1763 - 1767, Cook began surveying the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, and spent the winters at home preparing his charts, which gained him a reputation for accuracy.
In 1768 the Government were looking for a man to command a ship for a cruise to the Pacific with the object of observing the transit of Venus. Venus was due to pass in front of the sun - a rare event that can be used to measure the distance of the sun to the earth. James Cook was the ideal man for the post; he was given a ship, the Endeavour, and with a company of eighty-five set sail from Plymouth in August 1768, for the first of his three great voyages. Cook sailed down to 40° latitude but found there was no land. In accordance with his instruction he turned and headed towards New Zealand, which had previously been 'discovered' by the Dutchman Abel Tasman, but was also told to search for terra australis incognita (the un-known southern land).In 1770, the Endeavour reached Botany Bay, and on 26th August, Cook claimed the land for Britain.
In 1772, on a new expedition, James Cook commanded the Resolution and was accompanied by the Adventure. The two ships headed for the Cape of Good Hope. They travelled south, crossing the Antarctic Circle in January 1773. They continued to New Zealand, and explored the South Pacific. The two ships lost contact, and the Adventure returned to England, becoming the first ship to circumnavigate the world.
After Cook's death, the British Government were looking for an alternative penal settlement after losing the American Colonies in the American Revolution. Settlement in Australia began in 1788 with the arrival of Captain Arthur Phillip. He came across a perfect natural harbour which he named after the then Home Secretary, Lord Sydney. The transporting of British convicts began.
Cook was a practical seaman, who understood the importance of vitamin C to maintain the health of his crew, but on his third and final journey, in command of the Resolution, he did not deal so well with the Hawaiians he encountered when he landed on their island .
Misjudging the situation, he took their king hostage, after some hostility. Then during a brawl in another part of the island, one of the Hawaiian chiefs, Chief Kalimu, was killed by one of Cook's party. News of this reached the king just as Captain Cook was leading his hostage down to the Resolution. The Hawaiians had by now started to distrust Cook's intentions, and attacked the English group. Cook remained aloof from the fighting, until one warrior crept up behind him and hit him on the head with a large club. Other warriors then joined in attacking him with daggers, causing him to fall in the water. Cook managed to get his head up again, but another warrior gave him a shattering blow - and Cook went down for the last time.
An full size replica of HM Bark Endeavour, built in Australia, has berthed in Whitby Harbour on several occasions. Today, the ship Grand Turk, used in the ITV "Hornblower" series, is usually berthed on the Endeavour's moorings. A small replica of HM Bark Endeavour, only 40% in length, built by Parkol Marine in Whitby, still takes visitors out of the harbour and into the North Sea (but not very far).