20 January 2019

Endeavour

Yesterday afternoon I finished reading "Endeavour" by Peter Moore. It is a lovingly researched tome that plots the history of a very special ship that was built in Whitby, Yorkshire in 1764

Its first name was "The Earl of Pembroke" and its initial purpose was to transport coal from The River Tyne down to London. It also was involved in trading voyages to The Baltic Sea and probably to northern Germany too.

Made from Yorkshire oak, it was a capacious and buoyant vessel, easy to navigate and it quickly gained favourable reports from experienced mariners.

In 1768, the British Navy in association with The Royal Society were on the look out for a suitable ship to undertake long distance missions to the little known South Pacific. One of those tasks was to observe the transit of Venus from the island of Tahiti.

"The Earl of Pembroke" was requisitioned and fitted out for the voyage. In the process the ship gained a new name - "The Endeavour" and a new skipper who had co-incidentally first begun his education as a seaman in Whitby. He was James Cook of The Royal Navy.

When the ship returned to England, three years had passed by but the mission had been stupendously successful. The transit of Venus had been observed successfully and  Cook had made amazingly accurate maps of  New Zealand and the east coast of Australia. On board was the botanist Joseph Banks who had gathered many specimens of previously unknown plants.

Later "Endeavour" made voyages to The Falkland Islands where Britain was establishing a colony. Later still she was renamed "The Lord Sandwich" and was involved in carrying mercenary German or "Hessian" troops to the American colonies as Britain sought to suppress rebellions that preceded the consolidation of American independence in 1776.

She was eventually scuttled near Newport, Rhode Island in an attempt to block one of the sea channels there. News had already arrived that a French fleet was on its way across the Atlantic to support the American rebels.

Peter Moore's excellent book is more than just a book about a ship. He sees the years of "Endeavour" as a time of enlightenment as the people of the world became more bonded together than ever. Humanity was making great strides in science, invention and international trade. We were striving towards the modern world we know today and "The Endeavour" was arguably the flagship of that movement.

I enjoyed it immensely.
A model of "Endeavour" in Whitby Museum

15 comments:

  1. They were so beautiful those tall sail ships, somehow the full grown replicas that sail into Whitby harbour haven't quite got the same appeal. Talk of bringing the cruise ships to Whitby, presumably the ship would 'park' outside the harbour and boat the visitors in. Sad.

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    1. The North Sea with its angry moods may not agree with that plan.

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  2. Years ago (at least 10) I've last been to Whitby. It is about time for a return visit, I think. I enjoyed reading about James Cook's voyages in his own words, but to read more about the ship itself and what happened with it before and after sounds like a fascinating read, especially within the context of its time.

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    1. "Endeavour" is a great book. At the end there are forty three pages of footnotes, references and a long index. Of course James Cook was not the ship's skipper in its last years.

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  3. Interesting post, YP. A sad end to the vessel, though.

    And I haven't done a whole lot of reading about the American War of Independence, so I hadn't realized that there were mercenaries involved. That has piqued my interest as well.

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    1. The armada that Britain sent to the American colonies in 1776 was bigger than any that had sailed the oceans before. The cost of it would have been phenomenal. The "Hessians" were known to be great soldiers but unfortunately they were not great sailors!

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  4. Your drawing of John is wonderfully done, by the way.

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  5. You know- I had never really thought of a ship as being such an important part of ongoing research and history but of course that had to happen! What a beautiful story about a beautiful ship. It was the Mars Rover of its time, in a way but so much more.
    And whoa! I did just realize that yes, Jenny is right- you are the artist of the John Gray postcard. I was just thinking of that picture this morning as I put my own Crocs on.
    A man of many talents and interests. That's you, Mr. P.

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    1. In Florida I thought they had alligators and not crocs! Thank you Ms. Waxing Moon.

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  6. And, an amazing, brave man was Captain James Cook...and a beautiful ship he captained. So much history around Cook and the "Endeavour"...and particularly, here in my beloved state of Queensland.

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    1. "Endeavour" nearly didn't make it when they discovered The Great Barrier Reef east of Queensland. Even oak is vulnerable to the scraping of coral as the sea rises and falls.

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  7. Back in the times of our bi-centennial celebrations there was a replica ship sailing the east coast of Australia (1988) and we were lucky enough to see over the ship. So small... and Banks and Cook were both very tall men. Cook slept with his legs through an internal window apparently. His bed would have been about 18 inches too short and went from wall to wall. Brave men to travel so far in those flimsy little ships.

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    1. What a great experience< In the span of human history, "Endeavour" sailed to Australia such a short time ago.

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