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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsNarrative Of The Voyages Round The World, Performed By Captain James Cook - Chapter I. Account of Captain Cook previous to his first Voyage round the World
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Narrative Of The Voyages Round The World, Performed By Captain James Cook - Chapter I. Account of Captain Cook previous to his first Voyage round the World Post by :Jeff_M Category :Nonfictions Author :Andrew Kippis Date :February 2011 Read :2777

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Narrative Of The Voyages Round The World, Performed By Captain James Cook - Chapter I. Account of Captain Cook previous to his first Voyage round the World

Account of Captain Cook, previous to his first Voyage round the World.

Captain James Cook had no claim to distinction on account of the
lustre of his birth, or the dignity of his ancestors. His father,
James Cook, who from his dialect is supposed to have been a
Northumbrian, was in the humble station of a servant in husbandry, and
married a woman of the same rank with himself, whose Christian name
was Grace. Both of them were noted in their neighbourhood for their
honesty, sobriety, and diligence. They first lived at a village called
Morton, and then removed to Marton, another village in the
North-riding of Yorkshire, situated in the high road from Gisborough,
in Cleveland, to Stockton upon Tees, in the county of Durham, at the
distance of six miles from each of these towns. At Morton, Captain
Cook was born, on the 27th of October, 1728;(1) and, agreeably to the
custom of the vicar of the parish, whose practice it was to baptize
infants soon after their birth, he was baptized on the 3rd of November
following. He was one of nine children, all of whom are now dead,
excepting a daughter, who married a fisherman at Redcar. The first
rudiments of young Cook's education were received by him at Marton,
where he was taught to read by dame Walker, the schoolmistress of the
village. When he was eight years of age, his father, in consequence of
the character he had obtained for industry, frugality, and skill in
husbandry, had a little promotion bestowed upon him, which was that of
being appointed head-servant, or hind,(2) to a farm belonging to the
late Thomas Skottow, Esq. called Airy Holme, near Great Ayton. To this
place, therefore, he removed with his family;(3) and his son James, at
Mr. Skottow's expense, was put to a day-school in Ayton, where he was
instructed in writing, and in a few of the first rules of arithmetic.

(Footnote 1: The mud house in which Captain Cook drew his first
breath is pulled down, and no vestiges of it are now remaining.)

(Footnote 2: This is the name which, in that part of the country,
is given to the head-servant, or bailiff, of a farm.)

(Footnote 3: Mr. Cook, senior, spent the close of his life with
his daughter, at Redcar, and is supposed to have been about
eighty-five years of age when he died.)

Before he was thirteen years of age, he was bound an apprentice to Mr.
William Sanderson, a haberdasher, or shopkeeper, at Straiths, a
considerable fishing town, about ten miles north of Whitby. This
employment, however, was very unsuitable to young Cook's disposition.
The sea was the object of his inclination; and his passion for it
could not avoid being strengthened by the situation of the town in
which he was placed, and the manner of life of the persons with whom
he must frequently converse. Some disagreement having happened between
him and his master, he obtained his discharge, and soon after bound
himself for seven years to Messrs. John and Henry Walker, of Whitby,
Quakers by religious profession, and principal owners of the ship
Freelove, and of another vessel, both of which were constantly
employed in the coal trade. The greatest part of his apprenticeship
was spent on board the Freelove. After he was out of his time, he
continued to serve in the coal and other branches of trade (though
chiefly in the former) in the capacity of a common sailor; till, at
length, he was raised to be mate of one of Mr. John Walker's ships.
During this period it is not recollected that he exhibited anything
very peculiar, either in his abilities or his conduct; though there
can be no doubt but that he had gained a considerable degree of
knowledge in the practical part of navigation, and that his attentive
and sagacious mind was laying up a store of observations, which would
be useful to him in future life.

In the spring of the year 1755, when hostilities broke out between
England and France, and there was a hot press for seamen, Mr. Cook
happened to be in the river Thames with the ship to which he belonged.
At first he concealed himself, to avoid being pressed; but reflecting,
that it might be difficult, notwithstanding all his vigilance, to
elude discovery or escape pursuit, he determined, upon farther
consideration, to enter voluntarily into his majesty's service, and to
take his future fortune in the royal navy. Perhaps he had some presage
in his own mind, that by his activity and exertions he might rise
considerably above his present situation. Accordingly, he went to a
rendezvous at Wapping, and entered with an officer of the Eagle man of
war, a ship of sixty guns, at that time commanded by Captain Hamer. To
this ship Captain (afterward Sir Hugh) Palliser was appointed, in the
month of October, 1755; and when he took the command, found in her
James Cook, whom he soon distinguished to be an able, active, and
diligent seaman. All the officers spoke highly in his favour, and the
Captain was so well pleased with his behaviour, that he gave him every
encouragement which lay in his power.

