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James Cook

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The Captain's log

"I now once More, hoisted English Colours & in the Name of His Maj.y King George the Third took possession of the whole Eastern coast from the above Lat.de down to this place by the Name of New Wales together with all the Bays Harbours Rivers & Islands situate upon the same Coast"


Born in Yorkshire, England, James Cook (1728–1779) had been a seaman since the age of seventeen, when he joined the merchant navy in the coastal town of Whitby. He spent his apprenticeship and early career working on trading ships along the English coast and in the Baltic and, after ten years in the merchant navy, Cook entered the Royal Navy.

The young man displayed an aptitude for surveying, mapping and navigation, honing these skills in military conflicts against France. His talents were noticed by the Royal Society, who had bigger plans for him. Both the Royal Society and the British Admiralty were keen to send their ships to the Pacific for research and exploration purposes, and Cook, then forty, was the right man at the right time.

The State Library holds the copy of Cook’s log that he sent to the Admiralty from Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia). The copy was made by Cook’s clerk, Richard Orton, and differs from the holograph log (Cook’s original, now held at the National Library of Australia) because Cook substantially revised his own copy to include thoughts and impressions that came to him later, and to add detail to earlier sketchy accounts. Some scholars think that Orton’s copy represents a truer version of Cook’s original log, as it is sticks closely to the captain’s first recorded impressions. Cook himself borrowed quite a bit from entries in Joseph Banks' Endeavour journal, particularly in describing natural history and anthropology.

Although the log is almost entirely copied out by Orton, there are many instances where Cook himself has inserted words or phrases that Orton missed. Orton made another, more careful, copy after the Endeavour left Batavia, which was presented to the Admiralty when the expedition returned to the UK and is now in the UK Public Record Office. This third known copy is held by the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

The selections below include Cook's description and naming of Botany Bay (originally named Sting Ray Harbour) and the raising of the British flag at Possession Island in the Torres Strait, Far North Queensland. Here Cook formally took possession of the entire east coast of Australia for King George III and called it New South Wales.

Old cover of journal of James Cook commencing 25 May 1768-23 October 1770
James Cook - A Journal of the proceedings of His Majesty's Bark Endeavour on a voyage round the world, by Lieutenant James Cook, Commander, commencing the 25th of May 1768 - 23 Oct. 1770 - Cover
27 May 1768-23 Oct. 1770
Cook, James, 1728-1779
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Digital ID: 
a3430001
inside of book cover with noted a journal of proceedings of his majesty's bark endeavour on voyage around the world by Lieutenant James Cook, Commander - 25 May 1768-23 October 1770.
James Cook - A Journal of the proceedings of His Majesty's Bark Endeavour on a voyage round the world, by Lieutenant James Cook, Commander, commencing the 25th of May 1768 - 23 Oct. 1770 - inside cover
27 May 1768-23 Oct. 1770
Cook, James, 1728-1779
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Digital ID: 
a3430002
Inside cover with abstract art work
James Cook - A Journal of the proceedings of His Majesty's Bark Endeavour on a voyage round the world, by Lieutenant James Cook, Commander, commencing the 25th of May 1768 - 23 Oct. 1770 - Inside cover
27 May 1768-23 Oct. 1770
Cook, James, 1728-1779
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Digital ID: 
a3430003
Detailed drawing on page of 3 coins with 2 men and another with a person in drapes holding items
James Cook - A Journal of the proceedings of His Majesty's Bark Endeavour on a voyage round the world, by Lieutenant James Cook, Commander, commencing the 25th of May 1768 - 23 Oct. 1770
27 May 1768-23 Oct. 1770
Cook, James, 1728-1779
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Digital ID: 
a3430006
Handwriting on an old journal page saying A journal of the proceedings of His Majestys Bark Endeavour on a Voyage around the World by Lieutenant James cook Commander commencing 25 May 1768
James Cook - A Journal of the proceedings of His Majesty's Bark Endeavour on a voyage round the world, by Lieutenant James Cook, Commander, commencing the 25th of May 1768 - 23 Oct. 1770 - Front page of Journal
27 May 1768-23 Oct. 1770
Cook, James, 1728-1779
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Digital ID: 
a3430015
Old journal page with handwriting
James Cook - A Journal of the proceedings of His Majesty's Bark Endeavour on a voyage round the world, by Lieutenant James Cook, Commander, commencing the 25th of May 1768 - 23 Oct. 1770 - inside journal
27 May 1768-23 Oct. 1770
Cook, James, 1728-1779
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Digital ID: 
a3430016
Old handwriting in a journal page with title New Wales or East Coast of New Holland
James Cook - A Journal of the proceedings of His Majesty's Bark Endeavour on a voyage round the world, by Lieutenant James Cook, Commander, commencing the 25th of May 1768 - 23 Oct. 1770 - journal entry
27 May 1768-23 Oct. 1770
Cook, James, 1728-1779
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Digital ID: 
a3430253
Old handwriting in a journal with title New Wales or East Coast of New Holland
James Cook - A Journal of the proceedings of His Majesty's Bark Endeavour on a voyage round the world, by Lieutenant James Cook, Commander, commencing the 25th of May 1768 - 23 Oct. 1770 - journal entry
27 May 1768-23 Oct. 1770
Cook, James, 1728-1779
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Digital ID: 
a3430254
old handwriting in a journal with title New Wales or East Coast of New Holland
James Cook - A Journal of the proceedings of His Majesty's Bark Endeavour on a voyage round the world, by Lieutenant James Cook, Commander, commencing the 25th of May 1768 - 23 Oct. 1770 - journal entry
27 May 1768-23 Oct. 1770
Cook, James, 1728-1779
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Digital ID: 
a3430255
Old journal page with handwriting title New Wales or East Coast of New Holland
James Cook - A Journal of the proceedings of His Majesty's Bark Endeavour on a voyage round the world, by Lieutenant James Cook, Commander, commencing the 25th of May 1768 - 23 Oct. 1770 - journal entry
27 May 1768-23 Oct. 1770
Cook, James, 1728-1779
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Digital ID: 
a3430314
old journal with handwriting with title New Wales or East Coast of New Holland
James Cook - A Journal of the proceedings of His Majesty's Bark Endeavour on a voyage round the world, by Lieutenant James Cook, Commander, commencing the 25th of May 1768 - 23 Oct. 1770 - journal entry
27 May 1768-23 Oct. 1770
Cook, James, 1728-1779
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Digital ID: 
a3430315
Old journal with handwriting with title New Wales or East Coast of New Holland
James Cook - A Journal of the proceedings of His Majesty's Bark Endeavour on a voyage round the world, by Lieutenant James Cook, Commander, commencing the 25th of May 1768 - 23 Oct. 1770- journal entry
27 May 1768-23 Oct. 1770
Cook, James, 1728-1779
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Digital ID: 
a3430316
Obstract artwork inside back cover of old journal
James Cook - A Journal of the proceedings of His Majesty's Bark Endeavour on a voyage round the world, by Lieutenant James Cook, Commander, commencing the 25th of May 1768 - 23 Oct. 1770 - inside cover at back of journal
27 May 1768-23 Oct. 1770
Cook, James, 1728-1779
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Digital ID: 
a3430371
Back cover of old journal
James Cook - A Journal of the proceedings of His Majesty's Bark Endeavour on a voyage round the world, by Lieutenant James Cook, Commander, commencing the 25th of May 1768 - 23 Oct. 1770 - back cover
27 May 1768-23 Oct. 1770
Cook, James, 1728-1779
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Digital ID: 
a3430372