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Who is reputedly the first European to set foot in British Columbia, Canada?

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It was in March 1778 that Captain James Cook, Royal Navy (7 November 1728 - 14 February 1779), became the first known European to set foot on what is now the province of British Columbia, Canada. Cook was considered at that time to be Britain's foremost explorer, navigator and cartographer. After two historic voyages to the South Pacific, Cook was cruising the waters of the Pacific Northwest on his third and final voyage. With his two ships, Resolution and Discovery, he was searching for the Western exit to the legendary Northwest Passage. In March 1778, he sailed into Vancouver Island's Nootka Sound where he remained on site for a month, repairing their ships and trading with First Nations people. With him on the voyage were Mr. William Bligh as Master of the Resolution and Midshipman George Vancouver. While it is known that Spanish sailors had travelled these waters in 1774-1775, it was Cook that delineated the true shape of the northwest coastline. Although his search for a route through the Arctic failed, his three voyages to the Pacific Ocean proved to be extraordinary: he achieved the first recorded European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands, and the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand. Cook had previously served two decades earlier in North America during the Conquest of Canada (1758-63) when he took part in the amphibious assault that captured the Fortress of Louisbourg in 1758 and was responsible for mapping the entrance of the Saint Lawrence River in preparation for the siege of Québec and the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759. Cook also produced the first large-scale and accurate maps of Newfoundland coasts in the 1760s. Shown in the photograph is a bronze and granite sculpture of Captain Cook commissioned by the Victoria Environmental Enhancement Foundation and was unveiled in Victoria, on 12 July 1976 by the Honourable William Bennett, premier of the province of British Columbia.

On this day, 12 July 2018, we commemorate the more than 240 years since Captain Cook first set foot in British Columbia and mark the 42nd anniversary of the unveiling of the statue erected in his honour in Victoria, British Columbia.

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