Captain James Cook, British navigator, 1776.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraved frontispiece by Scriven after Dance from 'The voyages of Captain Cook' (1846). Cook (1728-1779), the famed navigator and hydrographer, transformed the West's knowledge of the Pacific region. During the first of his three voyages he observed the transit of Venus and charted and claimed for Britain the east coast of 'New Holland' (Australia). Cook brought a Tahitian back to London on his second voyage. The principal aim of his third voyage was to find a northern sea pasage between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Having set sail from Hawaii in 1779, Cook returned to the islands after his ship was damaged. A fight broke out and he was stabbed to death. The pasage was finally discovered by Amundsen (1872-1928) in 1902-1906.