Captain James Cook, 1728-1779, was an explorer and navigator and captain in the Royal Navy, whose skills in mapping and discoveries of faraway lands changed geography in the 18th Century. He is the first known European to have landed in the Hawaiian Islands and on the east coast of Australia, and the first to circumnavigate (sail right around) New Zealand.
Cook was an excellent surveyor and cartographer (someone who draws maps) and it was these skills which won him a place on his first exploratory voyage, in 1769, in search of a great southern continent known as Terra Australis on the ship the Endeavour. Cook first sailed right around New Zealand, to prove that it wasn't part of a bigger continent, and then sailed right along the east coast of Australia, naming it New South Wales and claiming it as British territory. He recorded the first European siting of Australia's Aboriginal people and discovered kangaroos! He returned home in 1771.
Still not convinced that "New South Wales" was the southern continent, Cook set off again in 1772. This time he was unable to reach Australia, so he visited New Zealand, the Antarctic and Tahiti and then returned home.
In 1776 Cook set out on his third voyage, hoping to discover a Northwest Passage around the American contintent. In doing so he discovered the Hawaiian islands. Cook then explored and mapped the north-west coastline of America and tried several times to continue on through the Bering Strait, but failed. Eventually he returned to Hawaii and was treated with much respect by the Hawaiians at first, but unfortunately a number of quarrels broke out and Cook was killed.
Fun Fact: When Cook's sailors encountered Maori warriors in New Zealand they were so impressed with their facial tattoos that some of them got their own tattoos on their arms, starting a craze which has never ended!
"Ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for man to go."
Captain James Cook
Here's a lovely, simple colouring page of Captain James Cook, complete with the essential spyglass, aimed at younger children.
Use these printable notebooking pages to record what you learn about Captain Cook. Choose from two versions - one with space for a drawing or illustration, and one lined throughout.
Here's a printable poster of Captain James Cook, featuring one of his most well-known quotes. He was an explorer at heart, always yearning to discover, chart and map where no (European) man had been before.
This story paper is perfect for writing about Captain Cook. We have two versions, one with handwriting lines for younger children, and one lined for older children. Colour in the picture too! Of course you could also use this story paper to make up a story about any explorer of old...
This simple worksheet, aimed at younger children, aims to help them capture what they have learned about Captain Cook. They can have fun thinking about what they would say to him were they to meet!
Use this useful writing page to record what you have learned about Captain James Cook, the first European to "discover" Australia.
Captain Cook visited a great many places on his travels. Can the kids find them in this word search puzzle?
This useful printable allows you to track the course of Captain James Cook's three voyages. Perhaps you could study the printable alongside an atlas and encourage the children to identify the oceans, continents, islands and countries he visited.
Here's a fun activity for children learning about Captain James Cook and his travels! Just follow along with the step by step tutorial to learn to draw your own Captain Cook...