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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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:0
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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:0
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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.
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

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 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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Stellar, Captain Cook was killed by the Hawaiians at Kealakekua Bay, on the island of Hawaii.
The Hawaiians were not cannibals, but they often cooked bodies to enable the bones to be easily removed. They believed that the power of an individual remained in their bones, so the bones were kept but the flesh was disposed of - and not eaten.
By Cliff Thornton on 4/9/2017 5:26:12 PM Like:0 DisLike:0
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Did captain cook get eaten by the Hawkins or did he just die?
By Stellar smith on 4/9/2017 12:18:14 AM Like:1 DisLike:1
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Chris, why Cook never received any award in recognition for his achievements has puzzled many people. The explanation is that a knighthood, or similar honours which were the gift of the King, could not be awarded retrospectively, or posthumously. And that is still the case today.
By Cliff Thornton on 3/18/2017 7:28:34 PM Like:1 DisLike:0
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I have often wandered, as an Australian, why James Cook was never knighted for his discovering of the great Southern land. Was it due to his junior ranking as an officer in the Rn? Does anybody know?
By Chris Coghlan on 3/17/2017 3:50:07 AM Like:0 DisLike:0

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