This timeline charts the journeys of James Cook and his crew on their voyages to the Pacific Ocean.
1768–1771: First voyage – Endeavour
1772–1775: Second voyage – Resolution and Adventure
1776–1780: Third voyage – Resolution and Discovery
1768–1771: First voyage – Endeavour
In 1768 James Cook was selected to lead a joint Admiralty-Royal Society expedition to the Pacific. This was part of the Royal Society’s plan to use the Transit of Venus (the passing of Venus across the face of the Sun) to calculate the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Joseph Banks, a wealthy landowner and botanist, also joined the voyage with a party of scientists and artists.
Alongside the scientific aims, the Admiralty provided Cook with secret orders instructing him to search for land and commercial opportunities in the Pacific.
26 May 1768: Cook took command of HMB Endeavour (HMB was used because there already was an HMS Endeavour).
25 August 1768: The Endeavour sailed from Plymouth
14 January 1769: The Endeavour anchored in the Bay of Good Success, Tierra del Fuego, where provisions were taken on board and artist Alexander Buchan made a series of drawings.
13 April 1769: The Endeavour anchored in Matavai Bay, Tahiti, where good relations were established with Tuteha, the chief of the area.
17 April 1769: Expedition artist Alexander Buchan died. Sydney Parkinson, the natural history artist, also took on responsibility for drawing people and landscapes.
3 June 1769: Three parties observed the Transit of Venus but the results proved imprecise.
9 June 1769: Joseph Banks took part in a funeral ceremony led by the Chief Mourner, which he described in his journal and which was depicted in several drawings.
13 July 1769: The Endeavour left Tahiti. The Rai‘aitean navigator and high priest Tupaia joined the ship with his young servant Taiato.
7 October 1769: The coast of New Zealand was sighted. Part of the west coast had been briefly visited by Abel Tasman in 1642 but the land was otherwise unknown in Europe. It had been settled by the Māori people sometime before 1300. The Māori name is Aotearoa.
9 October 1769: The first landing at Tūranganui-a-kiwa, which Cook later called Poverty Bay. Shots were fired, resulting in the death of Māori leader Te Maro.
10 October 1769: First meeting between British and Māori. Two further violent incidents take place during which Te Rākau and several other men were killed by British musket fire.
11 October 1769: Meeting aboard ship between the British and Māori who approach in canoes. Goods are exchanged.
15 October 1769: Taiato was kidnapped and taken aboard a canoe. The canoe was fired upon and Taiato escaped and returned to the Endeavour.
23 October 1769: The Endeavour anchored at Uawa, which Cook called Tolaga Bay. During the stay the artists made drawings of artefacts and places, including the arched rock.
9 November 1769: Cook and Charles Green observed the Transit of Mercury at ‘Mercury Bay’.
16 January 1770: The Endeavour anchored at Ship Cove, Queen Charlotte Sound, which would become Cook’s main base in New Zealand.
10 March 1770: The Endeavour passed the southern tip of the South Island, disproving the theory, common in Europe, that New Zealand was part of the Great Southern Continent.
31 March 1770: The Endeavour sailed for Australia. Cook had spent six months completing the first chart of New Zealand.
19 April 1770: The east coast of Australia was sighted. The Endeavour sailed north in search of an anchorage at which supplies could be taken on.
29 April 1770: The first landing was made at Botany Bay. A confrontation took place with two men who opposed the British landing and shots were fired, injuring one man in the leg.
5 May 1770: The Endeavour sailed north, passing an inlet Cook called Port Jackson, which later became the site of the first British prison colony in Australia and which grew into the modern city of Sydney.
11 June 1770: The Endeavour ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef off modern-day Queensland. The ship was holed below the waterline and nearly sank.
18 June 1770: A landing was made at Waalumbaal Birri, which the British called Endeavour River, and the ship hauled ashore for repairs.
23 June 1770: Members of the expedition sighted a kangaroo for the first time.
10 July 1770: The first meeting between the British and the Guugu Yimithirr people who lived in the Endeavour River area. During the stay, Sydney Parkinson compiled a vocabulary of the Guugu Yimithirr language, including the word ‘Kangooroo’ (Gangurru).
16 August 1770: The Endeavour almost ran aground again on the Great Barrier Reef, but avoided this by sailing through a gap in the coral.
22 August 1770: Cook claimed the east coast of Australia, calling it New South Wales, at an island he called Possession Island.
11 October 1770: The Endeavour anchored at Batavia (modern-day Jakarta) for further repairs and provisioning. During the stay seven men died from fever, including Tupaia, Taiato and William Monkhouse, the surgeon.
