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April 19– Captain James Cook Spots Australia

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April 19– Captain James Cook Spots Australia

Written by Matthew Mendez, Journalist

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April 19, 1770 C.E.

A young James Cook peers through his spyglass, eager to detect any trace of the mainland. Finally, he sees it. A lush, ancient land, teeming with life, emerges from the horizon. Cook’s heart fills with relief, for he has finally found the legendary Terra Australis

Prior to his legendary voyage to Australia, James Cook had garnered much attention due to the great skill in cartography the captain exhibited during the Seven Years War. On May 25, 1768 C.E. the British Admiralty commissioned Cook to undertake a scientific voyage to the Pacific Ocean, the purpose of which was to record the transit of Venus across the sun, an event which combined with previously recorded astronomical observations, would help determine the distance of the sun from the earth. Departing from England on the H.M.S. Endeavor on August 26, 1768 C.E., Cook and his crew sailed down the Atlantic, around Cape Horn in South America, and west across the Pacific Ocean to Tahiti, where observations of the Venus transit were made. After having completed the observations of Venus, James Cook undertook the second part of his voyage, which was to search the Pacific region for the legendary continent of Terra Australis. Thus, on April 19, 1770 C.E., Cook reached the southeastern portion of the Australian continent, becoming the first European to encounter Australia’s eastern coastline. After a botanical expedition and brief contact with the indigenous Gweagal people, the expedition sailed northward towards the Indies on the way back to England. However, the Endeavor ran aground on a shoal of the Great Barrier Reef, forcing Cook to return to the Australian continent to make repairs. After seven weeks, the H.M.S. Endeavor was able to resume its return voyage to England. Upon his return to England, Cook published the expedition’s findings and became a hero among the scientific community and the admiralty as well. Only a year later would Cook embark his most famous second voyage.

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