Named for James Cook (1728-1779), British circumnavigator and one of the first scientific navigators. He observed the solar eclipse of 1766 Aug. 5 from Newfoundland and in 1769 measured the transit of Venus from Tahiti. In 1761 he assisted the Astronomer Royal, Nevil Maskelyne, in tests of John Harrison’s fourth marine chronometer as a means of determining longitude at sea. Name proposed by the discoverer following a suggestion by B. Hetherington.
With instruction from Samuel Holland, the first Surveyor-General of British North America, Cook was responsible for mapping much of the entrance to the Saint Lawrence River during the siege of Québec in 1759. Due to his excellent work, Cook enjoyed the patronage of the commander-in-chief at Halifax, Lord Colvill. His aptitude for surveying was put to good use mapping the jagged coast of Newfoundland in the 1760s. His five seasons in Newfoundland produced the first large-scale and accurate maps of the island's coasts; they also gave Cook his mastery of practical surveying, achieved under often adverse conditions, and brought him to the attention of the Admiralty and Royal Society at a crucial moment both in his career and in the direction of British overseas discovery. Cook's map would be used into the 20th century, copies of it being referenced by those sailing Newfoundland's waters for 200 years.
On his final voyage in 1778, Cook's two ships were the second European expedition to anchor in Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island. His experiences there aroused great interest in the fur trading potential of the region when the logs of the Discovery and Resolution were forwarded to England via Siberia in late 1779. The ships returned to England in 1780 after the deaths of Cook and James Clerke, captain of Discovery. Cook had proceeded north to the Bering Strait to investigate the Northwest Passage, before returning to the Hawaiian archipelago for winter, where he was killed on 14 February 1779. Clerke died of tuberculosis in Petropavlovsk in August of that year.
Reference: MPC 10846