Statue at the Cook 250 festival sharing James Cook facts

Captain James Cook facts 

There’s a lot to take in when learning about the life of Captain Cook. Have a read of these easy to remember James Cook facts and impress your friends and colleagues.

11 James Cook facts

1. Cook was born in the Yorkshire village of Marton,  28 October, 1728.

2. His father was a Scottish farm hand, who moved the family to Great Ayton when Cook was 8.

3. Cook moved to Whitby and became an apprentice in a Quaker-owned shipping company. He trained and took coal between Newcastle and London.

4. During the Seven Years’ War, Cook served in the Royal Navy. He became Master in 1757 on HMS Solebay and later that year transferred to HMS Pembroke.

5. In 1762, Cook married Elizabeth Batts. They had 6 children, who all died without having children of their own. Elizabeth outlived her husband and her children, living until she was 93.

6. HMS Endeavour wasn’t the only ship Cook commanded; though it was the one he was sailing on his first journey when he mapped New Zealand and the east coast of Australia. The HMS Resolution was Cook’s ship for his second and third voyages, not HMS Endeavour.

7. Two other ships accompanied Cook on his exploration. HMS Adventure sailed with him on his second voyage, and HMS Discovery journeyed with him to the explore the north west American coast.

8. In June 1770, HMS Endeavour was damaged by the Great Barrier Reef. Cook and his crew spent time repairing it on the beaches of Australia.

9. Cook was awarded the Copley Medal by the Royal Society in 1776 for completing his 1772-75 voyage without losing a man to scurvy. He didn’t actually receive the award though, as he had already sailed on his third voyage.

10. Hawaiians killed Cook in 1779 in a fight started by a stolen boat. They treated it to the funeral rites usually only performed on their elders and chiefs and some of his bones were later returned to his crew for a formal burial at sea.

11. The foremast on HMS Resolution broke as they were leaving Hawaii. This meant Cook had to extend their stay in Kealakekua Bay and created the opportunity for the fight that leads to his death.

Find out more

A big thanks to the Captain Cook Society for their help with this piece. You can also find out more about the life and adventures of Cook and visit the Captain Cook Memorial Museum in Whitby, or the Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum in Great Ayton for more interesting James Cook facts.

Want to find out more about Captain Cook? Take a look at our other blogs about his life, family and journeys.

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