The Voyages Of Captain Cook 1st. Voyage (with Thanks To John Robson)
In 1767 the Royal Society and the Admiralty began jointly planning a voyage to the recently discovered island of Tahiti to observe the Transit of Venus across the Sun and latterly to search for the Great Southern Continent.A collier, the 'Earl of Pembroke', a type of vessel normally used to transport coal from Yorkshire to London was converted into His Majesty's Bark 'Endeavour' for the proposed voyage.
James Cook, who had become known for charting the Newfoundland coast and for documenting a solar eclipse and who had gained considerable experience as a seaman and astronomer was promoted to Lieutenant and charged with leading the expedition. Cook would be accompanied by Charles Green an astronomer from the Royal Observatory and Joseph Banks the botanist and Fellow of the Royal Society. Through the Society, Banks was able to persuade the government to permit himself and several other scientists, artists and their servants to accompany the expedition at his own expense ( a cost estimated to have been in the region of ??10,000). Altogether, 71 crew, 12 Marines and 11 scientists, artists and servants not to mention numerous animals and provisions for an 18 month voyage set sail, in what must have been very cramped conditions in a vessel less than 30 metres in length, on 26th. August, 1768.
The first port-of-call on route to Tahiti was Madeira, a common stopping place for British shipping. Cook was very aware of the importance of diet on long sea voyages and in Madeira he replenished the ship's stock of fresh vegetables, particularly onions. He fed his crew fresh vegetables whenever possible and he also insisted that the officers ate the same food as the rest of the men. Cook's efforts were very successful at keeping such illnesses as scurvy at bay.
From Madeira the Endeavour headed for Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, also a Portuguese colony. But, although Portugal was an ally of Britain the arrival of the Endeavour was viewed with suspicion by the Portuguese and the crew were not permitted to leave the ship. While negotiations took place Cook used the time to chart the harbour. Eventually the problems were resolved, supplies were taken on board and the Endeavour headed south.
On 11th.January, 1769 Tierra del Fuego came into view and after some difficulty negotiating the Strait of Le Maire the Endeavour anchored in the Bay of Good Success on 15th.January where they stayed for five days. During that time a party went ashore but while there the weather deteriorated and the party, unable to return to the ship was forced to spend the night in the open. Consequently, the following day Banks's two servants were found dead probably from a combination of the cold and the rum they had drunk to keep warm. On 21st. January Cook made ready to round Cape Horn against the prevailing winds and on the 25th. they rounded the Horn and headed north into the Pacific Ocean.
The Transit of Venus was expected on the 3rd.June and despite variable winds Cook made good progress and anchored off the north coast of Tahiti on April 13th, 1769. Tahiti is the largest of the island group which Cook christened the Society Islands and whose population is Polynesian.
It was Cook who first appreciated the extent to which the Polynesian people had spread throughout the Pacific. Their experience in sailing and navigation took them as far afield as Hawaii, New Zealand and Easter Island.
Matavai Bay is where Cook decided to site the principal observatory, on a promontory now known as Point Venus. Several tents were used to house equipment and provide living quarters around which a stockade was built. Despite this precaution the astronomical quadrant was stolen, an instrument essential for the successful observation of the Transit. However, after a search and amidst threats the instrument was returned and the panic was over. Two subsidiary observation points were established at other locations in case of problems with cloud but on 3rd.June the day was bright and clear and good observations were made.
After the Transit observations had been completed Cook, Banks and a number of others set off on a tour of the island before returning to the ship and setting sail on July 13th. 1769. However, rather than immediately going in search of the supposed Southern Continent, Cook decided to explore the other islands in the group. In doing so they encountered many local chiefs and other inhabitants of the islands, making many drawings and observations about the landscape and its people. Joseph Banks encouraged Cook to take on board a Tahitian named Tupaia whose navigational, linguistic and diplomatic skills were to prove very useful. Cook finally left the islands on August 9th, 1769 and began his search for the Southern Continent.
