The Royal Society had accepted the recommendation of [Maskelyne] the Astronomer [Royal] that [Dalrymple] the well-known hydrographer of the Pacific should be chosen as ‘a proper Person to be sent to the South Seas’. H.C. Cameron, Sir Joseph Banks, Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1968

Greenwich: Rev. Nevil Maskelyne, Britain’s fifth Astronomer Royal judged Alexander Dalrumple, a Fellow of the Royal Society; ‘a proper Person’ but the Lords of the Admiralty would have none of Alexander Dalrymple. See: Malicious Maskelyne 

South Seas: Instead Admiralty chose James Cook, then a lowly Warrant Officer of the Royal Navy, to lead a scientific expedition to the ‘South Seas’ to observe the Transit of Venus.

‘[Cook] Whose remarkable qualities as a seaman and as a navigator and cartographer the Admiralty had learned to value because of his outstanding service in the operation under [General] Wolfe in Canada [Seven Years War 1756-1763]. Cameron. ibid. 

Earlier Edmond Haley of comet fame had predicted this celestial phenomenon would occur again in early June 1769.The expedition was a two-for-the-price-of-one venture.

The Royal Society favoured Tahiti as an ideal place to observe the Transit. But the Society could not bear the full cost of sending observers to Tahiti.

They went into partnership with the Lords of the Admiralty who agreed to supply a ship and pay its captain and crew.

 After the Transit Endeavour’s Captain, now Lieutenant James Cook, was to open the Admiralty’s ‘secret instructions’. His task, sail HMS Endeavour deep into southern latitudes in search of the fabled Great South Land.

Yorkshire – 1728: James Cook was born on 27 October 1728 in Marston, Yorkshire. According to Vanessa Collingridge he spent most of his childhood; ‘in the lee of the largest peak in Yorkshire’s North Riding’. Captain Cook The Life, Death and Legacy of History’s Greatest Explorer, Random House, 2003

Whitby – 1747:  Cook left school in 1747 and went to work as a deckhand on a Whitby barque bringing coal from Newcastle to Hull and London. By 1752 he was Mate on the collier Friendship.

1755: War with France was looming and in 1755 Cook enlisted in the Royal Navy where his experience made for steady progress..

1756: Military historians classify The Seven Years’ War 1756-1763 as the world’s first truly global war. Britain, Prussia and Hanover were ranged against France, Austria, Russia, Saxony, Sweden and Spain.

1757 – June:  Cook passed his sailing master’s examination at Trinity House in mid 1757 and joined the crew of HMS Eagle .

1757 October: He was then posted to HMS Pembroke an impressive  sixty-four (64) gun fighting ‘Ship of the Line’.

1757:  Towards the end of 1757 William Pitt [Elder], Britain’s Prime Minister, ‘gained control of the [war] strategy’. Under his influence England’s primary struggle with France, swung away from the Continent with the intention of seizing French colonies in North America and India.

Canada – 1758:  HMS Pembroke, commanded by Captain John Simcoe RN, sailed for Canada as part of General Amherst’s expeditionary force with orders to capture Louisbourg from the French. 

Louisboug: Named for the French King Louis XIV, Louisbourg had been founded in 1713. A busy centre for fishing, fur trading and ship-building,  it was of immense strategic importance to France.

A substantial French naval presence there guarded Quebec and Montreal. According to Fred Anderson Crucible of War, the squadron consisted of ‘eleven (11) ships including five (5) of the line’.

En-route to Canada Pembroke was severely damaged by heavy weather. Her crew and, the troops she carried were so badly affected by scurvy, Cook’s ship took no part in the battle for Louisbourg.

1758 – 26 July:  After a siege of five (5) weeks Louisbourg fell to the British leaving Montreal and Quebec vulnerable to invasion.


‘Cook first learned from a British army officer [Samuel Holland] how to make maps they would become Cook’s fascination, as he mastered the technique of translating the three dimensions of landmarks, shores, rocks, and shoals precisely and exactly onto two dimensional charts’. Arthur Herman, To Rule the Waves, Hodder & Stoughton, London, 2004

HMS Pembroke underwent repairs and during this lay period James Cook met Lieutenant Samuel Holland. A Dutchman Holland served as an engineer and surveyor on General James Wolfe’s staff.

After Louisbourg, his [Cook’s] meticulous correcting of existing charts of the St. Lawrence River, and creation of new ones where none existed saved Saunders and Wolfe’s expedition to [capture] Quebec,and won him the reputation as one of the navy’s finest navigators’. Herman. ibid.

These new maps enabled General Wolfe’s amphibious force navigate the dark turbulent St.Lawrence and scale  ‘like a thief in the the night’  the Heights of Abraham to lay down a dawn bombardment on the French General Montcalm’s men on the plains below.

‘Maps are power’. So it can be said that James Cook and Samuel Holland sealed the fate of a free people – New Holland’s First Nations’ Peoples. See: A Tale of Two Cities, Quebec 1759 – Sydney 1788

‘Unwittingly Cook had stumbled into one of the great periods of change in naval history; the rise of scientific navigation’. A.W. Beazley, Fellowship of Three. The Surgeon John Hunter, The Navigator James Cook, The Naturalist Joseph Banks, Kangaroo Press, Sydney 1993


1674: A century earlier King Charles II desired England take the lead in the ‘rise of scientific navigation’. He commissioned Sir Christopher Wren with building an Observatory.

