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Out in the middle of an unknown body of water, traveling distances only judged with elementary equipment, seeing life forms before anyone else on the earth. Covered in a constant layer of salt, your last meal consisted of stale water, sauerkraut and some salted packed meat. The trip lasts for years and it won't be your last. These trips were performed by many sailors but none as important to Oceanography as James Cook.
The reason for his travels was to establish British holdings in the southern seas. But while sailing he came across some of the most important findings of the eighteenth century. He set out first on the English ship the Endeavour in 1768, and traveled to Tahiti and observed the path of Venus across the sun. He did this to verify the calculations made earlier by Edmund Halley about planetary orbits. Next he sailed south and discovered and charted New Zealand. He then sailed North to Sydney, and the Endeavour suffered damage from crashing into the barrier reef. He then mapped the Great Barrier Reef during a two-month stay, while repairing the ships hull. He named this land New South Whales and claimed it in the name of England. When departing from Australia he sailed westward and proved that there was a new sea route in between New Guinea and Australia. Due to Cook being insistent on cleanliness and ventilation, as well a diet consisting of Vitamin C, the majority of his crew survived.
When Cook returned from his first voyage he still had one question left, and that was whether or not there was another continent in the south seas or if it was just a huge mass of water. He manned a new ship, the Resolution in 1772, for this next voyage as well as a secondary ship the Adventure. His goals of this trip were to discover the supposed seventh continent as well as a southern passage. He charted two islands, Tonga and Easter Island. He continued south trying to find the seventh continent, but ran into ice, and proposed that the ice could be connected to a landmass that no one has discovered yet. Even though he never reached this continent he did successfully circumnavigate the world and he was actually the first to circumnavigate the world at such high latitudes.
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Once again Cook left England in 1776 and sailed again in the Resolution but added a new ship the Discovery, and on this trip he discovered the Cook Islands, Christmas Island as well as some of the smaller islands of Hawaii. The main point of this trip was to discover the Northwest Passage around Canada and Alaska or a Northeast Passage above Siberia. He was unsuccessful in finding either the Northwest or the Northeast Passage but he did chart the west coast of North America. Cook then retraced his steps back to Hawaii where he loaded up again on supplies, but had gotten into a confrontation with the natives and was killed.
James Cook was not just an explorer, but he had so many other amazing accomplishments, many of which were the sprouts of a new science of Oceanography. "He and scientists aboard his ships took samples of marine life, as well as land plants and animals, the ocean floor, and geological formations: they also reported their characteristics in logbooks and journals." While at sea he mapped his navigated routes. These maps were even used in World War II during invasions of the pacific islands. James Cook was a pioneer of a science that didn't have a name until after his death, but his contributions to it will live on forever.