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Captain Cook and Whitby

Jewellery & Watch News

Captain Cook is another famous name associated with our popular seaside town alongside the likes of Bram Stoker, the author of the Gothic novel Dracula. It’s a name known worldwide for his famous expeditions but did you know that he began his career, right here in Whitby? His quest for adventure all started in our far from traditional North Yorkshire town sending him around the globe searching for new discoveries. 




Humble Beginnings


Born in Marton, a village near Middlesbrough in 1728, James Cook found his love for the deep blue when he moved to Staithes at 16 to be shopkeeper, William Sanderson’s apprentice. The charming fishing village is just 11 miles away from Whitby and is locally pronounced ‘steers.’ It was here working at the grocer’s that his passion for adventure began as we can imagine watching the busy harbour and hearing the adventures of the sea was very exciting for a young teen. So much so that Cook moved to Whitby just 2 years later in 1746 to train at a shipping firm. A year earlier, Sanderson’s shop was a victim of the great storm of 1745 leaving Cook out of work and to understand the unpredictability of the sea. Little that was left of the store was used to build, what is now called James Cook’s Cottage. 


Cook’s Career


Before joining the Royal Navy where he quickly impressed and was promoted to command, Cook spent time in Whitby working as a trainee at a shipping firm and lodged with his master, John Walker. It is this house on Grape Lane that opened as a Captain Cook Memorial Museum to honour the seafaring adventurer, which still remains a popular tourist destination for many who visit our town. 




His First Expedition 


It was Cook’s passion for adventure that dramatically altered how westerners saw the world. His first expedition in 1769 was commissioned by the British government who were intrigued by a rare astrological event. Venus was due to pass in front of the Sun, which could only be witnessed in the southern hemisphere. Cook was chosen to be the commander of the HMS Endeavour, which was built right here in Whitby. Whilst there he was also asked to search for the southern continent, which until then was left unfound. In April of that year Cook was able to observe Venus’ movements and continue sailing to find New Zealand and Australia’s eastern coast, which until this point were unchartered waters. 




Those That Followed 


His first voyage only fuelled his desire to continue exploring. Cook set off on two more journeys into the unknown in his lifetime. The second expedition in 1772 was cut short as the two ships had no choice but to turn back due to the cold when sailing close to the Antarctic coast. Instead they decided to visit New Zealand and Tahiti before returning home. The third mission was to discover the North-West Passage that was rumoured to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Unsuccessful, he headed South to explore the island of Hawaii, where unfortunately relations with the islanders took a turn for the worse when a boat was stolen from one of the ships. Cook tried to take the local leader hostage and was stabbed as a result, which led to his death. 


Living so closely to the Northern coastline, our designers here at the Whitby Jet Store are also inspired by all things to do with sea creating our Ocean collection that pays tribute to the deep blue. 


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