Interesting note on the career of English explorer James cook via Livescience, from the site's 'changing history' series. Cook not only took part in a series of exploratory missions to the Pacific, he was responsible in part for the British conquest of Canada. As a navigator to the British Expedition to French Canada, he charted the waters of the St. Lawrence River, giving the British an opportunity to conduct the conquest of Quebec and win the war and causing the Frenhc to give up their Canadian possessions.
Almost a decade later, Cook led an expedition to the South Pacific island of Tahiti, leading a team of scientists to observe the transit of Venus across the Sun and allowing for a precise measurement of the distance from the Earth to our parent star. The same expedition has 'secret' orders from the Admiralty to head south and explore the mysterious continent of Australia. Within another ten years, British ships would arrive with the first of the convicts that would go on to settle the continent. Cook's second expedition in 1773 explored much of Polynesia and the south Pacific islands.
Cook's third expedition in 1778 in an attempt to discover the long theorized 'Northwest Passage' discovered insteadthe Hawaiian island chain, where he met his death after being stabbed in an attempt to seize a Hawaiian chief hostage.