What if we told you that Columbus isn’t the only world explorer who deserves a holiday?
This week in history marks the 250th anniversary of Captain James Cook and his crew becoming the first Europeans to sail below the Antarctic Circle! But why exactly is this date significant, and why should we include James Cook in our children’s history lessons?
Let’s learn a bit more about James Cook and his many adventures.
Looking to dive into the wonderful world of seafaring and explorers? We can help make it smooth sailing with our many hands-on resources, ranging from our New World Explorers Time Travelers Study to our Historical Timeline Figures!
Who Was Captain James Cook?
Before James Cook’s discoveries, the map of the world looked very different.
James Cook, a British explorer, captain, navigator, and cartographer, is known for conducting three famous expeditions to the Pacific Ocean between 1768-1779. During this time, he discovered and charted several islands, including the Hawaiian Islands, New Zealand, and Australia. He also found many coastlines from the Arctic to the Antarctic.
Born October 27, 1728, James Cook was the son of a Scottish farmhand migrant. At a young age, Cook showed plenty of potential with his curious mind. However, it wasn’t until taking an apprenticeship at a general store on the coast of Whitby that Cook would spark his interest in ships.
He then would be the apprentice of a well-respected shipowner and Quaker, John Walker, at the age of 18 and quickly become a seaman of the Walker collier-bark. While sailing the Whitby barks, Cook underwent many treacherous routes and received some of the best hands-on training he could get.
This fearlessness promoted him to command a bark in the North Sea. However, Cook decided to join the Royal Navy instead, hoping for better opportunities and advancement.
What Was Captain James Cook Most Known For?
It wasn’t until 1768 that he was asked to command the first scientific expedition of the Pacific. In six months, Cook found and charted New Zealand. He even took a detour on the way home and found the southeast coast of Australia.
During this voyage, he also accomplished a remarkable feat for that time – being that none of his crew died of scurvy. Cook credited this to feeding his crew a sufficient diet of sauerkraut, wort of malt, and lemon and lime juice. He also had strict cleaning regimes onboard to help prevent illness.
Upon returning to England, Cook was presented to King George III and promoted to commander of more expeditions, one of his most famous being the crossing of the Antarctic Circle on January 17, 1773.
What exactly did Captain James Cook discover that day?
Traveling with his ship among icebergs, fog, and below-freezing temperatures, Cook ventured south, finally disproving the hypothetical continent, Terra Australis. During this voyage, he also discovered many other islands that would change the history of geography.
How Did Captain James Cook Die?
Cook's adventures weren’t finished just yet. One legend he longed to discover was whether or not a northwest passage existed around Canada and Alaska, or a northeast one around Siberia. On the journey in July of 1776, Cook came upon the Hawaiian islands, where he would later meet his death by a group of angry natives.
Teaching Your Kids About the Legacy of Captain James Cook
Cook explored the south farther than any other explorers of his time, changing the world’s map closer to what we know today. Not only did Cook map out the coastlines of New Zealand, Australia, and several other islands, but he also debunked many geographical myths and was even the first European to discover the Hawaiian Islands.
His advancements in navigation, cartography, and the overall being of men at sea changed how we apply science and seafaring. With so much to unpack, it may seem overwhelming. But don’t fret! We have some resources to help you learn about James Cook and many other vital explorers.
To start, we have several timeline figures to help your kids better understand where explorers like James Cook specifically showed up in history. Cook appears in our Resurrection to Revolution and America’s History timeline sets. However, we also have a larger collection of timeline figures called History Through the Ages, which covers from the world’s creation all the way to modern day.
Cook, as well as many other important explorers, can be found in our New Work Explorers Time Traveler Study, which includes a slew of hands-on studies covering topics like the reasons for exploration, a sailor’s life, ships, navigation, 23 explorer profiles, pirates, and more!
Become an Explorer of History!
Are you ready to take on the world like our good, old friend James Cook? We hope this important day in history encourages you and your kiddos to look at the life of the many explorers brave enough to go where no one else had before!