James Cook (1728-1779) was born in the village of Marton near Middlesbrough and later apprenticed to a draper in the small fishing harbour of Staithes (11 miles north of Whitby). There he fell in love with the sea and his time in Staithes is remembered in the Captain Cook and Staithes Heritage Centre. Later he moved to Whitby and became a trainee with a local shipping firm. The house where he lodged with his master is still in Whitby's Grape Lane and is now open to the public as the Captain Cook Memorial Museum. Later, he joined the Royal Navy and was rapidly promoted to a command.
It is as Captain Cook that the world still knows him – the man who charted the coast of New Zealand and the eastern coast of Australia and who was one of the greatest surveyors as well as one of the finest sailors and explorers of all time. He learned his craft in Whitby vessels trading to the Baltic and two of the vessels he used on his long and perilous voyages – ‘Resolution’ and ‘Endeavour’ were built in Whitby.