The Royal Society had accepted the recommendation of the Astronomer [Maskelyne] 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

The Admiralty would have none of Alexander Dalrymple a Fellow of the Royal Society who Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne adjudged ‘a proper Person to be sent to the South Seas’.

Instead Admiralty chose James Cook a lowly Warrant Officer of the Royal Navy to replace Maskelyne’s choice of Dalrymple as Chief Observer of the Transit of Venus at Tahiti predicted to occur in early June of 1769. See: Malicious Maskelyne 

‘[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. 

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

1747: Cook left school in 1747 to begin work as deckhand on a Whitby barque bringing coal from Newcastle to Hull and London.

1752: Working steadily through the ranks by 1752 Cook was Mate of a collier the Friendship.

1755: War with France was looming so in 1755 James enlisted an Able Seaman in the Royal Navy where his experience was recognised making for quick progression.

1756: War, The Seven Year’s War (1756-1763), broke out in the mid 1750s with Britain, Prussia and Hanover on one side 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 as crew on HMS Eagle.

1757 October: In October, then aged 29, Cook was posted to a sixty-four (64) gun fighting ship HMS Pembroke.

1757: In late 1757 England’s Prime Minister William Pitt [Elder] ‘gained control of the [war] strategy’. Under Pitt Britain expanded her struggle with France away from the Continent with the intention of seizing French colonies in North America and India.

Military historians classify The Seven Years’ War as the world’s first truly global war. Unhappily it morphed into a cascade of conflict that included Horatio Nelson – Battle of Trafalgar – and did not end until the Duke of Wellington’s defeat of France’s Napoleon Bonaparte at Waterloo 1815.

1758 : Cook on HMS Pembroke, under command of Captain John Simcoe RN, sailed for Canada as part of General Amherst’s expeditionary force intent on capturing Louisbourg from the French. 

Founded in 1713, named for King Louis XIV, as well as being a busy centre for fishing, fur trading and ship-building, Louisbourg was a fortress city of immense strategic importance to France.

The port supported a substantial naval squadron guarding Quebec and Montreal. According to Fred Anderson’s Crucible of War, the French squadron consisted of; ‘eleven (11) ships including five (5) of the line’.

Pembroke delivered her troops but was so severely damaged by heavy weather en-route took no part in the battle for Louisbourg.

1758 – 26 July: Towards the end of July, after a siege of five (5) weeks, Louisbourg fell to the British leaving Montreal and Quebec exposed to invasion.

‘Cook first learned from a British army officer [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 the lay period James Cook met Lieutenant Samuel Holland a Dutchman who served as 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.

‘Maps are power’ James Cook and Samuel Holland were the men who 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

1660: A century earlier ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ returned to England (9) years after the beheading of his father King Charles I in 1649 on Oliver Cromwell’s orders.

1660 – May: The Prince was crowned King Charles II at Westminster Abbey in May of 1660. 

 ‘[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

1675: Charles II desired England should be the first maritime nation; ‘to find the so-much desired Longitude’.

‘The rise of scientific navigation’ – to that end Charles II commissioned Sir Christopher Wren build an Observatory. The site chosen was Greenwich Castle destroyed by Oliver Cromwell’s Model Army during England’s Civil Wars.

1676: Just one (1) year after work began on the castle’s surviving solid foundations, Greenwich Observatory was up and running with John Flamsteed appointed Britain’s first Astronomer Royal.

So began a toxic century defined by trickery, deception, skulduggery and a century later – 1769 – the reason HMS Endeavour sailed to Tahiti and into the South Seas without a Harrison chronometer.

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

A sound knowledge of time is necessary to determine longitude. Dava Sobel put it eloquently; ‘He, wrested the world’s whereabouts from the stars, and locked the secret in a pocket watch’.

John Harrison’s invention ‘the pocket-watch’, an accurate marine chronometer, conquered time-keeping while a ship was at sea, it would have provided Cook with ‘a convenient means of establishing longitude’. See: Malicious Maskelyne

‘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. ibid.   

What HMS Endeavour and Cook, its captain and navigator did have, were the services of Charles Green selected by the Royal Society to replace Dalrymple as Assistant Observer to James Cook at Tahiti in June 1769. See: The Third Man – Charles Green


A cascade of conflict followed the Seven Year’s War 1756-1763.

America’s War of Independence 1775-1783, the invasion of New Holland, now Australia, followed quickly on Britain’s loss of her thirteen (13) ‘middle colonies’ – New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Carolina North and South, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island.

1788 January‘New Holland is a good blind then when we want to add to the military strength of India’. Historical Records of New South Wales. Anon.

And in 1793 following a decade of uneasy peace yet another Anglo-Dutch war and the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars 1793-1815.


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