Guide to the journals of Captain James Cook



National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Created: 2018

Collection Summary

Cook, James, Captain, 1728-1779
Journals of Captain James Cook (as filmed by the AJCP)
Date Range
1770 - 1784
Collection Number
8 items
Language of Materials
Australian Joint Copying Project
The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) online portal was created with the assistance of the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund, 2017-2020. The National Library of Australia gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the other foundation AJCP partners, the State Library of New South Wales and The National Archives of the UK, and all other organisations which supported the work of the AJCP, the world's most extensive collaborative copying project, operating from 1948 to 1997.


Scope and Contents

Journals and logs kept by Cook on his three voyages to the Pacific on HMS Endeavour and HMS Resolution, together with notes by Joseph Gilbert, William Wales and Henry Roberts.

Conditions Governing Access

Available for Access.

Conditions Governing Use

Readers wishing to publish or reproduce documents should seek permission, in the first instance, from the British Library. For more information visit: How I use the images I order?-The British Library [].

Preferred Citation

Acknowledgement of use of this material should refer to the location of the original material and to the Australian Joint Copying Project.

Items from this collection should include references to the location of the original material and to the AJCP nla.obj number, which serves as the online identifier for the digital copy.

Example: M Series: Journal of Capt. James Cook, 18 February 1770, British Library Add. MS 27885 (AJCP ref:

Archival History

Filmed as part of the Australian Joint Copying Project, 1983 (AJCP Reel: M1580-M1582). Original microfilm digitised as part of the NLA AJCP Online Delivery Project, 2017-2020.

Existence and Location of Originals

British Library, 96 Euston Road, London. Collection references: Add MS 27885; Add MS 27886; Add MS 27887; Add MS 27956; Egerton MS 2177A; Egerton MS 2177B; Egerton MS 2178-2179. For further information see Captain James Cook at the British Library (

Existence and Location of Copies

The original AJCP microfilm of the records filmed from this collection is available at the National Library of Australia [] as well as other institutions holding AJCP microfilm.

Finding-aid Notes

This finding aid is a revised online version of the original finding aid prepared by the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), published by the National Library of Australia in 2018. The original AJCP finding aids were unpublished typescripts or photocopies available from libraries that held copies of the original microfilm.

Dates used in this finding aid refer to the date range of the records selected for filming rather than to the date range of the Series or Files.


Cook, James, Capt.; Endeavour, HMS (ship); Exploration: maritime; Gilbert, Joseph; Naval officers; Pacific Ocean; Resolution, HMS (ship); Roberts, Henry, Lieut.; Royal Navy: exploration and surveys; Royal Navy: voyages; Wales, William


Originally cited in Australian Joint Copying Project Handbook. Part 8: Miscellaneous (M) Series. Third Edition, published 1998. Entry 110, p40.

Biographical / Historical

James Cook (1728-1779) was born at Merton, Yorkshire and grew up on a farm at Ayton. In 1747 he moved to Whitby and joined the merchant navy, working on colliers and other ships in the coastal trade and later in the Baltic Sea. In 1755 he joined the Royal Navy and in 1757 he qualified as a master. He served in North America during the Seven Years War, taking part in the capture of Louisburg and Quebec, and as master of HMS Grenville he spent five years surveying the coasts of Newfoundland.

In 1768 Cook was promoted to lieutenant and given command of HMS Endeavour on its voyage to the South Pacific. After visiting Tahiti and observing the transit of Venus (the ostensible purpose of the expedition), Cook mapped the entire coasts of New Zealand and the eastern coast of Australia. He returned to England in July 1771 and was immediately promoted to the rank of captain. In 1772 he was commissioned by the Royal Society to search for a southern continent that many believed lay in the high latitudes of the South Pacific. HMS Resolution, accompanied by HMS Adventure, spent nearly three years exploring the extreme latitudes of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic oceans, twice crossing the Antarctic Circle. Using bases in New Zealand and Tahiti, Cook also explored much of the South Pacific, including the Friendly Islands (Tonga), Easter Island, the New Hebrides, New Caledonia and Norfolk Island. In July 1776 Cook, again commanding HMS Resolution, set off on his third great voyage with the aim of exploring the North Pacific and discovering the North West Passage. He discovered the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) and explored the north-western coast of America as far as the Bering Strait. Returning to the Sandwich Islands, he was killed in a skirmish with the Hawaiians in February 1779.

