With the onset of winter, Cook sailed north and reached Dusky Sound, on the South Island of New Zealand, on March 25 after sailing some 10,600 miles through uncharted waters. He spent the winter exploring the islands of the South Pacific. During a storm Cook became separated from the ADVENTURE but, nevertheless, sailed south once again on November 27. He once again reached the ice pack, in mid December, and continued his search for a way through to the south. Cook's skill as a seaman and navigator cannot be challenged...through heavy storms and dangerous seas filled with huge icebergs the RESOLUTION survived without the loss of a single man. On January 30 he reached his furthest south but could go no further. The ice "extended east and west far beyond the reach of our sight, while the southern half of the horizon was illuminated by rays of light which were reflected from the ice to a considerable height...It was indeed my opinion that this ice extends quite to the Pole, or perhaps joins to some land to which it has been fixed since creation".
Cook once again wintered in New Zealand, leaving in November 1774 on his third voyage. He sailed across the south Pacific and arrived five weeks later at Tierra del Fuego. He remained for two weeks and then left in a northeasterly direction into the Atlantic. Unexpectedly, they sighted land and immediately thought they had finally found the southern continent but instead it was an island, covered in ice, which he named South Georgia. Although his intentions were to continue to England, his temptation to the south could not be resisted and at the end of January he sighted a group of islands even more desolate than South Georgia. These he named the South Sandwich Islands. After a week of exploration in them, he turned north for England, reaching England on July 30, 1775. The voyage lasted three years and eight days covering more than 60,000 miles. Cook had proved there was no southern continent unless it was at the pole itself.
Cook's reputation was unchallenged and with his conclusion one can assume that all further exploration would have been unnecessary except for one detail...he kept thorough records of his sailing. Although governments were to turn their attentions elsewhere for exploration, the owners of whaling fleets in Europe and America were drawn to the southern waters by the constant mention in his journals of large numbers of seals and whales encountered during the voyages. Thus it was they, not the explorers, who now prepared themselves for exploration into the Antarctic waters.
Cook and the RESOLUTION left Plymouth on July 12, 1776 with Clerke following a few weeks later in the DISCOVERY. A leaking RESOLUTION arrived in Cape Town on October 18 with the DISCOVERY arriving on the 10th of November. Together they left on November 30th steering southeast in an attempt to locate a group of islands discovered some years earlier by Marion du Fresne. On December 12 they spotted the first of the islands whereby Cook promptly named them the Prince Edward Islands. Continuing further south, on December 24 they saw land exactly where they expected it to be. The land was an islet off the northwest point of Kerguélen's LA FRANCE AUSTRALE which they encountered later that day. The following day they entered a large bay and anchored near a sandy beach. Crew members went ashore and one of them found a bottle with a note in it containing an inscription in Latin recording the French visits in 1772 and 1773. Cook wrote of his own visit on the same parchment, placed it back in the bottle together with a silver coin and buried it again.
Cook spent four days exploring the island and coastline. While unimpressed due to the lack of trees, shrubs and little grass, there nevertheless was a good supply of fresh water. Cook called them the "Islands of Desolation" although they are known today as the Îsles Kerguélen.
On December 30, 1776, Cook and Clerke sailed away from the island for New Zealand. This was Cook's last contact with the Antarctic region. Cook was advised to wait until the summer of 1778 before starting his search for the Northwest Passage. On January 18, 1778, Cook made his last great discovery...the Hawaiian Islands. For the following month, the two ships sailed north up the west coast of America. Several unsuccessful attempts to locate the passage were tried along the coasts of Canada and Alaska. After sailing through the Bering Strait and crossing the Arctic Circle, Cook abandoned his search and turned both ships south for the Hawaiian Islands.
They reached the islands
at the end of November and in the middle of January, 1779, Cook anchored
at Kealakekua Bay where he was greeted by thousands of cheering natives.
Upon returning to his ship on February 10, Cook discovered a native had
stolen one of their boats. Cook went ashore on the 14th with a squad of
marines to take the king back to the ship as a hostage. The king was even
willing to go but when they reached the water's edge, a large group of
natives stopped them and urged the king not to go. Up the shoreline, a
chief was killed while trying to leave the beach and suddenly the mood
became very hostile. A native approached Cook in a threatening manner
and Cook fired at him. The natives attacked and the marines fired back
with guns and bayonets. The battle only lasted a few minutes but when
it was over, Cook lay dead on the beach.
Antarctica; the Extraordinary History of Man's Conquest of the Frozen Continent, published by Reader's Digest, second edition.
The Life of Captain James Cook, by J.C. Beaglehole.