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Captain James Cook - Success and InfluenceCaptain James Cook - Success and Influence


Captain James Cook (1728-1779)


English explorer (pictured right) who in three voyages discovered many territories in the southern hemisphere including

  • Australia.
  • New Zealand.
  • Antarctica.
  • Hawaii (where he was killed by natives).

The first person to sail around the world.

On his first voyage to Australia and New Zealand (1768-71), he sailed in his famous ship, the Endeavour (a replica is pictured right below).

 Captain James Cook - Success and Influence

Why was he successful and influential?


1. Ambitious aims


  • drove himself hard to achieve extraordinary things.
  • loved adventure and doing something new and dangerous.
  • wanted the freedom to control his own destiny (which exploration gave him).


2. Conscientious opportunist


  • seized his opportunities (like improved navigation-see point 3)
  • worked incredibly hard to make the most of them.

 Captain James Cook - Success and Influence

3. Luck and innovation

He was born at the right time when unknown lands could be discovered, using newly invented navigation techniques.

An army land surveyor and cartographer (chart maker), Samuel Holland (pictured right), showed Cook how to allow for the earth’s curvature when calculating a ship’s position.


4. Determination, ambition and learning

As a young boy, he acquired a love of learning that he never lost.

He learned from

  • the determination of his father (who rose from agricultural labourer to farm manager).
  • John and Henry Walker, who taught him seamanship at the Yorkshire port of Whitby from 1746 to 1752.
  • Samuel Holland (who taught him navigation - see point 3)

 Captain James Cook - Success and Influence

5. Support

He had great support from his

  • lifelong friends, John Walker and Samuel Holland (see point 4).
  • wife, Elizabeth (whom he married in 1762, pictured right in 1830).


6. Self-confidence and skill

He had great confidence in his own ability.

He was a brilliant seaman, land surveyor, navigator and cartographer.

 Captain James Cook - Success and Influence

6. Respect of his men

He treated his crew well and so won their trust and respect.

One of them, William Bligh (pictured right), later captained the Bounty so cruelly that the famous mutiny took place.


7. Bravery and risk taking

He had the courage to take dangerous risks like exploring Antarctica and the Great Barrier Reef.



Key quote on careers and ambition

Ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it is possible for man to go.

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