HMB Endeavour, a magnificent replica

caption:The well-travelled <em>Endeavour</em> under full sail, setting 1,500 square metres of canvas.

A replica of Captain Cook's famous ship of discovery, HMB Endeavour, is displayed at the Australian National Maritime Museum as one of the nation's foremost historical exhibits. The magnificent Endeavour is a full scale, Australian-built replica and one of the world's most accurate maritime reproductions. On board the beautifully crafted ship, you glimpse a sailor's life during one of history's great maritime adventures, Cook's epic 1768-71 world voyage.

The museum maintains Endeavour for the public to experience 18th-century square-rig voyaging and seamanship by voyaging to other ports, where the ship berths and opens to the public.

Slideshow: Click an image to view Endeavour at sea:

About Cook's voyage on the Endeavour

 Why was Endeavour sent to the South Seas?

In 1767, the Royal Society of London petitioned King George III for a ship to send to the South Seas. They wanted to view the transit of the planet Venus across the sun, due to take place on 3 June 1769. It was an important event and had international cooperation with over 150 observers taking part around the world. Astronomers hoped that they could compile all their results to calculate the distance of the earth from the sun.

Endeavour was fitted out for the voyage and astronomer Charles Green was chosen by the Royal Society to sail with them to the newly discovered island of Tahiti for the observation. Helped by Captain James Cook and some of the Endeavour's officers, Green successfully noted the times for the transit.

Cook then followed his 'secret' orders from the Admiralty - to search for the supposed Great South Land. When Cook was unable to find this land, he continued to New Zealand, charted both islands and took notes on the people and their way of life. He sailed to the east coast of New Holland (Australia) and, turning Endeavour north, sailed up the east coast. Charting this unknown coast for the first time, the Endeavour was nearly lost when it struck a reef south of modern day Cooktown. Before leaving, Cook took possession of the eastern portion of Australia in the name of King George III.

Slideshow: Click an image to view historic engravings:

 The new navigation

In the 15th century, Portuguese explorers developed the method of finding latitude (distance north or south of the equator) by simple astronomical observations of the sun or a star. However, finding longitude (distance east/west) was a matter of estimation based on the distance sailed and the course steered. Because longitude was difficult to find, ships were often hundreds of miles off course or shipwrecked.

Longitude can be expressed as the difference in time between two places. To find how far east or west he had sailed, a navigator had to know the time on board his ship (easily found by sighting the sun or a star) and the time at his place of departure (not so easily known). A clock was needed that would keep perfect time at sea.

Aboard Endeavour on his first voyage (1768-1771), Cook had the latest scientific and technological equipment available but no clock. The Admiralty supplied copies of the new lunar prediction tables, the Nautical Almanac, as well as sextants to calculate position at sea by the lunar distance method.

By the time of Cook's second voyage on Resolution (1772 -1775), an accurate ship's clock had been developed by John Harrison and tested by the Admiralty. A copy of Harrison's clock made by Larcum Kendall (known as K1) was carried aboard the Resolution. Cook wrote that this watch '...has exceeded the expectations of its most zealous advocate and by being now and then corrected by lunar observations has been our faithful guide through all the vicissitudes of climates'.

On his third voyage (1776-80), Cook had three clocks, including his faithful K1. The new navigation had arrived.

 On board the Endeavour

When Endeavour left England on 26 August 1768, 94 people were aboard, including her captain, Lieutenant James Cook.

As a young man, Cook learned his seamanship in Whitby colliers on the English coast. In 1755, he joined the Royal Navy as an able seaman, aged 27. His experiences quickly earned him promotion. As a Master on the 64-gun ship of the line HMS Pembroke, Cook went to war against France in Admiral Boscawen's squadron. He was at the capture of Louisbourg and the siege of Quebec. Cook remained in North America charting and surveying. On his return to England, he was promoted to Lieutenant in 1768 and given command of HMB Endeavour.

Life on board Endeavour was rough and sometimes dangerous, with little or no privacy. However, compared to his counterpart on land, a seaman ate a hot meal every day with meat four times a week, a pound of bread and a gallon of beer a day. This was supplemented with dried fish, pease pudding, oatmeal, butter or oil, cheese, fresh fish and vegetables when possible. Although some on board Endeavour contracted scurvy, no-one died of the disease, which often killed a third of a ship's crew during a long sea voyage.