Item Descriptions

Part of holograph log of Lieutenant James Cook on HMS Endeavour (51 folios), 18 February 1770 - 23 September 1770 (File Add MS 27885)

The log begins when the Endeavour was passing Banks Peninsula on the South Island of New Zealand and records the voyage round the southern and western coasts, the departure from New Zealand, the sighting of New Holland (23 April), the exploration of the eastern coast, the time spent at Botany Bay (28 April – 6 May) and Endeavour River (17 June – 5 August), and the voyage through Torres Strait to the west coast of New Guinea, Timor and Savu in the East Indies.

At the beginning of the log are a page of calculations by Cook and two receipts signed by William Parry, surgeon's mate, Batavia, 6 November 1770. At the end of the log is a printed form entitled 'Computation for finding the Longitude by observations', filled in by Cook.

Archival History

Originally filmed on AJCP reel M1580.

Existence and Location of Originals

The holograph journal of Cook kept on HMS Endeavour is held in the National Library of Australia (MS 1).

Holograph journal of Captain James Cook on HMS Resolution (320 ff.), 28 November 1771 - 10 November 1774 (File Add MS 27886)

The journal begins on 28 November 1771, when Cook received his commission to command HMS Drake, which shortly after was re-named HMS Resolution. There are no further entries until May 1772. HMS Resolution and Adventure left Plymouth on 13 July 1772 and the journal records the voyage to Cape Town, the southern Indian Ocean, Dusky Sound, New Zealand (March – May 1773), Queen Charlotte Sound, Tahiti (Aug. 1773), the Friendly Islands (Oct. 1773), the separation from the Adventure (Oct. 1773), Queen Charlotte Sound (Nov. 1773), the southern Pacific Ocean, Easter Island (March 1774), the Marquesas Islands (April 1774), Tahiti (April – May 1774), Huahine (May 1774), Savage Island (Niue) (June 1774), Tonga (June 1774), New Hebrides (July – Sept. 1774) and New Caledonia (Oct. 1774). The journal ends with the Resolution sailing south-east towards the Straits of Magellan.

The journal was written in seven folio books bound in thick marbled paper which were later taken apart and re-bound in a guardbook. There are a number of calculations, notes by the ship's master (Joseph Gilbert) and other insertions. The most substantial is an extract in a clerk's hand from the journal of Captain Tobias Furneaux on HMS Adventure, 8 February – 15 May 1773, written when he explored the eastern coast of Van Diemen's Land (ff. 97-105). The first page of the journal is written in another hand and is headed 'Remarks in Long Island Sound'.

Archival History

Originally filmed on AJCP reel M1580.

Fair copy of log of Captain James Cook on HMS Resolution (142 ff.), 30 November 1771 - 10 November 1774 (File Add MS 27887)

This manuscript is a fair copy of the holograph log of Cook (Add. MS 27956), including the first part of the voyage which is missing in the holograph log. The period 30 November 1771 – 13 July 1772 takes up less than two pages. There are a few minor additions and corrections in Cook's hand. The log contains a number of drawings and charts of Madeira and the Cape Verde and Canary Islands: profiles of Porto Santo, a chart of 'Fonchall [Funchal] Bay', a chart of the island of Palma, profiles of St Iago [Jago], and a chart of Porto Praya (Praia). Pasted at the end of the volume are a number of sheets giving daily ships' positions and meteorological observations of various passages. The last, giving the route of the Adventure from New Zealand to the Cape of Good Hope, is in Cook's hand.

