Before we leave Cooktown behind, I want to say a few words about Captain Cook. I cover his life story in my book, but there are lots of things that got left out. Cook was a remarkable man, and I could probably write a whole book on him. (Actually, I have written a kids’ book on James Cook, but that was for a school history program.)
But here are a few cool facts for you.
• Two United States space shuttles—the Endeavour and Discovery—were named for ships that James Cook commanded. (So now you know why we used the British spelling for Endeavour on a U.S. spacecraft.)
• A piece of wood that some people believe came from James Cook’s first ship, the Endeavour, was carried into space aboard the space shuttle Endeavour.
• The reports and drawings from Cook’s voyages are so detailed that native peoples in some of the places he visited are using the materials to learn about their ancestors, culture, and history.
• Cook had to work hard to get ahead, because his parents were poor. In his day, it was assumed that being poor meant you didn’t have much in the way of brains, talent, or courage. Cook proved them wrong.
• One of the several sciences Cook mastered was the then-new science of surveying. In spite of the fact that the science was new, Cook immediately recognized its potential usefulness. Cook’s survey of the St. Lawrence River helped General Wolfe land safely at Quebec, where he won Canada for Britain.
• As skilled as Cook was as a surveyor, it was his scientific papers on the sun and planets that brought him to the attention of the scientists who would send him on his first great voyage to the South Pacific—to observe the transit of Venus. It was after observing this phenomenon that Cook went on to survey New Zealand and the east coast of Australia.
Vastly more could be said, but I’ll stop there.