Here’s an interesting piece of trivia you won’t find in your high school history book. When Captain James Cook “discovered” the southeastern coast of Australia in 1770, he wasn’t actually a Captain. Furthermore, he never held this rank at any point during his naval career. Blame alliteration.
Prior to the HMS Endeavour’s maiden voyage of discovery, Cook was promoted from Officer to Lieutenant to grant him sufficient status to take the command. He was still a Lieutenant when the ship reached the Australian mainland. ‘Captain’ is an honorific that was granted posthumously by Aussie historians.
During his two subsequent voyages, Cook was a Commander and a Post-Captain (which relates to smaller ships), respectively. In other words, he never officially sailed as a Captain before meeting his untimely demise in the Hawaii islands.
While it’s true that the rank of Post-Captain was usually abbreviated to ‘captain’ in spoken conversation, it can’t be denied that Cook wasn’t a Captain in 1770. When discussing his adventures in Australia, ‘LT Cook’ is much more accurate. At the very least, we should be using captain with a lower-case ‘c’.
But ‘Captain Cook’ has a nice ring to it, so here we are.
You can read a thorough breakdown of Cook’s erroneous rank of Captain over on SMH.
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