So in May 1768, with Lieutenant Cook duly appointed to the command of the Endeavour, he steps on board and takes charge of the ship. The Endeavour lay in Deptford-yard, where she was being fitted out for sea…..
In the meantime, every good ship needs a good crew. And Cook set about with due advice assembling his team. According to the muster book (crew list) approximately 70 men joined the Endeavour and began receiving wages from 25 May 1768. This included such likes as a carpenter, boatswain’s mate and sailmaker, servants, able seamen and marines.
The refit included sheathing and caulking the hull to protect against shipworm attack, the addition of a third internal deck to provide extra cabins, and adding a powder magazine and storerooms.
The new cabins were allocated to Cook and the Royal Society representatives: naturalist Joseph Banks, his assistants Daniel Solander and Herman Spöring, astronomer Charles Green, and two artists, Sydney Parkinson and Alexander Buchan. These were the key civilians who will help reveal some of the first secrets of the Great Southern land.
One civilian that has become especially well known is the naturalist Joseph Banks. Banks is credited with the introduction to the Western world of plants such as the eucalyptus, acacia, mimosa. In recognition he had the genus Banksia named after him, with approximately 80 species of plants bearing his name. But we are getting ahead of ourselves, that is in the future…
So with the wind becoming fair on 26 August 1768, our Great Navigator finally gets under sail.
The Endeavour departs Plymouth carrying 94 people (71 Ships Company, 12 Royal marines and 11 civilians) plus 18 months of provisions. All of this was on a vessel that was only 32 m long and a beam (width at widest point) of just under 9 meters. This is not a big ship (step it out and imagine you and a 100 people living and working together in this space for a year or so!)
A variety of livestock was on board including pigs, poultry, two greyhounds and a milking goat. There is nothing glamouraour about travel at this time, for captain, civilians or crew. The cabins for Captain and civilians were rude 2m x 2m additions to the new deck and for the rest they were just an outstretched arm from another human, or animal day in and day out.
The first port of call was Funchal in the Madeira Islands, which Endeavour reached on 12 September. She stayed for a week where Lieutenant Cook and his company’s needs were tended to by a Mr. Cheap, the English consul, one of the leading merchants in the town. Here it is worth noting one of the outstanding traits of Cook’s leadership. As mentioned previously, scurvy and disease was still an enemy lurking just out of sight of any deep sea voyage at this time.
At this first stop Cook ensured that he laid in a fresh stock of beef & water (and wine) before setting sail from the island. Indeed, on the next leg of the voyage on the 7th of November he noted that several articles of the ship’s provisions were beginning to fall short. He did not hesitate to put in a stop over in Rio de Janeiro. This port he preferred because he could be better supplied with what he wanted.
While there Cook and his company seemed to have some difficulties with Count Rolim, Viceroy and Captain General of the Estates of Brazil. It culminated on the 5th of December when as the Endeavour weighed anchor to depart and two shots were fired at it from Santa Cruz, the principal fortification of the harbour.
When Cook cast anchor and angrily demanded the reason of the conduct, the explanation given was that the commandant had not received an order from the Viceroy to let the ship pass. Anyway, correspondence flowed and things were sorted (in reality nothing more than some colonial ego contest), and on the 7th of December the Endeavour finally got under sail.
From Rio de Janeiro, Lieutenant Cook pursued his voyage, and on the 15th of January, 1769 anchored, first before a small cove, which was understood to be Port Maurice, and afterward in the Bay of Good Success.
While the Endeavour was in this station, Mr. Banks, Dr. Solander, Mr. Monkhouse the surgeon, and Mr. Green the astronomer together with their attendants set off inland with two seamen. They climbed a mountain to search for plants. The weather apparently turned foul and exposed them to extreme cold; Dr. Solander , apparently nearly died, but was more fortunate than two black servants who did actually died of exposure during the night. Not a great start, but in reality nothing exceptional for the times (for a little more detail on that incident and Cook’s meeting of the locals, I have included an edit excerpt from Cooks Journal).
So, our Great Voyage of Discovery begins as the English set sail for the Great Southern Land. Soon our history of the opening up of that vast and ancient continent will begin…
Cook’s Journal: Daily Entries
16 January 1769
“Monday 16 A Fresh breeze of Wind at South and S.W. with frequent Showers of Snow and rain – at 2 PM Anchor’d in the Bay of Success… hoisted out the Boats, and Moor’d with the Stream Anchor, while this was doing I went a Shore accompany’d with by Mr Banks and Dr Solander to look for a Watering Place, and to speak with the Natives who were assembled on the beach at the head of the Bay to the number of 30 or 40; they were so far from being afraid or surprised at our coming amongest them that three of them came on board without the least hesitation. They are something above the Middle size of a dark copper Colour with long black hair, they paint their bodies ^in Streakes mostly Red and Black, their cloathing consists wholy and ^of a Guanacoes skin or that of a Seal, in the same form as it came from the Animals back, the Women wear of a peice of skin over their privey parts but the Men observe no such decency their Hutts are made like a behive and open on one side where they have their fire, they are made of small Sticks and cover’d with branches of trees, Long grass &Ca in such a manner that they are neither proff against Wind, Hail, rain or snow, a sufficient proff that these People must be a very hardy race; they live chiefly on shell fish such as Muscles, which they gather from off the rock, … we saw amongst them with other European things such as Rings, Buttons, Cloth, Canvas &Ca which I think proves that they must sometimes travel to the Northward as we know of no ship that hath been in those parts for many years, besides they were not at all surprised at our fire arms, on the contrary seem’d to know the use of them by making signs to us to fire at Sea^ls or Birds that might come in the way …we could not discover that they had any head or chief, or form of Government, neither have they any usefull or necessary Utentials except it be a Bagg ^or Basket to gather their Muscels into: in a Word they are perhaps as miserable a set of People as are this day upon Earth — Having found a convenient place on the So side of the Bay to wood and Water at, we set about that work in the morning, and Mr Banks with a Party went into the Country to gather Plants &Ca”
7 January 1769
“Thursday [Tuesday] 17th Janry Fresh gales at South, SW and W, with rain and Snow and of Course very cold weather, notwithstanding we kept geting on board Wood and water, and finished the Survey of the Bay. Mr Banks and his Party not returning this Evening as I expected gave me great uneasiness as they were not prepared for staying out the night, however, about noon they returned in no very comfortable condition and what was still worse two black servants to Mr Banks had perished in the night with cold; great part of the day they landed was spent before they got through the woods, after which they advanced so far into the Country that they were so far from being able to return that night that it was with much difficulty they got to a place of tolerable shelter where they could make a fire — these two men being intrusted with great part of the Liquor that was for the whole party had made too free with it and stupified themselves to that degree that they either could or would not travel but laid themselves down in a place where there was not the least thing to shelter them from the inclemency of the night. This was about a 1/4 of a Mile from where the rest took up their quarters and notwithstanding their repeated endeavours they could not get them to move one step farther, and the bad traveling made it impossible for any one to carry them, so that they were oblig’d to leave them and the next morning they were both found dead…”