One ship, 94 men; with marines, scientists, and crew, Endeavour departed from Plymouth, England, on August 26, 1768. Cook’s “secret” additional orders, to be opened at sea, contained instructions to search for the Southern Continent after his observations at Tahiti were completed. (For more on this fabled landmass, see the Terra Australis box in the Pacific Ocean section.) The ship stopped at Madeira for more supplies, including three thousand gallons of wine, before proceeding across the Atlantic, reaching Rio de Janeiro in November. The Portuguese viceroy was suspicious of the ship’s scientific nature and would not allow anyone ashore. At night, Banks and his men surreptitiously landed and brought back large numbers of plants and specimens for examination, including what was later named the Bougainvillea after the French explorer. (See Bougainville in the Explorers section.)
Cook decided to take the route around Cape Horn, rather than dealing with the vicissitudes of the Strait of Magellan, to reach the Pacific and in mid-January - anchored in what he called the Bay of Success. Opposite Staten Island, in the Strait of Le Maire; the crew traded with the Fuegians. Banks led an exploring party inland but was unprepared for a rapid change of weather that stranded the group overnight in heavy snow and bitter cold. Two of his servants died, but the greyhounds somehow survived.
“Upon the whole, these people appeared to be the most destitute and forlorn, as well as the most stupid of all human beings; the outcasts of Nature, who spent their lives in wandering about the dreary wastes, where two of our own people perished with cold in the midst of summer; with no dwelling but a wretched hovel of sticks and grass, which would admit not only the wind, but the snow and the rain; almost naked; and destitute of every convenience that is furnished by the rudest art, having no implement even to dress their food: yet they were content.”
-Joseph Banks [Vol. 2, p. 59; Emphasis added]
On January 21, 1769, the expedition continued in a southwesterly direction, sighting the 1,400-foot rock triangle of Cape Horn a few days later and, with great surprise, passing it with little danger. Cook fixed it at 55°59′ S, 68°13′ W, remarkably close to its real position of 55°58′ S, 67°16′ W. (He noted that Wallis’s Dolphin had taken three months to pass through the Strait of Magellan during the same part of the year.)
Excerpts drawn from: An Account of the Voyages Undertaken by the Order of His Present Majesty for Making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere and Successively Performed by Commodore Byron, Captain Wallis, Captain Carteret, and Captain Cook, in the Dolphin, the Swallow, and the Endeavor, Drawn Up from the Journals Which Were Kept by the Several Commanders, and from the Papers of Joseph Banks, Esq. 3 vols. 1st ed. London, 1773. Volumes 2 and 3 are devoted to Cook’s first voyage. [Rare Books Division]; Princeton University.
The Endeavour Expedition successfully viewed the 1769 transit of Venus, discovered the Society Islands, accomplished the first circumnavigation and charting of New Zealand. It was also the first European expedition to reach and chart the eastern shores of Australia.
1. Inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego. [J. Hawkesworth, Vol. 2, Plate 1]
2. Matavai Bay (Tahiti) and Tahitian Boats. [J. Hawkesworth, Vol. 2, Plate 4]
3. Breadfruit. [J. Hawkesworth, D. Solander
Vol. 2, Plate 3]
4. Beached Endeavour and Examination of Its Damage. [J. Hawkesworth, Vol. 3, Plate 19]