In the course of some time, Captain Palliser received a letter from
Mr. Osbaldeston, then member of Parliament for Scarborough,
acquainting him that several neighbours of his had solicited him to
write in favour of one Cook, on board the captain's ship. They had
heard that Captain Palliser had taken notice of him, and they
requested, if he thought Cook deserving of it, that he would point out
in what manner Mr. Osbaldeston might best contribute his assistance
towards forwarding the young man's promotion. The captain, in his
reply, did justice to Cook's merit; but, as he had been only a short
time in the navy, informed Mr. Osbaldeston that he could not be
promoted as a commission officer. A master's warrant, Captain Palliser
added, might perhaps be procured for Mr. Cook, by which he would be
raised to a station that he was well qualified to discharge with
ability and credit.

Such a warrant he obtained on the 10th of May, 1759, for the Grampus
sloop; but the proper master having unexpectedly returned to her, the
appointment did not take place. Four days after he was made master of
the Garland; when, upon inquiry, it was found, that he could not join
her, as the ship had already sailed. On the next day, the 15th of May,
he was appointed to the Mercury. These quick and successive
appointments shew that his interest was strong, and that the intention
to serve him was real and effectual.

The destination of the Mercury was to North America, where she joined
the fleet under the command of Sir Charles Saunders, which, in
conjunction with the land forces under General Wolfe, was engaged in
the famous siege of Quebec. During that siege, a difficult and
dangerous service was necessary to be performed. This was to take the
soundings in the channel of the river St. Lawrence, between the island
of Orleans and the north shore, directly in the front of the French
fortified camp at Montmorency and Beauport, in order to enable the
admiral to place ships against the enemy's batteries, and to cover our
army on a general attack, which the heroic Wolfe intended to make on
the camp. Captain Palliser, in consequence of his acquaintance with
Mr. Cook's sagacity and resolution, recommended him to the service;
and he performed it in the most complete manner. In this business he
was employed during the night-time, for several nights together. At
length he was discovered by the enemy, who collected a great number of
Indians and canoes, in a wood near the waterside, which were launched
in the night, for the purpose of surrounding him, and cutting him off.
On this occasion, he had a very narrow escape. He was obliged to run
for it, and pushed on shore on the island of Orleans, near the guard
of the English hospital. Some of the Indians entered at the stern of
the boat, as Mr. Cook leaped out at the bow; and the boat, which was a
barge belonging to one of the ships of war, was carried away in
triumph. However, he furnished the admiral with as correct and
complete a draught of the channel and soundings as could have been
made after our countrymen were in possession of Quebec. Sir Hugh
Palliser had good reason to believe, that before this time Mr. Cook
had scarcely ever used a pencil, and that he knew nothing of drawing.
But such was his capacity, that he speedily made himself master of
every object to which he applied his attention.

Another important service was performed by Mr. Cook while the fleet
continued in the river of St. Lawrence. The navigation of that river
is exceedingly difficult and hazardous. It was particularly so to the
English, who were then in a great measure strangers to this part of
North America, and who had no chart, on the correctness of which they
could depend. It was therefore ordered by the admiral, that Mr. Cook
should be employed to survey those parts of the river, below Quebec,
which navigators had experienced to be attended with peculiar
difficulty and danger; and he executed the business with the same
diligence and skill of which he had already afforded so happy a
specimen. When he had finished the undertaking, his chart of the river
St. Lawrence was published, with soundings, and directions for sailing
in that river. Of the accuracy and utility of this chart, it is
sufficient to say, that it hath never since been found necessary to
publish any other. One, which has appeared in France, is only a copy
of our author's, on a reduced scale.

After the expedition at Quebec, Mr. Cook, by warrant from Lord
Colvill, was appointed, on the 22d of September, 1759, master of the
Northumberland man of war, the ship in which his lordship staid, in
the following winter, as commodore, with the command of a squadron at
Halifax. In this station, Mr. Cook's behaviour did not fail to gain
him the esteem and friendship of his commander. During the leisure,
which the season of winter afforded him, he employed his time in the
acquisition of such knowledge as eminently qualified him for future
service. It was at Halifax that he first read Euclid, and applied
himself to the study of astronomy and other branches of science. The
books of which he had the assistance were few in number: but his
industry enabled him to supply many defects, and to make a progress
far superior to what could be expected from the advantages he enjoyed.

