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Posts Tagged ‘Canada’

So how is our shopkeeper from the little coastal village of Staithes fairing?  We left off in the last byte with our shopkeeper hitting the high seas and heading for Canada with the British Navy….

Well, Cook arrives in Halifax, Canada in May 1758, where in short order he takes part in the siege of Louisbourg which effectively ended French control in Canada. And so starts Cook’s near 10 year engagement with Canada, its coast, rivers and tributaries. These were to be critical years that transforms this shopkeeper into the pre-eminent navigator/explorer of his time.

Following the surrender of the French, Cook’s ship involved itself with the ferrying of troops up the St. Lawrence River for a planned British assault on Quebec. This gave ample opportunity for Cook to further refine his mapping and navigation skills. During this time he was mentored and tutored in how to survey and chart by Samuel Holland, an army surveyor-engineer.

Holland did his work well and Cooks work soon so impressed Admiral Saunders under whom he served that Saunders arranges for his charts to be published (Saunders went on to become a very influential First Lord of the Admiralty and future supporter of Cook’s abilities).

Cook’s career progression continued, and he was next transferred to the gun ship Northumberland, where he served as its Master for the next two years (a Master is responsible for the navigation and steering of the vessel).

In the meantime the French turned their attention towards Newfoundland on the east coast of Canada and its important cod fisheries. With this new French threat the need for accurate maps was never greater and Cook was the obvious answer. The new Governor of Newfoundland appointed him ‘marine surveyor of the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.’ As a part of this appointment Cook was entrusted with his first command, that of the HMS Grenville, a 12 gun schooner. Cook continued in this role until 1767.

Cook’s mapping and surveying skills over this time gained him the technical reputation and contacts that was to allow our shopkeeper to elevate himself to almost “superstar status” within Britain later in life.

But by design or fate, there was another activity that also played an important role in shaping his destiny. During 1766 he made detailed observations of the eclipse of the sun. Again his eye for detail and accuracy came to the fore. It was if all the “stars were aligning” to make him the obvious choice for any future voyage of discovery. For there was to be a rare transit of Venus in 1769, visible in the South Pacific.

During his time in Canada Cook took time to return to Britain and marry Elizabeth Batts. They went on to have five sons and one daughter, the first, James, being born in 1763.

But it was in 1767, upon his return to Britain, when it became clear that he was a man capable of making good on his claim to go as far as any man could go…

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Another View of Captain James Cook from Today:

“Few things have plummeted more disastrously than Cook’s reputation,” Mr. McLynn writes in his book “Captain Cook: Master of the Seas.”. “In the Victorian era he was the classic Boy’s Own hero, saint and martyr, bringing light to benighted savages, perceived as a larger-than-life figure from the long eighteenth century who died, like Wolfe and Nelson, while fighting for empire.” But he has become, according to the prejudices of our era, “racist, imperialist, [a] man of violence and spreader of venereal disease” and thus “the object of almost universal execration in all societies that have lived through colonialism.”

Your thoughts….???

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