James Cook (1728 – 1779) explorer, navigator, cartographer, captain
The renowned English navigator and explorer Captain James Cook had been baptised in the Anglican parish church of Marton-in-Cleveland in north Yorkshire in 1728, but was a nominal Anglican only. Nevertheless, he was a moral man and never cursed or swore and would not permit profanity on board his ships.
“The renowned English navigator and explorer Captain James Cook had been baptised in the Anglican parish church of Marton-in-Cleveland in north Yorkshire in 1728, but was a nominal Anglican only. Nevertheless, he was a moral man and never cursed or swore and would not permit profanity on board his ships.
Before he sailed, Cook’s wife Elizabeth gave him an Anglican prayer-book from which source he named a number of places on Australia’s coast after the days of the church year on which his ship reached them, such as the Whitsunday Passage and Islands, Trinity Bay and the Pentecost Islands.
The entry Cook wrote in his diary [when landing at Botany Bay] sharpens the contrast between him and his predecessors, whether from Roman Catholic or Protestant Christendom. For where Magellan’s and Quiros’ men had taken the sacrament, and Tasman had beseeched God Almighty to vouchsafe His blessing on his work, Cook recorded the facts: ‘At 2 p.m. got under sail and put to sea.’
Cook was an Anglican. His son, Hugh, was to enter the Anglican ministry, but died prematurely. Several writers on Cook referred to him as a Christian. Cook was a good man: above reproach in his morals; moderate in all things; compassionate and conciliatory in his treatment of the natives; always concerned about the welfare of his men; a man of great courage and determination; cool and just in judgement; controlled in speech even when angry. He would not allow profanity on board (which even professing Christians tolerate these days). He required his men to wear clean clothes on Sunday, and, on occasions he conducted divine service for his crew. This would suggest that he certainly would have been sympathetic, not indifferent or hostile, to the faith.
– Consider one more portion of their account:
After Cook continued to sail up the east coast, an incident occurred that almost terminated the voyage and their lives. There was a danger lurking beneath the waters of which Cook was unaware. It was the Great Barrier Reef. On Trinity Sunday, 10 June, the Endeavour struck a reef and stuck fast. After much work, the crew managed to free her and steered the damaged ship towards a river-mouth, where the banks were suited to laying the vessel ashore for repairs. That was 16 June. It was not until 4 August that Cook was ready to leave, but it was not long before the Endeavour was headed for the reef again. Without any wind and the seas being too deep to cast anchor, the ship was slowly but surely driven by the force of the tides towards certain destruction. Cook knew the Endeavour would smash and sink in a moment when it struck that perpendicular wall. The men manned the boats and tried to tow her away; it was useless. They were eighty yards away when “suddenly, a little breath of air moved, blew for a few minutes, faded, the merest cat’s-paw”. It was enough to carry them towards a narrow opening in the reef, but there was still no wind. How much longer could the Endeavour endure? Another narrow opening was seen in the reef and Cook pulled the head of the ship around. At last a light breeze sprang up, and with the tide being in their favour, hurried the vessel through this “Providential Channel” as Cook named it, as he anchored in safe waters.
It had been “the narrowest escape we ever had and had it not been for the immediate help of Providence we must inevitably have perished”, said Richard Pickersgill, the master’s mate Cook, in his entry for 16 August 1770, after describing their desperate situation, wrote, “It pleased God at this very juncture to send us a light air of wind, which, with the help of our boats, carried us about half a cable’s length from the present danger”.
Captain Cook’s cottage, Fitzroy Gardens Melbourne
The Christian foundations of Australia
While Cook was not specifically ‘an Australian’ he was one of its first explorers.
Leave a Reply, comments are welcome.