THE MISSION: A Voyage of Discovery
February 16, 1768 – The Royal Society petitions King George III to finance a scientific expedition to the Pacific for the purpose of studying the transit of Venus across the sun. Upon approval of the expedition, the Admiralty elects to combine the scientific voyage with a confidential mission to search the south Pacific for the postulated continent Terra Australis Incognita (or “unknown southern land”).
The Royal Society had originally proposed command of the expedition be given to Scottish geographer Alexander Dalrymple, but recalling the previous insubordination aboard the sloop HMS Paramour in 1698, when naval officers had refused to take orders from the civilian Dr. Edmond Halley, the First Lord of the Admiralty Edward Hawke replied he would rather cut off his right hand than give command of a Navy vessel to anyone not educated as a seaman.
When the name of James Cook, a naval officer with a background in mathematics and cartography was put forth, the impasse was broken and pursuant to his promotion to Lieutenant, he was given command of this great expedition.
The original vessel chosen by Admiralty was the merchant collier, Earl of Pembroke, 106 feet long , with a beam of 29 feet 3 inches and burthen of 368 71/94 tons. She was ship-rigged and sturdily built with a broad, flat bow, a square stern and a long box-like body. The flat-bottomed design suited her for shallow waters and allowed her to be beached for loading and unloading of cargo and for basic repairs without dry dock.
Purchased by the Admiralty for £2,840. 10s. 11d , she was then fitted for the voyage. After her hull was sheathed and caulked, a third internal deck installed for cabins, a powder magazine and storerooms, a longboat, pinnace and yawl were added as ship’s boats, as well as a set of 28 ft sweeps to allow the ship to be rowed if becalmed or demasted. After commissioning into the Royal Navy as His Majesty’s Bark the Endeavour, the ship was supplied with ten 4-pounder cannons and twelve swivel guns, for defense against potential attack while in the Pacific.
THE CREW and PROVISIONS:
The voyage was commanded by 40-year-old Lieutenant James Cook. His second lieutenant was Zachary Hicks, a 29-year old from Stepney with former acting command of the 16-gun cutter HMS Hornet. The third lieutenant was John Gore, who had served as master’s mate aboard HMS Dolphin during its circumnavigation of the world in 1766. The officers were accompanied by a crew of 73 sailors and 12 Royal Marines and a scientific team headed by astronomer Charles Green. The ENDEAVOR departed Plymouth on 26 August 1768 with 18 months of provisions to include 6,000 pieces of pork and 4,000 of beef, nine tons of bread, five tons of flour, three tons of sauerkraut, one ton of raisins and sundry quantities of cheese, salt, peas, oil, sugar and oatmeal. Alcohol supplies consisted of 250 barrels of beer, 44 barrels of brandy and 17 barrels of rum.s.