'A View of the Island of Otaheite, with several Vesels of that Island', c 1769.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving by Thomas Morris of Tahitians sailing and paddling rafts, from 'Complete History of Captain Cook's First, Second and Third Voyages' (1784). Captain James Cook (1728-1779), the famed navigator and hydrographer, transformed the West's knowledge of the Pacific region after making three exploratory voyages there and circumnavigating the globe twice. On this his first voyage (1768-1771), in the ship 'Endeavour', his mision was to observe the transit of Venus (1769) from Otaheite (now known as Tahiti, part of French Polynesia) and to seek out the fifth continent - Australia. The voyage achieved both these aims.