Chris Scott Wilson Writer
...more Captain Cook, Man of the Sea
Who Became a Legend
Like many men of the sea, James Cook was born of the land. His father was a farm labourer, but from their cottage tall masts could be seen as merchantmen navigated the treacherous estuary of the River Tees on Yorkshire’s East coast. It may have been the sight of those first billowing sails as ships tacked upriver on their way to discharge cargo at Stockton that awoke excitement in James Cook’s heart and an awareness of a wide world beyond the village of his birth. Only later with the shifting deck of a cat-bark beneath his feet and taut canvas above, did Cook realise his vocation, a calling that would carry him over the broad oceans of the world, almost farther than any man had ventured. Three times around the whole circumference of the earth, and both north and south into the ice of each polar cap.
Looking from a 21st century perspective, these voyages do not appear startling, but it must be remembered in the last three centuries the world has been shrunk dramatically by ever-increasing speeds of travel, making it possible to reach Australia in under one day. Another factor we take for granted is instant world-wide communication by telephone and internet. Perhaps it is easier to appreciate Cook’s achievements by comparing them with those of our astronauts, both of them mastering that distance between launch and destination and its safety, but we are talking of a time when we had barely gone beyond believing the world was flat – only disproved about 250 years before Cook, the same time-span between today and Cook’s discoveries. Just like the astronauts, Cook was facing the unknown, but he had to work out the route himself. And once he was there, before he could return he had to work out the route back.
James Cook was born into a century of great seamen when the king’s ships were commanded by the likes of Rodney or Cochrane, etc whose daring exploits engineered the belief that English captains would always triumph even when faced with the greatest adversity - outnumbered, outsailed and outgunned. Those captains deserved the title hero, serving their country courageously and for the most part selflessly, culminating in that greatest of victories at Trafalgar in 1805, earning immortal fame for Admiral Horatio