'The Endeavour approaching Otaheite', c 1772.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Title page with engraving by Watkins after Huggins from 'The voyages of Captain Cook' (1846). Captain James Cook (1728-1779), the famed navigator and hydrographer, transformed the West's knowledge of the Pacific region. During the first of his three voyages, in his ship the 'Endeavour', he charted and claimed for Britain the east coast of 'New Holland' (Australia). Cook visited 'Otaheite' (Tahiti, French Polynesia) and brought a Tahitian back to London on his second voyage. The principal aim of his third voyage was to find a northern sea passage between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Returning to Hawaii in 1779, a fight broke out and Cook was stabbed to death. The passage was finally discovered by Amundsen (1872-1928) in 1902-1906.