distances for future explorations and also mapped areas in Sydney and Parramatta which were to become
the streets and allotments soon after.
Whilst at his observatory he befriended the local aborigines and shared what little food he had with them. He showed them his instruments
and of their uses. He would also point out to any given object and tell them what it was called in English and prompted them to give their
translation. He would jot down in his notebook every word that they spoke and remembered it well enough to have dialogue with them.
He was paramount in the understanding of the aboriginal language.

He was sent back to England because he refused to retract a statement that he made to the governor concerning a mission that he first refused
to go on. He was ordered to bring back the heads of some aborigines in retribution for the killing of the governors gamekeeper and upon
return, purposely empty handed, told the governor that he regretted going on such a mission and that he would never do so again.

Later in life he became governor of Sierra Leone several times and eventually went to the West Indies where he set up schools for the children
of slaves. He fought for the abolition of the slave trade and apparently spent the last of his money purchasing slaves in order to free them.
He eventually died lonely and penniless in Antigua.

It amazes me that someone who had achieved so much in life hasn't received the world wide acknowledgement that he deserves.

For those that may be interested in his story, I recommend the novel by Kate Grenville, The Lieutenant.
A fictional story based on the writings from Dawes personal notebooks, a wonderful and insightful read.
 
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