26 November 1770: The Endeavour sailed from Batavia. On the journey across the Indian Ocean more than two dozen men died from fever, including the artist Sydney Parkinson and the astronomer Charles Green.
14 March 1771: The Endeavour anchored at the Cape of Good Hope to take on supplies before sailing north towards Britain.
16 July 1771: The Endeavour anchored in the Thames.
1772–1775: Second voyage – Resolution and Adventure
In 1772 James Cook was sent back to the Pacific by the Admiralty to search for the Great Southern Continent, believed by some in Europe to encircle the South Pole and to balance the weight of the landmasses of the northern hemisphere.
The expedition circumnavigated the globe further south than had been done before, allowing Cook to rule out the existence of a continent ‘unless near the pole and out of reach of navigation’. Cook’s ships were the first to cross the Antarctic Circle and the Resolution set a record for the Farthest South that would stand for 49 years.
During the voyage Cook also charted the location of several islands and island groups not previously plotted on European maps.
3 July 1772: Cook’s ship, HMS Resolution, arrived at Plymouth to join HMS Adventure, which was captained by Tobias Furneaux.
13 July 1772: The ships sailed from Plymouth.
30 October 1772: The ships anchored at the Cape of Good Hope to take on supplies, before sailing south towards the Antarctic.
14 December 1772: The ships approached the edge of the ice sheet. After spending several days searching for a break in the ice they returned north.
9 January 1773: The ship’s boats collected ice, which was melted to supply fresh water. This was depicted in a drawing by expedition artist William Hodges.
17 January 1773: The Resolution and Adventure crossed the Antarctic Circle, the first ships known to have done so.
8 February 1773: The ships lost contact with each other in dense fog. A rendezvous had previously been agreed at Queen Charlotte Sound in New Zealand.
11 March 1773: The Adventure called at Tasmania en route to New Zealand. Furneaux concluded that Tasmania was joined to the mainland.
26 March 1773: The Resolution anchored in Dusky Bay on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. During the stay the British became friendly with a local family who visited the landing site.
18 May 1773: The Resolution arrived at Ship Cove, Queen Charlotte Sound, where the Adventure had been for several weeks. Ship Cove became a centre for trade and many Māori visitors enquired about Tupaia.
26 August 1773: The ships anchored at Matavai Bay, Cook’s main base at Tahiti, where good relations were formed with Tu, who had succeeded Tuteha as chief.
7 September 1773: Mai (‘Omai’) joined the Adventure at the island of Huahine. He later became the first Polynesian to visit Britain.
17 September 1773: Hitihiti joined the Resolution at the island of Ra‘iatea. He sailed to Tonga, the Antarctic, New Zealand and Easter Island (Rapa Nui) before returning home in June 1774.
2 October 1773: The ships visited ‘Eua, and the following day Tongatapu, islands previously visited by Abel Tasman. The warmth of the welcome later prompted Cook to call the group the Friendly Islands.
30 October 1773: The ships were separated in a storm off New Zealand. The Resolution continued to Queen Charlotte Sound and the Adventure put into Tolaga Bay.
25 November 1773: The Resolution left Queen Charlotte Sound and sailed south towards the Antarctic. The Adventure arrived 10 days later and Furneaux decided to return to Britain.
20 December 1773: The Resolution crossed the Antarctic Circle for the second time.
24 December 1773: Thick ice forced the Resolution to return north.
26 January 1774: The Resolution crossed the Antarctic Circle for the third time.
30 January 1774: The Resolution reached latitude 71°10’ South, a record for the farthest south that stood until 1823.
6 February 1774: Cook wrote in his journal: 'a Southern Continent, mentioned by all authors who have written on this subject, whose assertions and conjectures are now intirely refuted'.
14 March 1774: The Resolution anchored at Easter Island (Rapa Nui). Several members of the expedition described or drew the statues or Moai.
22 April 1774: Resolution anchored at Matavai Bay, Tahiti, where good relations were renewed with Tu. Several entertainments were put on, including dances, military exercises and a firework display.
30 April 1774: Cook witnessed a Tahitian fleet preparing to attack the neighbouring island of Mo‘orea. William Hodges made a drawing of this.
22 June 1774: A party landed on the island of Niue but left after a confrontation with the inhabitants.
27 June 1774: A landing was made at Nomuka, part of the Tongan archipelago, to take on supplies.
14 July 1774: The Adventure arrived back in Britain with Mai, who became a celebrity during his visit.
17 July 1774: The Resolution reached the island group Cook called the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu). Several landings were made over the following weeks, some of which were violent.
