James Cook was born on 27 October 1728 at Marton in Yorkshire. A self-educated son of a farm labourer, he first went to sea at the age of 19, working the East Coast coal trade. At 27 he enlisted in the Royal Navy and soon became boatswain on the 60-gun ship Eagle. Four years later he surveyed the St Lawrence River, Newfoundland, in preparation for the capture of Quebec, and for three summers he conducted further surveys of the St Lawrence and the Nova Scotia and Newfoundland coasts. In 1768, Cook began the first of the three great Pacific voyages which would see him chart the whole ocean, from New Zealand to the Arctic, so accurately that his charts can still be used today. Cook spent over eight and a half years charting previously unknown islands.