Cf. Robin Reilly, Wedgwood (1989), Vol. I, p. 562, pl. 801, for a modern replica of the original Wedgwood model of this plaque attributed to John Flaxman junior, circa 1779, after a portrait by William Hodges.
James Cook (1728-1779) was probably one of the most famous sailors of his day. His career began labouring on a farm after an undistinguised education at his local village school. He soon became apprentice to John and Henry Walker, working on the colliers between Newcastle and London. He enlisted in the Royal Navy in 1755 as an ordinary seaman and rapidly rose throught the ranks. This was at a time when the British forces were engaged with the French in Canada and Cook was involved in The Seven Years War. He was commissioned lieutenant in 1768 and was to lead a scientific expedition to Tahiti aboard the Endeavour. Cook also had secret orders to explore 'the great Southern Continent' thought to be south west of Tahiti. During this voyage Cook charted the coast of New Zealand and landed in Australia, at Botany Bay on 29th April 1770. His second voyage aboard the Restitution in 1772 continued his search for the Southern Continent, charting many of the islands in the South Pacific. in 1775 Cook was promoted to captain and the following year set out for his third and final journey on which he discovered Hawaii and surveyed much of the coast of north-west America. It was on this voyage, in Hawaii, that he met his death at the hands of hostile natives.