|The Struggle for Sea Power|
|by M. B. Synge|
|Book IV of the Story of the Worlds series. Focuses on the age of empire and world colonization. The histories of European colonies in America, Australia, South Africa, and India are related. Also covered are the Revolution in America, the French Revolution, and campaigns of Napoleon. Ages 12-18 |
CAPTAIN COOK'S STORY
"We know the merry world is round,
And we may sail for evermore."
 WHILE England was struggling with her colonies across the Atlantic, an Englishman, Captain Cook, was sailing away
across the Pacific to claim fresh lands for the British crown in New Zealand and Australia. Captain Cook, one
of the greatest navigators of his age, had played his part in the American war. To him had been intrusted the
difficult task of surveying the intricate channels of the river St Lawrence when Wolfe was making his
arrangements to take Quebec from the French.
Born in the year 1728, James Cook had been apprenticed, at the age of thirteen, to a shopkeeper near Whitby,
in the north of England. But the life was very distasteful to the boy. Though he knew well enough the roughness
of a sailor's life in those days,—of the salt junk they had to eat, of the foul water to drink, of the
brutality of the old sea-captain, of disease and death,—yet he longed to go to sea. And one day he tied up his
few belongings in his only handkerchief, stole out of the shop at daybreak, passed quietly down the village
street, and walked the nine miles to Whitby, where he was taken on board a collier as ship's boy.
 It was not long before he entered the king's service and went through the Quebec campaign,
from which he returned a marked man. He found a keen interest awakening in England with regard to the Pacific
Ocean, about which so little was known. Men full of courage had started forth, but limited water, contrary
winds, difficulties of getting fresh food, and outbreaks of scurvy, had put an end to each expedition in turn.
Now a new expedition was planned and the command given to Captain Cook. With a crew of ninety-four men, and
food for ten months, he sailed from England in a stoutly-built collier, the Endeavour, to explore the Pacific
It seems strange to think that at this time Australia and New Zealand were practically unknown in Europe. Not a
single white man lived there.
Cook now sailed round Cape Horn, and crossed the Pacific Ocean till he fell in with the east coast of New
Zealand, which he found to consist of two islands as large as his own Great Britain. For six months he examined
their shores, discovered by Tasman
130 years before. Then leaving the coast at a point he named Cape Farewell, he sailed to the north-west, over a
thousand miles of sea, till he touched at last the coast of the great "southern land"—Australia. The country so
resembled that which he had left at home that he
 gave it the name of New South Wales, while to the bay in which they first anchored he gave the name of Botany
Bay. The discovery of Botany Bay solved a great problem for England: she was no longer able to send her
convicts to Virginia as she had done hitherto, so she sent them to New South Wales instead, and the first
settlement of English people in Australia was made at Botany Bay, five miles south of Sydney.
Cook followed the coast of Australia northward for 2000 miles, and after an absence of three years he reached
home. But disease and death had overtaken his crew, and the Endeavour was little better than a hospital when
she staggered into port at last. Cook had mastered the art of navigation in unknown seas, but he had not solved
the problem of how to prevent scurvy killing off his crew after some time at sea.
So, when he was appointed to command the Resolution the following year, with orders to complete the discovery
of the southern hemisphere, he gave his whole attention to the subject. This second voyage of Captain Cook
marks an epoch in the history of navigation.
He left England with a hundred men on board, and sailed to the Cape of Good Hope, where the Dutch settlement
was still prospering. Here he stopped awhile to give his sailors fresh food. "Fresh beef and mutton, new-baked
 as much greens as they could eat," he ordered. While at the Cape a Dutch ship came in reporting the death of
150 sailors from scurvy in four months, and Cook took the lesson to heart.
Leaving the Cape he sailed southwards, but a great gale sprang up and blew the ship out of her course, right
among some ice-islands of enormous height.
"When we reflected on the danger," said Cook, "our minds were filled with horror. For if our ship ran against
the side of one of these islands when the sea was running high, she must have been dashed to pieces in a
Nevertheless he sailed among the ice-islands for many weeks, till he had assured himself there was no land to
be found there. The ropes and rigging of the ship were frozen, the decks were sheathed in ice. One bitter
morning nine little pigs were born on board the Resolution, but despite every care bestowed on them, they were
all frozen to death in a few hours.
At last Cook sailed for New Zealand, for he had now been one hundred days at sea without ever seeing land,
while he had sailed 11,000 miles. After so long at sea, under such trying circumstances, it would have been
natural to suppose that there must be illness among the sailors. But, thanks to the Captain's precautions, they
were all in excellent health.
He now discovered some new islands in the Pacific
 Ocean, taking possession of them for England—the Friendly Islands, Society Islands, and the Sandwich Islands.
Having completely circumnavigated the globe near the Antarctic circle, Cook returned home with the Resolution.
Not only had he left the British flag flying over distant islands in the Pacific Ocean, but he had done what no
navigator before him had done,—he had returned, after cruising for three years amid untold dangers, with a
clean bill of health. He had lost only one sailor from illness all that time. He had made their health his
first care. He had set them an example of eating what was wholesome, however distasteful it might be, and so he
had avoided that sailor's scourge—the scurvy.
The account he published of his voyages awoke the interest of Europe in these far-off lands. Englishmen read of
coral reefs and palm-trees, of the bread-fruit of Tahiti, the tattooed warriors of New Zealand, of gum-trees
and kangaroos, till they felt that this new world of wonders was really their own, and that "a new earth was
open in the Pacific for the expansion of the English race."
One last word of Cook himself, by whose steady perseverance and resolution these objects were attained. He was
killed in one of the Pacific islands he had discovered; but we like best to
 think of the stern old sailor, his face set southwards, steering on through the ice-bound seas, thinking not of
hunger and cold and monotony, but of how "soon he can break through that wall of ice and learn what is beyond."
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