David Disiere is what you might call a history buff. Those that know him probably know this already. But what they might not know is that out of all of the historical figures, it’s the great explorations of Captain James Cook that holds him truly captivated.
This may seem like an odd choice for a highly successful, modern-day entrepreneur, but when you consider the traits required of an 18th century world explorer – integrity, determination, accountability, adaptability and passion, along with the ability to lead and an indomitable spirit – it starts to make perfect sense. These same traits and the desire to achieve greatness are the very things that drive successful individuals like David Disiere in today’s business world, so it makes sense that people like him would seek to learn more about these historic figures.
According to David Disiere, Captain Cook is the greatest explorer that ever lived. He believes there is much to be learned from the famous voyager, so much so, that he has studied his life and times for many years and is a collector books and maps pertaining to the Cook’s life.
So who was Captain James Cook, and what makes him such an influential figure to many even today?
Captain Cook was born on October, 27, 1728, in a small Yorkshire village in northern England. The son of a Scottish farmhand, he was fortunate to be schooled until 12 years of age before spending his teenage years working on the farm. Things took a big turn for Cook, however, when he took a grocery store apprenticeship in the coastal town of Whitby. Here, Cook would discover his love for the mighty ocean and the ships that sailed it.
Cook was just 18 years of age when he was apprenticed to Quaker ship owner John Walker of Whitby, making the rank of ab le seaman three years later. He was promoted to mate in 1752 and offered command of his own bark three years later, but Cook decided instead to join the Royal Navy as an able seaman. Cook had continued his studies in mathematics, geography, charting and astronomy throughout his years at sea, and it was this knowledge and his natural leadership abilities that earmarked him for quick advancement with his superiors.
Cook was promoted to ship’s master and during the Seven Years’ War he was given command of a captured ship. He participated in conflicts in Quebec and modern-day Nova Scotia, and after the war ended he surveyed the coast of Newfoundland for the navy. He also married Elizabeth Batts, with whom he had six children over the years.
In 1768, Cook was given command of a scientific expedition to the South Pacific, where he was to observe the Transit of Venus to aid the Royal Society in their quest to determine the distance between the earth and the sun. Once the observation was complete, he was to search for the Southern Continent, Terra Australis, which many believed existed but had yet to be found.
After their observation of the transit in Tahiti was complete, the HMS Endeavour headed south and southwest where they discovered New Zealand. It took Cook six months to circumnavigate the islands and chart their coastlines before heading west across the Tasman Sea and reaching Australia – known then as New Holland – in 1770. Cook landed in Botany Bay and claimed the land for Britain before continuing the journey north. He became the first known European to survey the 2,000-mile eastern coast of Australia, including the notoriously hazardous Great Barrier Reef. From here, The Endeavour returned to England.
In 1772, Cook set out on his second voyage with two ships this time – Resolution and Adventure – still in search of the fabled Southern Continent. Circumnavigating the world for the second time, Cook travelled as far south as the Antarctic Circle, but found no other continent. On this voyage, Cook and his crew became the first men to cross the Antarctic Circle, sailing further south than any other explorers in history. On this voyage Cook charted many new islands including Tonga and Easter Island, and he discovered New Caledonia, the South Sandwich Islands and South Georgia Island.
As was the case with his first voyage, not one of his crew died of scurvy during the three-year expedition thanks to the inclusion of orange extract, sauerkraut and watercress in the crew’s diet. On his return to England, Cook was promoted to captain and was awarded the Copley Medal by the Royal Society for a paper he wrote about his success against scurvy.
But there was still one mystery of the Pacific left to discover: the Northwest Passage, a shortcut hoped by many to exist in the Arctic Ocean. Such a passage would connect the Indian and Pacific Oceans through the Arctic Circle, making for a much faster trade route between America, Europe and Asia. This is what Captain Cook set out to discover on his third and final voyage.
From 1776 – 1780, Cook explored and charted the northern Pacific including large parts of North America before his ships, The Resolution and The Discovery, were turned back by ice. The expedition stopped in Hawaii to restock, and it was here at Kealakekua Bay on February 14, 1779 in a skirmish with the locals that Cook was killed. A century later, an obelisk to commemorate Captain Cook was erected near the spot where he died and it can still be found there today.
Captain Cook’s contribution to the world was significant. He charted much of the world map, discovering many new places in the Pacific and expanding the British Empire. He disproved the existence of the Great Southern Continent, and contributed greatly to the natural sciences and cultural studies. Cook also set new standards in exploration, particularly in the care and nutrition of crew members. Today, he is still considered one of the greatest explorers and navigators of all time.