CAPTAIN JAMES COOK - THE FIRST VOYAGE

 

Cook's decision to land here marked the beginning of recorded history on the east coast of Australia, for the Aborigines had no written language, no account of their long ages on these shores.

 

                   

Captain James Cook sailed from Plymouth on the 26th August 1768 in the Endeavour, the former collier Earl of Pembroke. Cook sailed around South America via Cape Horn and anchored at Tahiti on the 13th April 1769. In Tahiti, the Endeavour was overhauled ready for the rest of the voyage. Cook traded nails, iron tools, cloth and other such useful things for pigs, fruit and coconuts. He made sure his men ate fresh meat, vegetables and vinegar whenever possible, as he believed these prevented scurvy.

Map of Tahiti drawn by Captain Cook.

Some Tahitians offered to sail with Cook and he took on board a chief named Tupaia who knew the nearby islands. Cook hoped that Tupaia could talk with natives of other places and they left Tahiti in August 1769.

The cross section of the Endeavour shown below gives a good indication of the layout of the vessel.

The long boat (5) in the cross section shown above.

  

Left: Looking back towards the aft deck. Right: Looking back along the waterline.

The aft deck with the rudder in the foreground.

The capstan.

The crows nest and rigging for the centre mast.

After leaving Tahiti, Cook sailed westwards looking for New Zealand. On the 7th October, Nicholas Young, lookout at the mast head, cried - "Land ho!". Cook named the point of land "Young Nick's Head".

Around this headland, the Endeavour sailed into a bay which, although a fertile area of New Zealand, Cook had cause to call Poverty Bay because he could not obtain any of the provisions he required. Cook, Banks and Solander went ashore but were unable to get fresh water and supplies because of attacks by the natives. Let is remember that his was an era of exploration and travel when a sailor could not just get a merchant cash advance to pay for provisions and supplies (though there were groups like the Dutch East India company that did lend gold) but had to rely on the generosity of the unknown inhabitants of a particular land.

Although Tupaia could talk with the Maoris, they were unfriendly and two or three were killed by the British. Cook sailed south, naming Hawkes Bay but finding no harbour and so he sailed north and anchored in Tolago Bay.

The ship anchored in the Bay of Islands at the end of November. Goose pie was enjoyed on Christmas Day. Rounding the North Island, Cook came into a large inlet on the 16th January, 1770. On the 31st January, Cook named the inlet "Queen Charlotte Sound", hoisted the Union Jack and took possession of nearby lands "in the Name and for the use His Majesty". From a hill above, Cook saw the waterway that is now Cook Strait and began to understand that New Zealand comprised two main islands. Cook later proved this by sailing around both islands.

Cook discussed with his officers whether to sail home to England around Cape Horn, where the approaching winter weather would probably be bad; or to go home via the Cape of Good Hope. On the 1st April, 1770, Cook sailed from New Zealand, westward towards Van Diemen's Land although the winds blew the ship further north.  

At daylight on the 20th April, 1770, the second-in-command, Lieutenant Hicks, sighted land on the northeast coast of present day Victoria. Cook sailed north along the coast and tried to land, near Wollongong but was prevented from doing so by the fierce surf. At daylight in the morning, Cook came across a bay which appeared to be well sheltered and into which he took the ship. Cook's decision to land here marked the beginning of recorded history on the east coast of Australia, for the Aborigines had no written language, no account of their long ages on these shores.

In the afternoon of the 29th, the Endeavour anchored inside the southern headland. Cook, Banks, Solander and Tupaia landed, but Tupaia was not understood by the few Aborigines who opposed the landing. A few native darts were thrown and some musket shots fired in return, without anyone being hurt. The Aborigines ran off. The explorers found a few bark huts and three canoes upon the beach which were regarded by Cook as the worse that he had ever seen.

Cook sailed from Botany Bay at daylight on the 7th May 1770 and passed by a safe anchorage which he called "Port Jackson". As they sailed along the coast, Cook named the places he saw - Broken Bay, Mount Warning, Point Danger, Moreton Bay, Glasshouse Mountain and others. On the 23rd May, they anchored in a large bay where they found fresh water and studied the wild life.

Banks noticed some tropical plants and realized that they were on the point of leaving the Southern Temperate Zone.

When they reached the coral reef, Cook found himself in a dangerous sea and every man was at his station with the lead man calling out the depths regularly. Suddenly, the ship struck the coral and they were in a desperate situation with the nearest land being 24 miles away and there were not enough boats on the ship to rescue all the men.

Cook made an important decision. He ordered guns, ballast, casks and decayed stores to be thrown overboard in the hope that the ship would lift off the coral at the next high tide - but it did not do so. Their last chance was to use the anchors to haul themselves off and finally in a higher tide by 10.20 p.m. they were free. A sail was hauled under the ship so that it covered the hole. The sail was made out of oakum and wool and it was sucked against the ship to stop the water entering the hole.

The Endeavour strikes the coral reef.

On the banks of the Endeavour River Cook beached his ship and examined the hull on the 22nd June, 1770. Work on repairing the ship and unfavourable winds kept them in the river until the 6th August, 1770. The journey north from the Endeavour River to Cape York was slow and difficult with a lookout kept on the masthead at all times. On the 22nd August, 1770, they reached Cape York, the northern tip of the mainland which was named by Cook in honour of his late Royal Highness the Duke of York.

Cook's voyage of discovery was now over as he was in seas that had been chartered by those before him. They reached Cape Town in March, 1771 and anchored in the English Channel on the 13th July, 1771, after nearly three years, with 56 of the original 94 men that had started the voyage.     

Oceania-The Second Voyage of Captain Cook

Oceania-The Last Voyage of Captain Cook

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