Slideshow: Click an image to view Endeavour's interior:

 The Endeavour in New Zealand

When Endeavour arrived in New Zealand in October 1769, the people of Turanganui (Poverty Bay) thought it was a floating island or an ancestral bird from Hawaiki. When the crew landed, the marines led in their scarlet jackets. Their spokesman was a Tahitian high-priest navigator, Tupaia. Red was an ancestral sign of power and when Tupaia spoke, the local people understood him. He told them that the Endeavour had sailed there from Tahiti.

On shore, the local people sent out challengers, which was their custom. The Europeans, thinking they were under attack, retaliated by firing their muskets. By the end of the Endeavour's brief visit to Turanganui, four local warriors were killed and several others wounded. This was despite Cook's best efforts to establish peaceful relations with the Turanganui people so that supplies of fresh food, wood and water could be collected.

When the Endeavour sailed north and visited Anaura Bay and Uawa (Tolaga Bay) the local people were friendly. They had heard about the shootings in Turanganui and made their visitors welcome. Tupaia met with local priests and told them about his god 'Oro' and about Tahiti. However, further north, in the Bay of Plenty and Mercury Bay, there were further challenges from sailing canoes packed with warriors.

In all these places, Tupaia made a great impression on Maori and, during Cook's next voyage to New Zealand, local people asked about Tupaia and wept when they heard that he had died in Batavia. For Maori the Endeavour was remembered above all as Tupaia's waka (canoe) from Tahiti.

 Cook and the Australian Aborigines

It is generally agreed by the descendants of those Aboriginal people who first sighted HMB Endeavour off their coast at Point Hicks, in 1770, their ancestors greeted the sight with dismay.

They remind us that before Cook arrived, two-thirds of the Australian coastline was already charted by European mariners and that earlier meetings between Europeans and their own people were often violent encounters. Such news, they say, would certainly have travelled the well-worn tracks of communication their people had established right across their vast country.

With no understanding of each other's culture or language, Cook's first contact with Australian Aborigines at Botany Bay on 29 April 1770 was unfortunate. Initially ignored by the inhabitants of the bay, Cook and his men were resolutely opposed by two Indigenous men armed with spears when they tried to land.  When attempts to communicate with the men failed to overcome their hostility, Cook fired on the men to clear them from the beach. It was an inauspicious beginning and for the eight days that the Endeavour lay at anchor, the Indigenous people of the area avoided further contact with the Europeans.  

Later, at Endeavour River, where the ship was repaired over a period of seven weeks, Cook and his men engaged more closely with Indigenous people of the Guugu Yimithirr community.  The experience had a profound effect on Cook who wrote in his journal: 'They may appear to some to be the most wretched people on Earth, but in reality they are far happier than we Europeans. They live in tranquility which is not disturbed by the inequality of condition. The Earth and Sea of their own accord furnish them with all things necessary for life.'

 Cook, North America and Hawaii

Before his famous Endeavour voyage, James Cook spent four years in North America from 1763 to 1767. In preparation for the British assault on Quebec, he charted the St Lawrence River. After the fall of Quebec, Cook spent his summers charting the southern and western sides of Newfoundland, Massachusetts Bay and the islands of the Gulf of St Lawrence. His charts were so accurate that they remained in Admiralty use for many years.

During his third voyage (1776-80), while searching for the north-west passage thought to exist in the Arctic, Cook sailed his two ships Resolution and Discovery along the coast of North America from Cape Foulweather into the Bering Sea and Alaska. It was not long before the crew was trading metal for furs with the natives. Cook was worried about the effect on his ships, writing '...Whole suits of cloaths were striped of every button, Bureaus etc. of their furniture and copper kettles, tin canesters, candle sticks etc. all went to wreck...'

During this voyage Cook confirmed the general line of the American coast from Cape Blanco north to Nootka Sound. Here he repaired his ships before continuing to Cook inlet. He also plotted the general line of the Alaska Peninsula, the American side of the Bering Sea from Bristol Bay to about latitude 60˚ and from Norton Sound to Cape Prince of Wales, and the Arctic coast to the entrance of Kotzebue Sound.

Leaving North American waters at the beginning of the winter of 1778, Cook returned to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), which he had previously discovered, and it was here that he was killed at Kealakekua Beach on 14 February 1779.

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