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Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii

(Captain) James Cook (1728 – 1779) was born in the small village of Marton near Middlesbrough. With his crews of sailors, scientists and artists, Cook famously explored the Pacific and Southern Oceans during three voyages made in the late 1700s. His voyages transformed knowledge and understanding among Europeans about the wider world and its people.

A view of Karakakooa, in Owyhee’, engraving of 1784 by W. Byrne after a drawing of 1779 by John Webber

The ships that made the three long voyages to the Pacific had to be sturdy and practical. Cook chose a type of ship called a ‘Whitby collier’, built to be solid and unlikely to run aground in shallow waters. These ships could also hold plenty of provisions and be managed by a small crew if necessary.

This image shows Cook’s ships Resolution and Discovery arriving in Kealakekua Bay in Hawaii, in 1779, during his third voyage. Canoes used by the islanders, including the large double hulled sailing canoes (wa‘a kaulua) can be seen in the foreground. Na Kanaka Maoli (the indigenous people), both paddled and sailed and most canoes were specialized in their use. A surfer can also be seen in the foreground. This was the first time Europeans would have seen anything like this, and the first known time the Hawaiian islanders encountered Europeans.

Find out more about Captain Cook, his crew and their voyages of exploration and encounter in the Exploring the wider world and beyond theme.

Image courtesy of Middlesbrough Museum Service