Captain James Cook

From humble beginnings to national hero, Captain James Cook is one of history's best known and most controversial explorers. Read all about his life, from expertly charting the coasts of New Zealand and Australia and crossing the Antarctic Circle, to his fatal end in Hawaii.

Discover his story, and the legacy of his actions, in our Sackler Gallery: Pacific Encounters

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While Cook fails to find the North-West Passage, it is his discovery of Hawaii that will prove to be his undoing.


The artist William Hodges accompanied Captain Cook on his second voyage to the Pacific in 1772-74. 


Captain James Cook came out of retirement to look for the North-West Passage in 1776. It was to be his last expedition and he never returned home.


When Captain Cook returned from his first voyage he brought with him the term ‘tattoo’ if not the practice itself.

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Library Assistant Sonia Bacca looks at some fascinating Tongan dances, seen through our archives. 


Who would have guessed that the clue to solving a long running mystery about the final resting place of one of the world’s most famous ships lay buried in some fairly unassuming records in the Museum’s Caird Library?


The Board of Longitude contributed to many Georgian voyages of 'science' and exploration, as did individual Commissioners including Astronomers Royal like Nevil Maskelyne and Presidents of the Royal Society like Joseph Banks. The surviving archives of the Board reveal much about the scientific and technological endeavours carried out at sea and on land during these journeys and a certain degree about the general conditions and experiences encountered by the crew. However, they shed less (and more biased) light on another important expedition variable - the interactions of the voyagers with the indigenous peoples whom they encountered.


Our item of the month is is the two volume work The Voyage of La Perouse round the world in the years 1785, 1786, 1787 and 1788.


Today's guest blog was written by Jack Ashby, Manager of the Grant Museum of Zoology and curator of the Strange Creatures exhibition. He talks to us about the appearance of Stubbs' kangaroo and the ways in which imagery has been used to bring newly discovered animals into the public eye.


No one before (and few since) rose so far and so fast from a simple rural background to national fame. Cook was marked for greatness from the outset.