What Did Captain James Cook Discover?


Quick Answer

On his third voyage to map and refine information about the South Pacific, Captain James Cook discovered the Hawaiian Islands. During previous voyages, he had mapped the coastline of Australia and determined that New Zealand was not part of the Australian mainland.

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What Did Captain James Cook Discover?
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Full Answer

Cook was already well known for his seafaring and mapping skills when he was charged by the British Navy and the British Royal Society to locate and map Australia in 1668. While the Europeans already knew Australia was there, only cursory investigations had been made. After mapping over 5,000 miles of coastline, he returned to great acclaim in 1671. On a second trip, he mapped several other Micronesian islands and determined that the legendary Great Southern Continent, Antarctica, would be uninhabitable even if it existed.

Hawaii was also Cook's grave. He was killed by Hawaiians at Kealakekua Bay in 1779, probably as a consequence of breaking a taboo.

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