Captain James Cook FRS RN (7 November 1728 – 14 February 1779) was a British explorer, navigator and cartographer, ultimately rising to the rank of Captain in the Royal Navy. Cook made detailed maps of Newfoundland prior to making three voyages to the Pacific Ocean during which he achieved the first European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands as well as the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand.
Cook joined the British merchant navy as a teenager and joined the Royal Navy in 1755. He saw action in the Seven Years' War, and subsequently surveyed and mapped much of the entrance to the Saint Lawrence River during the siege of Quebec. This helped bring Cook to the attention of the Admiralty and Royal Society. This notice came at a crucial moment both in his personal career and in the direction of British overseas exploration, and led to his commission in 1766 as commander of HM Bark Endeavour for the first of three Pacific voyages.
Cook charted many areas and recorded several islands and coastlines on European maps for the first time. His achievements can be attributed to a combination of seamanship, superior surveying and cartographic skills, courage in exploring dangerous locations to confirm the facts (for example dipping into the Antarctic Circle repeatedly and exploring around the Great Barrier Reef), an ability to lead men in adverse conditions, and boldness both with regard to the extent of his explorations and his willingness to exceed the instructions given to him by the Admiralty.