Wren chose the ruins Greenwich Castle. The buildings had been destroyed by Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army, during England’s Civil Wars, but its strong foundations were intact,

1675:  The  build was swift. Just one (1) year later Greenwich Observatory was up and running. The Rev. John Flamsteed, who had previously taken his calculations from a London roof-top, was appointed Britain’s first Astronomer Royal.

So began a century of great scientific advancement. But in the world of astronomy, defined by trickery, deception, and skulduggery it, was a toxic century.

‘What Endeavour (1769) lacked was a convenient means of establishing her position at least so far as longitude was concerned…what he [Cook] did have was….[Maskelyne’s] Nautical Almanac which facilitated the tedious method of establishing longitude by the observation of the ‘lunars’. A.W.  Beasley. Fellowship of Three Cook, Hunter, Banks.

A century later – 1769 – jealously was the reason James Cook sailed HMS Endeavour to Tahiti and, then into the South Seas in search of the fabled Great South Land, without H-4 a  reliable sea-going chronometer. See: Cook, Harrison, Green – Three Yorkshire Men Walked Into A Bar – Nevil Maskelyn

‘Shortly before Cook sailed Maskelyne published the Nautical Almanac’. Lyn Withey, Voyages of Discovery, Captain Cook and the Explorations of the Pacific, Century Hutchinson, Melbourne, 1987 See: Lotto and Longitude


‘True time’ then as now was necessary to determine longitude while a ship is at sea. In the days of sail, on a pitching weather deck on a near starless night, with a telescope pressed to one eye, surely emphasis should have been placed on selecting ‘convenient’ over ‘tedious’.

‘John Harrison, the man who solved longitude in 1759’. Peter Ackroyd, Revolution, Macmillan, London, 2016

Dava Sobel put John Harrison’s achievement eloquently; ‘He [Harrison] wrested the world’s whereabouts from the stars, and locked the secret in a pocket watch’.

Harrison’s  H-4 ‘pocket-watch’ had conquered time-keeping by 1759. Yet in 1768 greed denied Cook this ‘convenient means of establishing longitude’. See: Lotto and Longitude

What HMS Endeavour and James Cook did have were the services of fellow Yorkshire-man Charles Green. He had been selected by the Royal Society to replace Alexander Dalrymple as Assistant Observer for the Transit of Venus.

Greenwich: Green had served as Chief Assistant under two (2) Astronomer Royals. Firstly in 1742 under Rev. James Bradley on his elevation to the post following Edmond Halley’s demise.

Oxford: In 1762 Rev. Nathaniel Bliss succeeded Bradley. Due to ill health, he made an occasional visit, but did not take up residence. He remained in Oxford until his death in 1764. During Bliss’s two (2) year tenure Charles Green functioned as surrogate Astronomer Royal.

Greenwich: Charles Green, on a timed voyage to Barbardos, became convinced of the superiority of Harrison’s ‘convenient’ pocket-watch over Maskelyne’s ‘tedious’ Nautical Almanac.

He left the  Observatory soon after Rev. Nevil Maskelyne’s selection as Britain’s fifth Astronomer Royal in February 1765. See: The Third Man – Charles Green












xxxxxxBritain emerged successful but after a few years an uneasy peace gave way  to yet another war with France and, a cascade of conflict that included Spain,  the Dutch and in 1775 the American Revolutionary War. (1775-83).xxxxx


kkkkkkkkkkWhitehall – January 1649:  Heir Apparent Prince Charles, following the beheading of his father, on the orders of Oliver Cromwell at the beginning of 1649,  fled to Scotland the land of his father’s birth

From there Charles, now heir apparant and his supporters planned and engaged Cromwell’s Parliamentarians in a series of battles.

Newbury, September and October 1643 –  Marston Moor, July 1644 –  Nasby. June 1645. Across the Irish Sea at Drogheda, September 1649  similarly the Battle of Dunbar September 1650.

Worcester: A year later, September 1651, came the final battle.  Cromwell’s ‘Roundheads’ vanquished Prince Charles’  ‘Cavalier’ Royalists. Parliament had triumphed.

kkkkkkkkkkkThese  Civil War battles still arouse passion In the British Isles.

kkkkkkkkCromwell established a bling-free Republican Protectorate regime  Cromwell delivered a bling-free Republican Protectorate regimeMonarchy.  Charles fled to the Continent living first in France and later the Netherlands.

kkkkkkkkkkkkIn September 1658 Oliver Cromwell died of natural causes and The Protectorate collapsed in on itself.




[To] rectify the Tables of the Motion of the Heavens, and the Place of the fixed Stars, so as to find out the so-much desired Longitude at sea for the Art of Navigation’.  Dava Sobel, Longitude, Fourth Estate, London, 1998





===========2019 – Bristol:  Black Lives Matter Movement: We now know the prequel to to this ‘period of change in naval history’ can be linked not only to the previous 17th century – the English call The Restoration but linked also to the near destruction of Australia’s First Peoples in 1788 on the cusp of the 19th century.

In 1660 came the collapse of Oliver Cromwell’s Republican Protectorate. It  survived only eight (8) months after Cromwell’s death from natural causes (September 1658).

1660 -London, May: The son and heir apparent of murdered King Charles the First, beheaded in 1649 on Cromwell’s orders, returned from exile on the Continent to cheering crowds.

1660 – Westminster Abbey, September: The coronation of Prince Charles as ‘King Charles II of England and Ireland’ was a joyful occasion with all the ‘pomp and circumstance’ for which the English are famous,




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