Cook’s journey of discovery

The first voyage of James Cook was a combined Royal Navy and Royal Society expedition to the South Pacific Ocean aboard HMS Endeavour, from 1768 to 1771. It was the first of three Pacific voyages of which Cook was the commander. The aims of this first expedition were to observe the 1769 transit of Venus across the Sun (3–4 June of that year), and to seek evidence of the postulated Terra Australis Incognita or “unknown southern land”.

The voyage was commissioned by King George III and commanded by Lieutenant James Cook, a junior naval officer with skills in cartography and mathematics. Departing from Plymouth in August 1768, using a ship that had previously been a coal transporter, the expedition crossed the Atlantic, rounded Cape Horn and reached Tahiti in time to observe the transit of Venus. Cook then set sail into the largely uncharted ocean to the south, stopping at the Pacific islands of Huahine, Borabora and Raiatea to claim them for Great Britain, and unsuccessfully attempting to land at Rurutu.

In September 1769, the expedition reached New Zealand, being the second Europeans to visit there, following its earlier discovery by Abel Tasman 127 years earlier. Cook and his crew spent the following six months charting the New Zealand coast, before resuming their voyage westward across open sea. In April 1770, they became the first Europeans to reach the east coast of Australia, making landfall on the shore of what is now known as Kurnell on the shores of Botany Bay.

In his first encounter with Aboriginal people, Cook collected spears and shields from the Dharawal people.  They mistook his gesture of goodwill, spreading nails and glass beads on the beach, for an act of aggression.

The expedition continued northward along the Australian coastline, narrowly avoiding shipwreck on the Great Barrier Reef.  Through a twist of fate, the crew of The Endeavour unloaded cannon and other heavy items, including stone ballast when it struck the Reef.  Cook’s crew repaired The Endeavour, taking on new stone ballast that will be crucial in the eventual identification of the shipwreck at Newport, RI (USA).

In October 1770, the badly damaged Endeavour came into the port of Batavia in the Dutch East Indies, her crew sworn to secrecy about the lands they had discovered. They resumed their journey on 26 December, rounded the Cape of Good Hope on 13 March 1771, and reached the English port of Deal on 12 July. The voyage lasted almost three years.

HMB Endeavour was decommissioned, and once more resumed the task for which it was manufactured – as a transport ship for coal.

(source acknowledgement: Wikipedia)