This Day in History - 19th April
In 1770,Explorer Captain James Cook sighted the eastern coast of what is now Australia.
Cook joined the British merchant navy as a teenager and joined the Royal Navy in 1755. In three voyages, Cook sailed thousands of miles across largely uncharted areas of the globe. He mapped lands from New Zealand to Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean in greater detail and scale not previously charted by Western explorers.
In 1769, the planet Venus was due to pass in front of the Sun, a rare event visible only in the southern hemisphere. The British government decided to send an expedition to observe the phenomenon. A more secret motive was to search for the fabled southern continent. Cook was chosen as commander of the Whitby-built HMS Endeavour. Those on board included astronomer Charles Green and botanist Joseph Banks.
Endeavour arrived in Tahiti in April 1769 where Green was able to observe the transit of Venus. Endeavour continued on to New Zealand, and then sailed along the length of Australia's eastern coast, which had never before been seen by Europeans. Cook claimed it for Britain and named it New South Wales. Cook and his crew then returned home, arriving in July 1771.
On his third voyage Cook took his two ships south and explored the island of Hawaii. Relations with the islanders were soured after the theft of a ship's boat. On 14 February Cook tried to take the local leader hostage. There was a scuffle and Cook was stabbed and killed.