In June 1755, Cook left Whitby and volunteered as an ordinary seaman in the Royal Navy. The only explanation he gave was that: “I had a mind to try my fortune that way.” Walker was surprised, but continued to assist Cook and remained his life-long friend. Cook signed on serving in HMS Eagle for two years.
Within a month he was promoted to master’s mate, the same rank he had held in Walker’s ships.
It was the beginning of the Seven Years War with France. He saw action in two sea fights. Significantly, he caught the eye of his Captain, Hugh Palliser who gave him instruction in charting and navigation. After two years, he was promoted to HMS Pembroke as master. He witnessed the effects of scurvy when crossing the Atlantic, and put his charting and navigational skills to good use in the St. Lawrence river as the British fleet closed in on Quebec.
In 1762 he married Elizabeth Batts of Shadwell, who had close links with the Quaker community in London with which Walker did much business. Cook was thirteen years older than his wife. They spent only four months together before Cook went back to sea.
This was to be the pattern for much of their married life.
In the following years Cook charted the waters around Newfoundland. He was commended for his ‘genius and capacity’.
His reports to London brought him to the attention of the Royal Society. The stage was set for him to be selected to lead the Voyage to the Pacific in HM Bark Endeavour.
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