An English navigator, Capt. James Cook is considered to be the greatest explorer of the 18th century. He is known for his voyages to the Pacific Ocean and his application of scientific methods to exploration and cartography. After the conclusion of the Seven Years' War (known as the French and Indian War in this hemisphere), Cook was given command of the schooner Grenville and spent four years surveying the coasts of Labrador, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia.
In 1768 Cook was given command of an expedition to observe the transit of Venus at Tahiti. He also had secret orders to search for "unknown southern land." As part of the expedition, he sailed through the Society Islands and rediscovered New Zealand, surveyed about 2,000 miles (3,200 km) of the Australian coast, and confirmed the existence of a passage between Australia and New Guinea. On his second voyage, sailing on the Resolution and accompanied by the Adventure, the two ships became separated and the latter returned to England.
The Resolution thus became the first vessel to circumnavigate the earth from west to east. On July 12, 1776, Cook again departed on the Resolution in search of the Northwest Passage from the Pacific Ocean. The Discovery joined him at the Cape of Good Hope. The two ships visited Tahiti before discovering Christmas Island and then the Hawaiian Islands, which Cook called the Sandwich Islands. He ventured northward through the Bering Strait, but encountered ice and no passage. Cook returned to Hawaii, where he was killed in a skirmish with the natives.