The Cook Islands in London: Captain James Cook

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One of the smallest nations competing in London 2012, The Cook Islands in the South Pacific is named after British Royal Navy Captain and East London resident James Cook.

Originally settled in the 13th century by migrants from what is now French Polynesia and Samoa, the islands were surveyed and charted by Captain Cook in 1773 and 1777.

As well as The Cook Islands (known as the Hervey Islands until the 1820s), James Cook also charted New Zealand, Hawaii and the eastern coast of Australia.

Cook’s ship The Resolution encountered The Cook Islands archipelago in 1773 while searching for the mysterious “Terra Australis”. On his return to London, Cook was promoted to the rank of captain and offered honorary retirement from the Royal Navy as an officer in the Greenwich Hospital, sited at the Old Royal Naval College.

However, he returned to The Resolution on his third and final voyage and revisited The Cook Islands in 1777. He was murdered two years later in The Sandwich Islands, now Hawaii.

Cook has a firm place in the history of many Pacific nations, and his navigational skill and legendary voyages are marked in museums and statues across the region.

In addition to The Cook Islands, his name has been given to places in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Kiribati and most recently a crater on the moon.

In London, artefacts from Cook’s voyages can be found at the Royal Museums Greenwich, including a replica of the famous H4 Marine Chronometer and there’s a statue of Cook in the grounds of the National Maritime Museum.

You can also see blue commorative plaques at Cook’s former London homes at Shadwell (340 Highway marks the site of Cook’s house at 126 Upper Shadwell) and Mile End (89 Mile End Road marks the site of Cook’s house at 7 Assembly Row).

Do you know of any other London connections with The Cook Islands? Let us know using the comments section below.