HM Bark Endeavour history

HM Bark Endeavour history


HMS Endeavour, also known as HM Bark Endeavour, was a Royal Navy research vessel commanded by Lieutenant James Cook on his first voyage of discovery, to Australia and New Zealand from 1769 to 1771.

Launched in 1764 as the collier Earl of Pembroke, she was purchased by the Navy in 1768 for a scientific mission to the Pacific Ocean, and to explore the seas for the surmised Terra Australis Incognita or "unknown southern land". Renamed and commissioned as His Majesty's Bark the Endeavour, she departed Plymouth in August 1768, rounded Cape Horn and reached Tahiti in time to observe the 1769 transit of Venus across the Sun. She then set sail into the largely uncharted ocean to the south, stopping at the Pacific islands of Huahine, Borabora and Raiatea to allow Cook to claim them for Great Britain. In September 1769, she anchored off New Zealand, the first European vessel to reach the islands since Abel Tasman's Heemskerck 127 years earlier. In April 1770, Endeavour became the first seagoing vessel to reach the east coast of Australia, when Cook went ashore at what is now known as Botany Bay.

Endeavour then sailed north along the Australian coast. She narrowly avoided disaster after running aground on the Great Barrier Reef, and was beached on the mainland for seven weeks to permit rudimentary repairs to her hull. On 10 October 1770, she limped into port in Batavia in the Dutch East Indies for more substantial repairs, her crew sworn to secrecy about the lands they had discovered. She resumed her westward journey on 26 December, rounded the Cape of Good Hope on 13 March 1771, and reached the English port of Dover on 12 July, having been at sea for nearly three years.

Largely forgotten after her epic voyage, Endeavour spent the next three years shipping Navy stores to the Falkland Islands. Renamed and sold into private hands in 1775, she briefly returned to naval service as a troop transport during the American Revolutionary War and was scuttled in a blockade of Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island in 1778. Her wreck has not been precisely located, but relics including six of her cannons and an anchor are displayed at maritime museums worldwide. A replica of Endeavour was launched in 1994 and is berthed alongside the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney Harbour.

Outward voyage

Endeavour departed Plymouth on 26 August 1768, carrying 94 people and 18 months of provisions. Livestock on board included pigs, poultry, two greyhounds and a milking goat.

The first port of call was Funchal in the Madeira Islands, which Endeavour reached on 12 September. The ship was recaulked and painted, and fresh vegetables, beef and water brought aboard for the next leg of the voyage. While in port, an accident cost the life of the master's mate Robert Weir, who became entangled in the anchor cable and was dragged overboard when the anchor was released. To replace him, Cook shanghaiied a sailor from an American sloop anchored nearby.

Endeavour then continued south along the coast of Africa and across the Atlantic to South America, arriving in Rio de Janeiro on 13 November 1768. Fresh food and water were brought aboard and the ship departed for Cape Horn, which she reached during stormy weather on 13 January 1769. However, attempts to round the Cape over the next two days were unsuccessful, with Endeavour repeatedly driven back by wind, rain and contrary tides. Cook noted that the seas off the Cape were large enough to regularly submerge the bow of the ship as she rode down the crests of waves. At last, on 16 January the wind eased and the ship was able to pass the Cape and anchor in the Bay of Good Success on the Pacific coast. The crew were sent to collect wood and water, while Banks and his team gathered hundreds of plant specimens from along the icy shore. On 17 January two of Banks' servants died from cold while attempting to return to the ship during a heavy snowstorm.

Endeavour resumed her voyage on 21 January 1769, heading west-northwest into warmer weather. She reached Tahiti on 10 April where she remained for the next two months. The transit of Venus across the Sun occurred on 3 June, and was observed and recorded by astronomer Charles Green from Endeavour’s deck.

Pacific exploration

The transit observed, Endeavour departed Tahiti on 13 July and headed northwest to allow Cook to survey and name the Society Islands. Landfall was made at Huahine, Raiatea and Borabora, providing opportunities for Cook to claim each of them as British territories. However, an attempt to land the pinnace on the Austral Island of Rurutu was thwarted by rough surf and the rocky shoreline. On 15 August, Endeavour finally turned south to explore the open ocean for Terra Australis Incognita.

In October 1769, Endeavour reached the coastline of New Zealand, becoming the first European vessel to do so since Abel Tasman's Heemskerck in 1642. Unfamiliar with such ships, the Māori people at Cook's first landing point in Poverty Bay thought the ship was a floating island, or a gigantic bird from their mythical homeland of Hawaiki. Endeavour spent the next six months sailing close to shore, while Cook mapped the coastline and reached the conclusion that New Zealand comprised two large islands and was not the hoped-for Terra Australis. In March 1770, the longboat from Endeavour carried Cook ashore to allow him to formally proclaim British sovereignty over New Zealand.On his return, Endeavour resumed her voyage westward, her crew sighting the east coast of Australia on 19 April. On 29 April, she became the first European vessel to make landfall on the east coast of Australia, when Cook landed one of the ship's boats on the southern shore of what is now known as Botany Bay, New South Wales.


Replica vessel

A three-masted wooden sailing ship crossing a calm bay, beneath a cloudy sky.
Endeavour replica crossing the Endeavour River at Cooktown, near where its namesake was beached for seven weeks in 1770

In January 1988, to commemorate the Australian Bicentenary of European settlement in Australia, work began in Fremantle, Western Australia on a replica of Endeavour. Financial difficulties delayed completion until December 1993, and the vessel was not commissioned until April 1994. The replica vessel commenced her maiden voyage in October of that year, sailing to Sydney Harbour and then following Cook's path from Botany Bay northward to Cooktown.From 1996 to 2002, the replica retraced Cook's ports of call around the world, arriving in the original Endeavour’s home port of Whitby in June 2002. Footage of waves shot while rounding Cape Horn on this voyage was later used in digitally-composited scenes in the 2003 film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

The replica Endeavour visited various European ports before undertaking her final ocean voyage from Whitehaven to Sydney Harbour on 8 November 2004. Her arrival in Sydney was delayed when she ran aground in Botany Bay, a short distance from the point where Cook first set foot in Australia 235 years earlier The replica Endeavour finally entered Sydney Harbour on 17 April 2005, having travelled 170,000 nautical miles (310,000 km), including twice around the world. Ownership of the replica was transferred to the Australian National Maritime Museum in 2005 for permanent service as a museum ship in Sydney's Darling Harbour.

A second full-size replica of Endeavour is berthed on the River Tees in Stockton-on-Tees. While this reflects the external dimensions of Cook's vessel, this replica was constructed with a steel rather than a timber frame, has one less internal deck than the original, and is not designed to be put to sea.


Martin Suchý

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