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  • Writer's picturegailphilip4

Captain Cook and Whitby

Inscription reads: To Strive, to seek to find and not to yield. To commemorate the men who built the Whitby Ships and the men who sailed with him. In every situation he stood unrivalled and alone. On him all eyes were turned.

Captain Cook made Whitby his home port. It was here that the eighteen year old Cook was first taken on as a merchant navy apprentice. The house belonging to the ship’s owners now houses the Captain Cook Memorial Museum. In the harbour there is a replica of his famous ship The Endeavour, which made the first voyage of discovery which began 252 years ago and was built in Whitby (as were his other ships used for exploration).

Captain Cook charted major parts of the coasts of Australia and New Zealand, plus many other parts of the world. Cook’s voyages led to the founding of several modern nations. The work of his team members was of huge scientific interest in his time. They also brought back insights into the native cultures they encountered – often by modern standards biased and patronising.

Cook died in a skirmish with native Hawaiians in 1779. His luck had finally run out.

We cannot help but marvel at the resilience, bravery and appetite for discovery of Captain Cook and his team. Without modern navigational equipment and communication systems, battered by storms one day and becalmed the next, sailing in uncharted waters and managing strange and sometimes unfriendly cultures, and living in cramped quarters for months, indeed years, on end must have been a monumental achievement.

Cook seems to have been a rather nominal member of the Church of England, and he did not, so far as I can tell, present his voyages of discovery as an explicitly Christian achievement (though others have, and missionaries followed where he had been). However, many of the qualities and values (though by no means all) which he represents are fine for Christians. “He who would valiant be, let him come hither” is a good example of a hymn which celebrates such a quality. We all need a bit of valour these days, and the determination to see things through.

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