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Captain Cook / Project Manager

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Captain James Cook "... the ablest and most renowned navigator this or any country hath produced. He possessed all the qualifications requisite for his profession and great undertakings ..."

- Lord Palliser, Cook's superior in the Navy


The personal and career requirements of an eighteenth century sea captain to enable him to achieve a major historical voyage must have required above average qualities. Cook managed his first major voyage by planning and management practices using his learnt and inherent skills judged successful by today's modern standards.

This paper will briefly discuss his first voyage history and then list the requirements of a twenty first century project manager to compare Captain Cook's historical abilities against the current formal, accepted and defined qualities.

Early career

Cook started his sea career as an apprentice mate in the non-military (merchant) coastal marine around England. It was here he learnt his "trade" as a seaman. During this period the self taught young man showed aptitude for mathematics in its application in studying navigation and survey. Cook was above average in this field and, as a leader, he was soon offered a captaincy in the maritime marine of a small vessel . However he had greater ambitions, so when he was offered a warrant he was accepted into the Royal Navy . It must be remembered that in this period there was a rigid class system employed in the English social structure. These systems were employed to keep people in social structures so that the ruling classes were safe in their ascendancy. A talented man could not rise above these barriers unless he showed tremendous ability or was sponsored by a person from the classes above. The Royal Navy was at best a temporary occupation due to the system of the crew being contracted to the ship rather than the Navy. However it was one of the few avenues other than the Army in which a lower class individual with talent could advance through social classes without money.

First Command

Cook was employed as an able seaman on HMS Eagle, but his personal abilities were noticed and he soon advanced and was appointed master of the HMS Pembroke . A seaman could be a "captain" of a ship (all sizes of the ships were by this time very closely ranked and promoted) but still hold the as a rank of a lieutenant or less. Cook was a talented man with intelligence and a mathematical ability at junior rank, the Royal Navy sent him to Nova Scotia to map the coast with the command of his first ship. This was a period of the New World, England was expanding her territories and in order to do so the Royal Navy was the main instrument. James Cook a gifted deck officer was to be encouraged and when he was promoted to master of the HMS Northumberland he was then under the direct command of Captain Lord Coleville (latter to become his sponsor).

It was here that Cook's mathematical and navigational ability were honed and this attracted the attention of the senior and influential Navy commanders. Upon his return to England he married and established a home with his new wife, Cook was then appointed to command the schooner HMS Grenville to map Newfoundland. Each promotion bought more prestige, a larger ship and bigger crew. His reputation also grew and, through communications about a solar eclipse, he was in contact with The Royal Society in England - a future, critical and important link.

The Royal Society with the Admiralty began to draw up plans for an expedition planned to Tahiti to record observations of the transit of Venus across the sun during 1769. The society at first nominated Alexander Dalrymple to lead the expedition, but the Admiralty refused to allow a non-naval person taking

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