December 8, 1777 — Captain James Cook (Nov. 7, 1728-Feb. 14, 1779) left the Society Islands today.
The British explorer, navigator, cartographer, and captain in the Royal Navy made detailed maps of Newfoundland prior to making three voyages to the Pacific Ocean, during which he achieved the first recorded European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands, and the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand.
Cook joined the British merchant navy as a teenager and joined the Royal Navy in 1755. In three voyages, he sailed thousands of miles across largely uncharted areas of the globe and displayed a combination of seamanship, superior surveying and cartographic skills, physical courage and an ability to lead men in adverse conditions.
But in 1779, Cook was killed in Hawaii in a fight with Hawaiians during his third exploratory voyage in the Pacific. He left a legacy of scientific and geographical knowledge which was to influence his successors well into the 20th century and numerous memorials worldwide have been dedicated to him.
Words of Wisdom
Ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for man to go.