While Mr. Cook was master of the Northumberland under Lord Colvill,
that ship came to Newfoundland in September, 1762, to assist in the
recapture of the island from the French, by the forces under the
command of Lieutenant-colonel Amherst. When the island was recovered,
the English fleet staid some days at Placentia, in order to put it in
a more complete state of defence. During this time Mr. Cook manifested
a diligence in surveying the harbour and heights of the place, which
arrested the notice of Captain (now Admiral) Graves, commander of the
Antelope, and governor of Newfoundland. The governor was hence induced
to ask Cook a variety of questions, from the answers to which he was
led to entertain a very favourable opinion of his abilities. This
opinion was increased, the more he saw of Mr. Cook's conduct; who,
wherever they went, continued to display the most unremitting
attention to every object that related to the knowledge of the coast,
and was calculated to facilitate the practice of navigation. The
esteem which Captain Graves had conceived for him was confirmed by the
testimonies to his character, that were given by all the officers
under whom he served.

In the latter end of 1762, Mr. Cook returned to England; and, on the
21st of December, in the same year married, at Barking in Essex, Miss
Elizabeth Batts, an amiable and deserving woman, who was justly
entitled to and enjoyed his tenderest regard and affection. But his
station in life, and the high duties to which he was called, did not
permit him to partake of matrimonial felicity, without many and very
long interruptions.

Early in the year 1763, after the peace with France and Spain was
concluded, it was determined that Captain Graves should go out again,
as governor of Newfoundland As the country was very valuable in a
commercial view, and had been an object of great contention between
the English and the French, the captain obtained an establishment for
the survey of its coasts; which, however, he procured with some
difficulty, because the matter was not sufficiently understood by
government at home. In considering the execution of the plan, Mr. Cook
appeared to Captain Graves to be a proper person for the purpose; and
proposals were made to him, to which, notwithstanding his recent
marriage, he readily and prudently acceded. Accordingly, he went out
with the Captain as surveyor; and was first employed to survey
Miquelon and St. Pierre, which had been ceded by the treaty to the
French, who, by order of administration, were to take possession of
them at a certain period, even though the English commander should not
happen to be arrived in the country. When Captain Graves had reached
that part of the world, he found there the governor who had been sent
from France (Mons. D'Anjac), with all the settlers and his own family,
on board a frigate and some transports. It was contrived, however, to
keep them in that disagreeable situation for a whole month, which was
the time taken by Mr. Cook to complete his survey. When the business
was finished, the French were put into possession of the two islands,
and left in the quiet enjoyment of them, with every profession of

At the end of the season, Mr. Cook returned to England, but did not
long continue at home. In the beginning of the year 1764, his old and
constant friend and patron, Sir Hugh Palliser, was appointed governor
and commodore of Newfoundland and Labradore; upon which occasion he
was glad to take Mr. Cook with him, in the same capacity that he had
sustained under Captain Graves. Indeed, no man could have been found
who was better qualified for finishing the design which had been begun
in the preceding year. The charts of the coasts, in that part of North
America were very erroneous; and it was highly necessary to the trade
and navigation of his majesty's subjects, that new ones should be
formed, which would be more correct and useful. Accordingly, under the
orders of Commodore Palliser, Mr. Cook was appointed on the 18th of
April, 1764, marine surveyor of Newfoundland and Labradore; and he had
a vessel, the Grenville schooner, to attend him for that purpose. How
well he executed his commission is known to every man acquainted with
navigation. The charts which he afterward published of the different
surveys he had made, reflected great credit on his abilities and
character, and the utility of them is universally acknowledged. It is
understood, that, so far as Newfoundland is concerned they were of
considerable service to the king's ministers, in settling the terms of
the last peace. Mr. Cook explored the inland parts of this island in a
much completer manner than had ever been done before. By penetrating
further into the middle of the country than any man had hitherto
attempted, he discovered several large lakes, which are indicated upon
the general chart. In these services Mr. Cook appears to have been
employed, with the intervals of occasionally returning to England for
the winter season, till the year 1767, which was the last time that he
went out upon his station of marine surveyor of Newfoundland. It must
not be omitted, that, while he occupied this post, he had an
opportunity of exhibiting to the Royal Society a proof of his progress
in the study of astronomy. A short paper was written by him, and
inserted in the fifty-seventh volume of the Philosophical
Transactions, entitled, 'An Observation of an Eclipse of the Sun at
the Island of Newfoundland, August 5, 1766, with the Longitude of the
place of Observation deduced from it.' The observation was made at one
of the Burgeo islands, near Cape Ray, in latitude 47 36' 19", on the
south-west extremity of Newfoundland. Mr. Cook's paper having been
communicated by Dr. Bevis to Mr. Witchell, the latter gentleman
compared it with an observation at Oxford, by the Rev. Mr. Hornsby, on
the same eclipse, and thence computed the difference of longitude
respecting the places of observation, making due allowance for the
effect of parallax, and the prolate spheroidal figure of the earth. It
appears from the Transactions that our navigator had already obtained
the character of being an able mathematician.

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