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Biographies Unit Biographies

James Cook 1728-1779
Navigator and Explorer

James Cook was the son of a Scottish farmer. He went to sea as a teenager, sailing trade ships on the North Sea. Cook was a good sailor. He could have commanded his own trade ship, but he wanted adventure. He decided to join the British navy.

In the navy, Cook showed an interest in exploration and mapping. In 1768, he was named commander of a scientific expedition to the southern Pacific. On this trip he explored the coasts of New Zealand and Australia. On his next voyage he explored the icy Antarctic, sailing all the way around the bottom of the globe. On his third and last voyage, Cook searched the northern Pacific for a sea route to the Atlantic. He did not find it because it does not exist, but he mapped the northwest coast of North America.

During his lifetime, Cook mapped thousands of miles of coastline. He added a great deal to what people knew about the world.

Comprehension Check

What did Cook map on his last voyage?

Critical Thinking

What character traits would you use to describe James Cook? Explain your answer.