5 August 1774: The ship anchored at Tanna in the New Hebrides (Vanuatu), where the expedition stayed for two weeks.
5 September 1774: The Resolution anchored at New Caledonia, which Cook later claimed for the Crown.
11 October 1774: A party landed on the uninhabited Norfolk Island and noted the potential of pine and flax.
6 November 1774: The Resolution returned to Queen Charlotte Sound, New Zealand, to take on provisions before continuing east across the Pacific.
21 December 1774: The Resolution anchored at Tierra del Fuego, at the tip of South America, having encountered no land on the journey across the Pacific.
16 January 1775: The Resolution reached South Georgia, a previously unknown island, which Cook claimed for the Crown.
31 January 1775: The South Sandwich Islands were sighted. The southernmost island was named ‘Southern Thule’, indicating that it marked the edge of the known world.
21 February 1775: The Resolution completed its circumnavigation of the globe, before turning north towards the Cape of Good Hope.
15 May 1775: Resolution visited St. Helena on its way back to Britain.
30 July 1775: The Resolution anchored off Portsmouth.
1776–1780: Third voyage – Resolution and Discovery
In 1776 Cook again sailed for the Pacific, this time with Admiralty instructions to search for a sea passage to the North Atlantic (known as the Northwest Passage), which would provide a new trade route from Britain. To conceal this strategic goal, the voyage was publicly presented as a mission to return Mai to his homeland.
12 July 1776: The Resolution sailed from Plymouth. The Discovery was delayed after Charles Clerke, its captain, was imprisoned due to the debts of his brother.
12 November 1776: The Discovery, captained by Charles Clerke, joined Cook and the Resolution at the Cape of Good Hope.
25 December 1776: The ships anchored at ‘Christmas Harbour’, on the main island of the uninhabited Kerguelen group, which had previously been visited by a French expedition.
26 January 1777: The ships called at Tasmania, then known in Europe as Van Diemen’s Land, the name given by Abel Tasman.
12 February 1777: The expedition arrived at Ship Cove, Queen Charlotte Sound, in New Zealand.
28 April 1777: The expedition called at Nomuka, one of a number of stops made in the Tongan archipelago.
23 August 1777: The Resolution and Discovery anchored at Matavai Bay, Tahiti, where the expedition stayed for a month.
12 October 1777: Mai is left at Huahine in a wooden house built for him by the British.
20 January 1778: A party landed at Waimea Bay, Kauai. Cook’s ships were the first from Europe known to have called at the Hawaiian islands.
2 February 1778: The expedition sailed north from Hawai‘i, which Cook called the Sandwich Islands.
30 March 1778: The ships anchored at Nootka Sound, Vancouver Island, where supplies were taken on board and trade in furs took place.
12 May 1778: The ships entered Prince William Sound, Alaska, for repairs and to take on supplies.
25 May 1778: The ships explored Cook Inlet, Alaska, which was thought by some on board to be the start of the Northwest Passage.
27 June 1778: The expedition sighted Unalaska in the Aleutian Islands, where a landing was made.
9 August 1778: The expedition crossed the Bering Strait and sighted the coast of Asia.
14 August 1778: The Resolution and Discovery crossed the Arctic Circle.
18 August 1778: The ships reached their highest latitude of 70° 44´ N but were prevented from going further by the Arctic ice sheet.
14 October 1778: The expedition returned to Unalaska where Cook met with Russian fur traders. The ships sailed south on 26 October to winter in Hawai‘i.
17 January 1779: The ships anchored at Kealakekua Bay, Hawai‘i, where provisions were obtained and Cook took part in welcoming ceremonies.
4 February 1779: The ships left Kealakekua Bay but damage to the Resolution’s mast meant that they had to return. They arrived back on 11 February.
14 February 1779: Following a dispute over a stolen boat, Cook was killed on the beach along with four marines. 16 Hawaiians are believed to have been killed.
21 February 1779: Charles Clerke assumed command of the expedition. He bombarded the Hawaiian coast and demanded the return of Cook’s remains. These were later buried at sea.
15 March 1779: The ships sailed north from Hawai‘i.
30 July 1779: The expedition sailed through the Bering Strait again but was soon forced by ice to return south.
22 August 1779: Charles Clerke died of consumption, which he had contracted in prison. John Gore took command of the expedition.
9 October 1779: The ships left Kamchatka in western Russia to return to Britain.
26 October 1779: The coast of Japan was sighted.
1 December 1779: The ships anchored at Macao in China, where large profits were made from the sale of sea otter pelts.
12 April 1780: The Resolution and Discovery anchored at the Cape of Good Hope to take on supplies.
22 August 1780: The ships anchored in Stromness Harbour, Orkney, having sailed north and west of Ireland to avoid severe gales; they stayed for almost a month.
7 October 1780: The Resolution and Discovery returned to the Thames.