Frequently Asked Questions

 

Was James Cook really a Captain?
When Cook set sail in 1768 on his first voyage of discovery aboard Endeavour he held the rank of lieutenant. Soon after his return to England in 1771 he was promoted to the rank of commander. He never actually held the rank of captain, but in 1775 was promoted to the higher rank of post-captain.
Any person in charge of a ship is known as its captain, and so it was quite natural to refer to him as Captain Cook.

Are there any living descendants of Captain Cook?
James and Elizabeth Cook had 6 children. 3 of them died in infancy. Two of the others (James and Nathaniel) died at sea whilst serving in the Royal Navy. The youngest of the family, Hugh Cook, died whilst at college at Cambridge. None of their children had married and had children of their own, so there are no descendants from the Cook family.

Are there any living relatives of Captain Cook?
Yes - James Cook's sister Margaret married James Fleck, and their children married and had children of their own. Today there are many descendants of the Fleck family spread around the World. All can claim Captain Cook to be their great, great, etc... uncle.

Was Captain Cook born at Whitby or Staithes?
He was not born at either town. He was born on 27 October 1728 at the small village of Marton in North Yorkshire. Today Marton has become a suburb of the large town of Middlesbrough on Teesside.

What were the names of Captain Cook's ships?
Captain Cook sailed on three voyages of discovery and used the following ships -
1768 - 1771 Endeavour
1772 - 1775 Resolution (with a companion vessel Adventure)
1776 - 1780 Resolution (with a companion vessel Discovery)

Was Captain Cook really eaten by cannibals?
No - the Hawaiian Islanders who killed Captain Cook were not cannibals.
They believed that the power of a man was in his bones, so they cooked part of Cook's body to enable the bones to be easily removed. It was the cooking of his body which gave rise to the rumour of cannibalism.

Where is Captain Cook buried?
Captain Cook was killed at Hawaii on 14 February 1779. A week later his remains were formally buried at sea in Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii.


Updated: October 2008

 

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Hi Loretta, you will find the answer to your question in Cook's Log, Vol. 38, No. 4, p45 (2015).
For those who do not have accesss to that publication, the following remains were returned to the Resolution at anchor in Kealakekua Bay - leg bones, two hands, scalp, lower jaw, his feet.
Cook was known to be over 6ft tall, and the length of the leg bones matched his stature. One of Cook's hands still bore the scar from an exploding powder horn in the mid 1760s. The scalp included the hair and his ears.
By Cliff Thornton on 7/8/2018 8:34:19 PM Like:1 DisLike:0
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I am often asked which of Cook’s remains were returned to his crew. How did they know for sure that they were his remains
By Loretta Sullivan on 7/8/2018 10:58:11 AM Like:0 DisLike:0
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Michael, good question, which I do not know the answer to for certain. Maybe somebody in the Navy could add their their knowledge of this this would work today. Personally I would expect the crew to have referred to Cook as Captain, although any letter to him would address him as Lieutenant. Remember there were two other officers on Endeavour who were also lieutenants (Hicks and Gore), so referring to Cook as the captain would avoid any confusion.
By Cliff Thornton on 4/3/2018 8:42:35 PM Like:0 DisLike:1
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Would James Cook have been referred to as"Captain" or "Lieutenant" by members of the Endeavor's crew?
By J. Michael Watt on 4/3/2018 7:25:18 PM Like:0 DisLike:1
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Noel, the details of Captain Cook's remains were recorded in the journals kept by the officers on board the Resolution. Remember that there was a ship's surgeon and surgeon's mate who would be able to identify what bones were returned. What reached the press was just a portion of what was known.
By Cliff Thornton on 1/30/2018 8:32:30 PM Like:0 DisLike:1
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There's a reference in a newspaper article to Cook's death. It states that the Hawaiians returned to his crew his 'hat and thigh' -likely the femur? Not heard of this relatively precise description.
By Noel Humphries on 1/11/2018 10:45:58 AM Like:0 DisLike:1
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Rory, I have never heard the story of one of Cook's ships being captured by the Spanish. It is possible that somebody is confusing Cook's 3rd voyage to Nootka Sound with the much later voyage of Meares who was taken captive by the Spanish who claimed that area. Then there is the story of James Colnett, who served under Cook on his 2nd voyage. Colnett was also imprisoned by the Spanish when caught trading in their area of the West coast of N America.
The story of King Louis is more accurate. In the Spring of 1779, when Cook was expected to be returning home to England, Benjamin Franklin of the newly independant USA issued an order to all captains of US ships telling them not to hinder Cook's return voyage, and to give him any assistance he needed.
https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-29-02-0057
At the time, Franklin was the US representative to France, and he persuaded his contacts in France that the King should also grant a "passport" to Cook, and similar orders went sent out to French ships. I have not heard about King Louis reading Cook's books prior to his execution, but who knows!
By Cliff Thornton on 10/15/2017 1:09:30 PM Like:0 DisLike:0
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Hi I understand that in 1772 the spanish fleet captured one of cook's expeditions but released the boats once they found out it was cook. Is this story accurate and if so I dont suppose you know who the spanish admiral was who captured him.
I also read that the French king Louis XVI was a big fan of Cook and had a version of his journal when imprisoned in Paris awaiting execution. Again I wondered if this story is accurate?
kind regards

rory
By Rory Murphy on 10/12/2017 8:22:25 AM Like:1 DisLike:0
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The charts of Kealekekua Bay, made by Cook and his men, show where the two ships anchored.
But the Resolution moved into deeper water when Cook's remains were buried at sea, and the location of the ship during that ceremony was not recorded.
By Cliff Thornton on 6/18/2017 10:06:57 PM Like:0 DisLike:0
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we vacation on Kealakekua Bay and spend all day in the water...do we know where in the bay remains were sunk?
By jarv on 6/1/2017 11:50:37 PM Like:0 DisLike:0

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