49 / Captain James Cook


James Cook was born in Marton, Yorkshire, and became the greatest European explorer of the Pacific. A plaque marking the site of his (demolished) house in East London describes him as ‘The ablest and most renowned Navigator this or any country hath produced’. In a bid to locate a great southern continent, Cook was only the second known European to have visited New Zealand, which he circumnavigated and charted. He was killed in a fight with Hawaiians during his third exploratory voyage to the Pacific. He is remembered in New Zealand by such geographic features as Cook Strait, Mt Cook (renamed Aoraki/Mt Cook in 1998), Cook’s Cove, on the southern side of Tolaga Bay, and Cook’s Beach, on the Coromandel Peninsula. Captain Cook was also this country’s pioneer brewer, producing the first beer at Dusky Sound on 27 March 1773. In the same year he presented Māori with pigs, which he had obtained from the Society Islands and Tonga. These animals became established throughout the country and became known as ‘Captain Cookers’.

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