They sailed as far as 40 degrees South in very rough weather without sighting land before heading north and then turning to head southwest hoping to sight the land Tasman had found in 1642. By now the Endeavour was badly in need of repair and Cook was anxious to find land when on 6th. October the cabin boy sighted the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand and on 8th.October Cook anchored in Poverty Bay ( so named by Cook because of the lack of supplies the area afforded). Initial contacts with the Maori population were not happy - skirmishes took place resulting in the deaths of Maori people and three young captives were taken on board who strangely, after negotiations had taken place wanted to stay on board. However, they were put ashore and Cook continued on his circumnavigation of the Islands of New Zealand.
Over a six month period landfalls were made at various places. Botanical specimens were collected, drawings made of the people and the landscape. After the initial problems relations with the Maori people were generally good and a fair amount of trading took place. Most importantly, Cook established that New Zealand consisted of two large islands and many smaller ones and by circumnavigating them he produced charts and maps that were of such accuracy that some were still in use as recently as the twentieth century. It was now time for Cook to head home to Britain. Discussions took place on board ship and it was decided to return west via New Holland and the Dutch East Indies and on 3rd.March, 1770 the Endeavour sailed west into the Tasman Sea intending to reach Tasmania (Van Diemen's Land). In the event they sailed too far north and when land was sighted on 19th.April it was the mainland coast of New Holland that was seen. The Endeavour sailed east and then north past Cape Howe and began the long voyage up the east coast of Australia. Because of heavy seas no attempts were made to land until 29th.April when the ship sailed into a large bay.
Cook is often creditied with discovering Australia though he never made this claim himself. He possessed charts made by other Europeans who had clearly been there before him, not to mention the Aboriginal people who had occupied the land for many thousands of years.
People were seen onshore but when a landing party arrived most of them fled. Communication was attempted with those who remained but the situation deteriorated, shots were fired and the Aborigines responded by throwing spears. After that the Aborigines remained at a distance, observing. Numerous excursions were made around the bay and Banks and his fellow scientist Solander took many botanical specimens resulting in the bay's now famous name. On 6th.May the Endeavour once more set sail and continued northwards passing an inlet Cook named Port Jackson which would later become the site of the first European settlement and would eventually be Known as Sydney. As they continued to sail north Cook was surveying the coastline and compiling charts naming many points, islands and bays along the way but by now his main concern was to return home.
Having been in search of fresh water Cook now passed the northern end of Trinity Bay, which he named Cape Tribulation. Cook gave this point such a name because on the night of 11th.June, 1770 the Endeavour ran aground on a reef (later named Endeavour Reef). Every attempt was made to float the ship off the reef and the pumps were beginning to prove innefective against the leaks. A Midshipman was eventually able to repair the hole temporarily and finally, after 23 hours the Endeavour was freed and made for shore but gales and the failure to find a suitable landing place meant that they didn't reach the safety of an inlet until 18th.June. The ship was beached on the shores of a river mouth and more permanent repairs began to be made. While this was taking place Cook and his men and the scientific party took to exploring the hinterland collecting botanical and zoological specimens. Contact was made with the local inhabitants and though communication was difficult the locals did make it clear that they disapproved of the large number of turtles that had been caught by the Endeavour's men. After almost two months the repairs were finished and on 4th.August Cook set sail from what later became known as Endeavour river at the mouth of which a settlement later grew up called Cooktown.
Cook knew he would have to be careful if he was to make the port of Batavia (Jakarta) in the East Indies safely and so small boats were put out ahead of Endeavour to pilot a way through the reef so consequently progress was slow. Cook decided it would be safer to proceed on the open sea and eventually a gap was found in the reef, the ship taken through and on 14th.August the Endeavour was once more in deep water. The Endeavour, though repaired was still leaking and in fragile condition so Cook was on a sharp lookout for the Torres Strait between New Holland and New Guinea though Cook was far from certain the Strait actually existed. Nevertheless, after sailing on, once more inside the reef Cook rounded the northern tip of the east coast (Cape York) on 21st.August. After coming round the Cape Cook anchored the ship and went ashore on a small island and from a high vantage point was able to see that a strait did indeed exist which would allow the Endeavour to sail west. Cook now raised the flag and claimed the entire east coast of New Holland for Great Britain, renaming it New South Wales. He then returned to the ship and headed northwest towards New Guinea.