Archival History

Originally filmed on AJCP reel M1580.

Part of holograph log of Captain James Cook on HMS Resolution (145 ff.), 16 October 1773 - 28 July 1775 (File Add MS 27956)

The log opens when the Resolution was sailing from Tonga to Queen Charlotte Sound in New Zealand continues to the end of the voyage. It appears that it was originally in two volumes. At the end of the volume are two leaves entitled 'Descriptions of bearings and harbours within Trinity Bay' [Newfoundland] and a few mathematical calculations.

Archival History

Originally filmed on AJCP reel M1580.

Holograph journal of Captain James Cook on HMS Resolution (605 ff.), 10 February 1776 - 6 January 1779 (File Egerton MS 2177A)

The journal begins with Cook receiving his commission to command the Resolution and the preparations for the voyage. It records the departure from Plymouth (12 July 1776) and the voyage to Cape Town, Kerguelen, Adventure Bay, Van Diemen's Land (Jan. 1777), Queen Charlotte Sound (Feb. 1777), the Friendly Islands (May – July 17777), Tahiti (Aug. – Sept. 1777), Huahine (Oct. 1777), the Sandwich Islands [Hawaii] (Jan. –Feb. 1778), New Albion (March – Nov. 1778), Alaska, Arctic Ocean, Aleutian Islands, and the Sandwich Islands (Nov. 1778 – Jan. 1779). The last entry was written about five weeks before Cook was killed at Kealakekua Bay.

The journal appears to have been written with the eventual publication in mind and is more polished, and is more of a narrative, than is the case with Cook's earlier journals. He concentrated on the countries and islands that he visited, while the entries written when the ship was at sea are relatively brief. As with his other journals, there are occasional blanks left for figures.

Archival History

Originally filmed on AJCP reel M1581.

Fragments of holograph log of Captain James Cook on HMS Resolution (4 ff.), 28 November 1778 - 17 January 1779 (File Egerton MS 2177B)

The fragments, written on very large sheets of papers, is not in the usual tabular form, but the entries are very brief and mostly record winds, bearings and position. There are a few references to encounters with the Hawaiian Islanders. The log is accompanied by the original instructions from the Admiralty to Cook (6 July 1776), signed by Lord Sandwich, Lord Spencer and Palliser and extracts from the instructions to Lieutenant Richard Pickersgill, commander of the brig HMS Lyon (14 May 1776) and Lieut. Walter Young, commander of the brig Lyon (12 March 1777). In 1776 and 1777 the Lyon was sent to Baffin Bay in Canada to search for the north-west passage and possibly link up with Cook, but the expeditions were failures.

Archival History

Originally filmed on AJCP reel M1582.

Journal of Captain James Cook on HMS Resolution, rewritten by John Douglas, volume 1 (358 ff.), February 1776 - 18 May 1784 (File Egerton MS 2178)

The journal is preceded by a lengthy introduction (ff. 1-63), including an extract from a letter (18 May 1784) of Henry Roberts, the master's mate on the Resolution. There is also a list of plates. Reverend John Douglas (1721-1807), later Bishop of Salisbury, edited Cook's journal of his third voyage, entitled Voyage to the Pacific Ocean (1784). While based on Cook's journal, Douglas made many changes, some minor, some substantial. The manuscript, which contains many deletions and marginal additions, appears to be the copy sent to the printer.

Archival History

Originally filmed on AJCP reel M1582.

Journal of Captain James Cook on HMS Resolution, rewritten by John Douglas, volume 2 (325 ff.), July 1777 - 1780 (File Egerton MS 2179)

The volume is similar to the previous volume, although there are somewhat fewer deletions. It includes many marginal additions and inserted pages. At the end of the volume is a printed map (1780) by Thomas Kitchin of the discoveries made by Captain Cook and other navigators in the Pacific Ocean.

Archival History

Originally filmed on AJCP reel M1582.