James Cook, Captain – HMS Endeavour, then HMS Resolution, Part 2

As a London tourist, you’ll have the rare chance to see many places where significant human progress was made, by deeds and accomplishments, which has helped to give us the life of ease we enjoy today. This time, seek out the National Maritime Museum for more information. Become part of this Journey!

In Part 1, we learned of Captain James Cook’s background, and of the secret mission the British Admiralty planned for HMS Endeavour, while sailing the “South Pacific” on a “scientific” assignment.

The ship was readied, and the specialist crew engaged. Many provisions were taken on board: food, livestock, arms, ammunition and lots of limes (which prevent scurvy – a disease occurring when there’s a dietary lack of Vitamin C).  Eating limes is why British sailors were called “Limey”.

Scientific instruments for the Venus transit observation were carefully brought aboard under the supervision of the astronomer, Dr. Green.

Joseph Banks also joined Cook’s expedition as an amateur botanist. Two artists were also aboard to create a visual record: Buchan who painted scenic views and Parkinson who drew the plants which Banks collected.

The H.M.S. Endeavour set off from Plymouth, 240 years ago, sailed around Cape Horn at the tip of South America, and  ventured into the Pacific, anchoring by the island of Tahiti. The islanders welcomed the crew and were interested in everything they did.

There were difficulties between the crew and some of the islanders because of differing views on property rights (for the islanders considered all property as communal). However, Cook took a lenient view of small ‘thefts’ and encouraged his crew to do the same, with varied success.

The islander’s custom of decorating themselves by pricking their skin and dyeing it led to the fashion among sailors of tattooing (although there was a Celtic, British tradition from ancient times for painting oneself blue – with wode – a natural dye); tattooing had passed on to other islands, too, as the Tahitians sailed to populate them, e.g. Hawaii.

After an idyllic stay in Tahiti, Endeavour continued on to New Zealand. At its North Island, the crew was met by fierce Maori tribes with war canoes. Next, they sailed on to South Island, finding that neither area was joined to any large, southern continent.

The Endeavour then continued towards the island of Tasmania and the east coast of present-day Australia (discovered by Dutchman, Abel Tasman in 1759). At that time, no-one realized that this coast WAS part of the great Southern Continent!

So, they anchored in Botany Bay, which is the site of present-day Sydney. Joseph Banks found many new and unique plant species there, which he named. The expedition didn’t have much contact with Australian Aborigines, at that point, but knew they existed.

As Endeavour headed up the Queensland coast, she nearly wrecked on the vast coral reefs, but repairs were able to be made and the ship traveled northwards towards Batavia (Jakarta, Indonesia) where many of the crew died of a fever.

Cook had managed to protect his crew from the sailors’ scourge of scurvy by making sure that high standards of cleanliness were kept on board ship and that the crew ate as many fresh vegetables as possible, but what happened in ports was beyond control of the Captain.

Captain James Cook returned the ship and crew safely to England.

After nearly a year at home, he embarked on yet a 2nd voyage to continue seeking the Southern Continent. This time, he took two aptly-named Whitby colliers – the HMS Resolution and the HMS Adventure.

On this expedition Cook, who was an accomplished navigator, was also expected to secretly test a copy of a timekeeper, or sea clock, designed by John Harrison. Its successful performance would mean that Cook (and all future navigators) would finally be able to fix longitude (their east-west position).

And, you know the results of this intriguing adventure, if you’ve read more of my articles.

Such brave people, as James Cook, are wonderful mentors and great role-models for people of all ages. They are part of why we travel (and are able to travel), all over our planet, now.

Continue the adventure: Captain Cook’s Northwest and Hawaiian adventures

©2009 Mystic at Travel Vacation Review