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Drawings by John Webber from Cook’s voyages of exploration

These drawings of animals from around the world were made as a result of Captain Cook’s famous voyages of exploration. At the time, most people in Britain had never seen animals like this before.

Drawings by John Webber from Cook’s voyages of exploration, 1776-80 (published 1784)

James Cook (1728 – 1779) was born in Marton, near Middlesbrough. With his crews of sailors, scientists and artists, Cook explored the Pacific and Southern Oceans during three voyages made in the late 1700s. They made detailed descriptions and sketches of the people, places, plants and animals they encountered and brought objects and specimens back to Britain, capturing the public’s imaginations with images of ‘alien’ animal species like Dingoes and Kangaroos.

At the time, the voyages transformed knowledge and understanding among Europeans about the wider world and its people. These creatures – a sea otter from North West America, an opossum from Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania) and a ‘white bear’ (polar bear) found in the North Pacific Ocean – were drawn by John Webber (1751 – 1793), the artist on Cook’s third voyage.

Image courtesy of Middlesbrough Museum Service