Appointed commander of the Endeavour in 1768, he acquired considerable prestige by devoting himself to three successive expeditions in the Pacific Ocean, during which he made a complete tour of New Zealand, explored the east coast of Australia, attempted to approach the Antarctic continent, studied Easter Island and discovered the Hawaiian Islands.
"In 1768, the Admiralty commissioned me to command a scientific voyage in the Pacific Ocean. The purpose would be to observe and record the transit of Venus before the Sun; this, together with observations from other places in the world, would help to determine the distance between the planet Earth and the Sun.
The Royal Society granted me an increase of one hundred guineas more in my salary, than I used to receive in the Navy. My expedition departed from England aboard the HSM Endeavour.
The crew and I circumnavigated Cape Horn and continued westward across the Pacific, reaching Tahiti the following year, where we observed the transit of Venus; the results, however, would not be as accurate and definitive as I had hoped...
Having completed my observations, I opened the sealed orders which the Admiralty had ordered me to follow; they were further instructions relating to the second part of the voyage. I was instructed to search the South Pacific, the rich continent to the south that was supposed to be the "Southern Land". I sailed, therefore, for New Zealand, taking with me Tupaia, an aristocratic Tahitian priest who helped me through the islands of Polynesia, mapping, with only minor errors, the whole coast. I continued travelling westwards, reaching the south-east coast of Australia in April 1770, the first European expedition to touch the east coast, which I named Botany Bay."
Very satisfied with the conclusions of the first expedition, the Royal Society asks Cook to go again in the Pacific, in search of the southern continent. The second voyage will destroy for a while the myth of the unknown southern land...
By Arthur, author of the tour "The Ocean, the last Frontier"