Captain James Cook Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Casey Krone
The maps we have today weren't always complete! Explorers like Captain James Cook were often responsible for being the first person to set eyes on some of the parts of the world that are known to us today. In this lesson, you will learn about Captain James Cook and some of his adventures.

Captain James Cook: Mapmaker, Explorer, Discoverer

Captain James Cook was born in England in October 1728. His father was a farmer, but as James grew, he developed in interest in exploring the sea. He began to look for chances to do this, and when he was still a teenager, he took an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship is an opportunity for a person to become trained in a skill that they would like to learn more about. Captain Cook took the apprenticeship to become trained as a merchant seaman. As a merchant seaman's apprentice, Captain Cook would have been working on a ship that was meant for trading, buying, or selling.

Captain James Cook
captain cook

From Merchant Seaman to Royal Navy

Captain James Cook enjoyed his time and did well as a merchant seaman, but wanted to join the Royal Navy for England, which he did. At the time that he joined the Royal Navy, a major war was taking place, called The Seven Years War. Many people in the Royal Navy noticed that Captain Cook had some skills and talents at mapmaking. This helped him to get promoted to being the Captain of his very own ship, called the Endeavour.

Cook as Captain

Captain Cook was known as a strict and fair captain, with many rules for his crew. These rules were meant to keep the crew safe and healthy through long journey's. As a captain, Cook would make three major journeys', each with a different, and specific goal.


The first expedition began in 1768, and lasted almost three whole years. Expedition is another word for a journey or a trip that has a specific reason or goal. The goal of this first trip was to observe Venus as it passed between Earth and the sun. He also had a secret mission to discover a southern continent that was believed to exist at the time.

During this expedition, there were many adventures. Captain Cook and his crew visited New Zealand, where he made maps of what he found and built good relationships with the native Maori tribe. He also visited Tahiti. This is where he was able to map Venus. Finally, he visited Australia where he and his crew observed many interesting animals and plants, including a kangaroo.

The second expedition included two new ships. Captain Cook traveled farther south on this expedition than any other European explorer had ever sailed. The goal on this expedition again focused on trying to find this southern continent that was still believed to exist.

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