Summary of Captain James Cook's Second Voyage 1772—1775

Captain Cook's track - click to enlarge

Chart showing the track of Captain Cook's Resolution and Adventure. Second voyage 1772 - 1775

On his second expedition to the Pacific, in the years 1772-75, Captain James Cook made a voyage in the annals of exploration, which is unsurpassed for grandeur of design and execution and for variety of experience. From start to finish, he sailed almost 25,000 leagues -

'an extent of voyage (wrote his first biographer) nearly equal to three times the equatorial circumference of the earth and which had never been accomplished before by any ship in the same compass of duration'.

Following the plan drawn up for him after the first voyage, Cook traversed the Indian and Pacific Oceans in high latitudes, demonstrating that the supposed Southern Continent could not extend north of 60°. This may well be called the earliest voyage for exploration of the Antarctic: Cook three times crossed the Antarctic Circle (never before passed by a European ship), reaching his furthest south at 71° 10' and he proved himself a master of navigation in the ice. In the Pacific, he made three great sweeps, which left a mere handful of Polynesian islands undiscovered. His discoveries or rediscoveries included the Tonga Islands, Easter Island, the Marquesas, the New Hebrides and New Caledonia, along with the sub-Antarctic islands of South Georgia and the South Sandwich group. Captain Furneaux, commanding the consort ship, Adventure, examined the coast of Tasmania.

This voyage reveals Cook at the height of this powers, not only as navigator and explorer, but also as a practical scientist and leader. In the course of over three years, not one man of his crew died from scurvy. The scientific observations made on the voyage—hydrography, meteorology, glaciology, natural history, ethnology—were of unprecedented fullness and variety.

No less remarkable, in their volume and vitality are the written and graphic records left by Cook himself and by his officers, by the astronomer William Wales and the artist William Hodges, by the naturalists J.R. and George Forster.

- Credits to ‘The Journals of Captain James Cook’, edited by J.C. Beaglehole, the Hakluyt Society.

Back to the top