Exploring thousands of miles of territory previously uncharted by Europeans, Cook was known for his seamanship, physical courage, ability to lead men and especially his navigation and cartographic skills.
Cook’s vessels were adapted North Sea coal ships (known as Whitby colliers). They were flat-bottomed, with a long body and a deep hold. This design was ideal for long voyages, but also well suited to shallow waters.
During these voyages, Cook circumnavigated the globe twice. Charting New Zealand and the east coast of Australia, he voyaged further south than any other man had sailed before, crossing into the Antarctic Circle.
Visiting Tahiti, the Pacific islands and Hawaii, he also went far into the cold north and entered the Bering Strait.
The voyagers experienced many encounters with local peoples, observing their customs, dances and rituals. Exchanges of gifts were made, and friendships were formed, although not all encounters were peaceful. The Europeans sometimes shot at or killed the local inhabitants they encountered. They killed several Maori in New Zealand, and Aboriginal people were fired upon and wounded at both Kamay (Botany Bay) and Walmbaal Birri (Endeavour River).