On Friday, a fully-functional replica of Captain Cook’s ship HMB Endeavour put out from Fremantle, a port city in the south-west of Australia, to continue her voyage around the continent.
Passing Sydney Opera House
For the second time, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this replica of the ship captained by James Cook on his first voyage around the world from 1768 to 1771, in which he took scientists to observe the transit of Venus in Tahiti, proved New Zealand was two main islands, charted the east coast of New Holland (as Australia was known then) and claimed it for Britain, sailed though Torres Strait below New Guinea, and put in at the Dutch East Indies before returning home to England.
A great feat, especially as achieved in a clunky former collier without an accurate ship’s chronometer. The last leg of the trip, however, was a less than happy one [see story below].
Last time the replica was in Fremantle, I was able to look it over below decks. Very cramped it was, with most of the ship’s complement having to bow their heads to move around. Even the ‘state rooms’ occupied by Cook and botanist Joseph Banks were very pokey indeed. Endeavour has a barge-like shape with a very flat nose, being designed for its original function of hauling coal along the English coast.
For this voyage, the Endeavour replica set out from Sydney in April last year, retraced Cook’s journey up the eastern seaboard of Australia, passed the northern-most tip of the continent, traversed what Aussies call the Top End, then down the west coast to Fremantle.
Now she’s travelling down to and across the Southern Ocean in the wake of Abel Tasman’s trip in 1642, putting in at Tasmania and tracing Cook’s passage from there to Sydney, arriving in May. Another epic voyage, of several thousand sea miles.
I trust I’ll be able to see this remarkable craft again.
COOK IN JAVA
Leaving Torres Strait in late 1770, Cook made landfall at the Dutch port of Kupang in West Timor before heading further West. Then, skirting the southern coast of the 900km-long island of Java, he approached the Sunda Strait with his ship Endeavour terribly the worse for wear. There, he encountered a Dutch ship and caught up with the news from Europe and elsewhere.
Up to this point he could proudly record that he had “not one man on the sick list”. This was largely due to his efforts at seeing his men had a balanced diet, with as much fresh veg as he could procure for them. However, he then sailed eastwards along the northern coast of Java to Batavia (now Jakarta), capital of the Dutch East Indies. There, officers and men tried to enjoy the facilities of city life but, one by one, many all of them contracted malaria and other ailments.
As botanist Joseph Banks recorded, the canals which were meant to flush out the city were stagnant and clogged with mud which “stinks intolerably… being chiefly formed of human ordure.” Cook contemptuously described the place as “a stinking hell-hole”.
Before long, the ship’s complement that had not suffered a single death over many thousands of sea miles began to succumb to fevers. First, two Tahitians on board died, followed by the surgeon and then four others. It took over a month to have the Endeavour repaired and provisioned, and a further eleven days to battle back through Sunda Strait.
Cook then made a decision that he would rue for a long time: he decided to put in at an island to replenish his stock of fresh food for the trip across the Indian Ocean. As it turned out, he took on more than just food – dysentery made its appearance on the ship and caused its own toll.
So, Java was not the happiest of experiences for Cook.