Captain Cook Beat Scurvy on Great NZ Voyage

Captain Cook The Explorer

On Captain Cook, Who Made Three Journeys To The Pacific: The great adventurer Captain James  Cook was born in England, in 1728.  He gained ‘work experience’ on the local colliers as a young man, sailing the rough waters around England.

James Cook obviously had an aptitude for sailing, and a love of the sea which went hand in hand with his thirst for adventure.   The  experience gained with these coal scuttles, and his years with the Royal navy,  gave him great  skill in handling different vessels, and knowledge and understanding of the tides and the weathers.

By the time he set off on his great voyages, which took him to New Zealand, James Cook was a seasoned sailor with great social skills, and what we would call ‘great management skills’ on our CV’s of today.  He was a great ‘team player’ who had astounding leadership qualities.   His years of experience was to stand him in good stead for traveling the rough and dangerous waters of the long journeys to come, on his way to WINZ – sorry –  NZ.

The other major skill which James Cook possessed was chart-making, and it was this skill in particular which drew the interest of The Royal Society, who were looking for the right recruit to send down to the Antipodes.  They had serious plans for mapping the mysterious  ‘Southern Continent”.  It was their funding which enabled Captain Cook to make these fabulous and wondrous journeys to the Pacific.

He had learned chart-making whilst he was in the Royal Navy, from 1756-63.  Just before the seven years war, he had the opportunity to chart the Lawrence River, and parts of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.  His maps were what put him on the ‘short list’ for the job of exploration, as these maps were highly regarded by The Royal Society. There was obviously not too much competition for the job:  James Cook was the winner.

Captain James Cook Prevented Scurvy With Vitamin C: He was successful in his missions – at least until the last one which saw him murdered – because of the fact that he took care of the health of his sailors.  The one dreaded disease which sailors often got during these long periods of being at sea without fresh food, was scurvy.  Captain Cook recognized that if he were to succeed in his missions, he would have to have anti-scorbutic  foods on board.  It is Vitamin C deficiency which leads to scurvy, and many sailors and soldiers have died from scurvy.  Having a diet of just salted meat, without fruits and vegetables which contain Vitamin C, gives people scurvy.

So James loaded up his sailing vessel with lemons, I think,  and potatoes,  and sauerkraut, so that his sailors would stay healthy for the duration of the trip.

Captain Cook managed to map New Zealand on the first of his voyages to find the ‘Southern Continent’.  This task took him six months.  We know so much about James and his journeys, because he was an avid record-keeper, and kept a log and a diary throughout his journeys.  He must have sensed that he was making history:  His trips down-under to the Antipodes had not been attempted by the English before.  Abel Tasman, a Dutchman, had previously come to New Zealand, and is regarded as the  European ‘discoverer’ of New Zealand.  But Abel never came ashore here.  James Cook did, and so he is very much part of our history in New Zealand.  After sailing here in his “Endeavour”, he came ashore at Poverty Bay, where he was greeted by a Haka – a particular kind of Maori war-dance.  The All-Blacks have made the Haka world famous, especially in recent years, since we have had world-coverage on television of important rugby games.

Of course, the Pacifica people had discovered New Zealand long before Abel Tasman, and Captain Cook:  The Moriori people were here before the Maori people came.  Maori dominated, and exterminated, most of the Moriori people, and so it was the Maori people whom Captain Cook met here when he arrived. And it was the Maori people who would, in time, and in turn, be dominated by the British.

The arrival of Captain Cook down in New Zealand, who was a representative of ‘The Crown”, really marked the  beginning of the colonization of New Zealand. He took back his maps and his knowledge of his discoveries to Britain, and this put New Zealand on ‘the map’ in the global sense. Colonization began sixty years after Captain Cook’s first journey here.

The colonists had come here with the idea of taking land and making a better life for themselves.  They did not seem to realize that the land, although it did not have towns with buildings on it like their homeland, England,  was already ‘owned’, or utilized by the Maori people.  They imagined that the land here was a ‘free for all’ situation, when actually, it was not. The period of New Zealand history during the 1860’s was a very sad and troubled time for Maori:  This period is known as ‘The Land Wars”, because of the fights which ensued over property ownership.


to be continued….


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