Sailing the length of New Holland's east coast, a distance of some 3,500 kilometres had taken Cook about eight weeks and during that time he and the botanists on board had amassed a great amount of information. Charts had been made, notes made regarding the terrain and its inhabitants and many botanical and zoological specimens had been collected. Cook remarked on the apparent impoverishment of the Aborigines although he also stated that they seemed happier than Europeans. For the Aborigines part, the name Captain Cook came to be synonymous with everything bad about the outside world. All in all Cook was not particularly enthusiastic about the place whereas the botanist Joseph Banks saw great potential in what they had seen. Indeed, the nearest Cook got to returning to the country was a brief stop at Tasmania during his third voyage south.
At the end of August 1770 Cook reached the coast of New Guinea and the Endeavour was now in more familiar, charted waters. They continued on heading for Batavia (Jakarta), Java and on October 1st. they entered the Sunda Strait, between Java and Sumatra. The Dutch East India Company had been present in this area for over a century and Dutch Naval officials viewed the arrival of the Endeavour in Batavia on 10th. October with suspicion. The ship was badly in need of repair so Cook was forced to comply with the Dutch insistence that repairs could only be carried out in their yards by their men. Even after Cook's agreement it wasn't until 18th.October that repairs actually began. Cook was rightly proud of having maintained a generally healthy crew throughout the Endeavour's long voyage but he was unprepared for the conditions that prevailed in Batavia. The Dutch had built a network of canals and their stagnant waters meant that tropical diseases such as dysentery, cholera and malaria were rife. The result was that everyone on board fell ill at some point during their stay and six men died. Many others contracted diseases which would result in the deaths of a further twenty-four men during the voyage from Batavia to Capetown. With great relief the Endeavour left Batavia on 26th.December and began crossing the Indian ocean arriving at Capetown on March 14th. Among the men who died during the voyage were the astronomer, Green and Parkinson and Sporing who had contributed so many of the drawings and sketches made during the journey. Now anchored in Table Bay, Cook gained permission to have the sick taken ashore for treatment. Cook had then to present his papers to the Dutch governor of the colony in order to obtain permission to restock supplies and make repairs which again had to be carried out on the terms of the Dutch East India Company.
The Endeavour left Capetown on 15th.April and after an uneventful crossing of the South Atlantic arrived in St.Helena on 1st.May, 1771. A fleet of British ships were in port when they arrived and when this fleet left a few days later Cook and the Endeavour went with them and remained with them until after crossing the Equator when they lost contact. It was at this time that Cook's second-in-command Zachary Hicks died as a result of illness.
Cook continued to head northwest until 11th.June when he turned and headed north east for the British Isles. As they neared home they encountered more shipping and on 10th.July after a voyage of almost three years Land's End was sighted by the cabin-boy Nicholas Young who had been the first to see New Zealand. The Endeavour sailed up the English Channel and anchored off Kent on July 13th. whereupon Cook immediately left for London to see his family and make his report to the Admiralty.
The voyage was immediately hailed as a great success though it was Joseph Banks and his fellow scientist who were given the credit and it was they and not Cook who were presented to King George III. In the meantime Cook went about his business completing journals logs and charts for the Admiralty. The fact was that both the Admiralty and the Royal Society were well aware that the success of the voyage was due largely to Cook and this soon filtered through to the population at large.
The Endeavour's principal mission had been to observe the Transit of Venus which had been carried out with a fair degree of success. The 'Great Southern Continent' had not been found and its existence remained doubtful but Cook had compiled valuable charts of New Zealand and the east coast of Australia. Also, his concern for the welfare of his crew had raised standards and due to the efforts of Banks and his fellow scientists and artists the voyage may be viewed as one of the first truly scientific voyages. Taken altogether the voyage had successfully achieved its aims and set Cook off on his rise to fame.
As for Cook's personal life, when he returned home to his wife Elizabeth it was to discover that two of his children had died. A son, Joseph, who was born just after Cook left on the Endeavour and who only lived for a month and his four year old daughter Elizabeth who died just before his return. Two sons, James and Nathaniel survived.Cook received the thanks of the Admiralty for a successful expedition and a promotion to Commander. He was also presented to the King.
After visiting friends and family in Yorkshire Cook returned to London in January 1772 to find that plans were already underway for a second voyage and Cook quickly became involved with its preparation. A few months later on 21st.June Cook parted from his family and made his way to Sheerness where he joined the ship Resolution for the second voyage.