celebrating the 250th anniversary
of the hmb endeavour's voyage of discovery (1869–1771)
August of 2018 marked the 250th anniversary of the sailing of the HMB Endeavour, the first ocean voyage dedicated solely to scientific discovery. The expedition, which departed England in 1768, returned 3 years later with some 3,000 plant specimens, including more than 1,000 new species, seeds for Kew Gardens, and 1,000 zoological specimens. Perhaps the Endeavour’s most remarkable contribution to science is the Banks’ Florilegium, the world’s most famous—and expensive—florilegium, published 200 years after the ship’s return to England.
Exhibits, web resources, and other commemorations have been organized to celebrate the contributions to science made by the Endeavour and its crew.
THE ROYAL MAIL'S COMMEMORATIVE STAMPS
In August, Britain's Royal Mail issued a set of 10 commemorative stamps to honor the voyage of the Endeavour. The stamps include portraits of the ship's captain, Lieutenant James Cook, the naturalist Joseph Banks, and the expedition's only botanical artist, Sydney Parkinson, who tragically did not survive the voyage. Also depicted on the stamps are scenes from Tahiti and New Zealand, a drawing of a Maori chief, a view of the damaged Endeavour laid up for repairs in Australia, and a composite drawing of the transit of Venus across the sun with the ship's sextant. Two botanical paintings drawn by Sydney Parkinson are from Joseph Banks' florilegium and are also included next to two portraits in the first set: red passion flower, Passiflora aurantia (upper left), and scarlet clianthus, Clianthus puniceus (lower right).
THE BRITISH LIBARY
The Library's exhibit commemorating the first voyage of Cook, James Cook: The Voyages, ended in August, but the Library maintains an online collection of resources about Cook, his three voyages and their contributions to science and the world at large. The collection includes drawings from Sydney Parkinson's notebooks, several articles by scholars and historians, and two brief but delightful videos by David Attenborough about Cook and Joseph Banks.
THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM, LONDON
The Museum houses all of the existing botanical artwork from the Endeavour voyage. Its website has an excellent presentation, The Endeavour Botanical Illustrations, that gives a brief but thorough history of the botanical art that arose from the expedition. A number of artworks by Sydney Parkinson, including his animal and landscape sketches as well as his botanical paintings and sketches, are available for viewing.
THE CAPTAIN COOK SOCIETY
Originally named the Captain Cook Study Unit, this international organized is devoted to the study of all things Cook. Their website has an abundance of biographical information about Cook, excerpts from his journals, and an extensive bibliography. For the 250th anniversary observances, there is a list of planned commemorations, exhibits, lectures, and celebrations taking place in Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
Several videos are available online about the Endeavour's voyage, the naturalist Joseph Banks, and the Banks' Florilegium.
As noted above, the website of The British Library has two very brief videos of Sir David Attenborough discussing Cook's ocean charts and Joseph Banks.
Attenborough also discusses Joseph Banks in greater detail in this video alongside a fascinating video of the making of copper plate engravings, the process that was used to create the Banks' Florilegium.
A more substantial video of Attenborough discussing the contributions that Banks made to science was filmed at the 2014 opening of Joseph Banks Great Endeavour Exhibit at The Collection, Lincoln, the art and archaeology museum in Lincoln. Photos of the exhibit can be seen here.
A full-size seagoing replica of the Endeavour was completed in 1994 and has twice circumnavigated the globe. It is now owned by the Australian National Maritime Museum. Here is a brief video of students touring the replica.
The Ship: Retracing Cook's Endeavour Voyage is a 6-part documentary produced by the BBC that follows the Australian replica of the Endeavour on a six-week voyage from the east coast of Australia to Jakarta, Indonesia (where so many of Cook's crew fell seriously ill). While the video is not easy to come by, all 6 episodes can be seen on You Tube.
Joseph Banks' Florilegium / Flowering of the Pacific is a 1984 documentary from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that traces the development of the Banks' Florilegium from the outset of Cook's 1768 voyage to the final publication of the Florilegium, in 1989, with considerable detail about the production of the copper plates and the printing process for the Florilegium. While the DVD is difficult to find, it does turn up occasionally, and it is available through the Netflix DVD service.
THE FATE OF THE ENDEAVOUR
This list wouldn't be complete without mentioning the lost wreck of the Endeavour. After returning to England, in 1771, the Endeavour made three trips as to the Falkland Islands, after which the Navy sold it to a private party who renamed it the Lord Sandwich. The new owner soon submitted it to the Navy to be used for the transport, in 1776, of British and Hessian soldiers to the American colonies. In 1778, the Lord Sandwich along with several other British ships, were scuttled in the bay at Newport, Rhode Island, to prevent the French Fleet from entering the bay to assist the Continental Army.
Today, the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) and the Australian National Maritime Museum are engaged in a joint effort to locate the wreck of the Lord Sandwich ex Endeavour in the Newport Harbor. Their progress through the 2018 field season is encouraging. RIMAP's website includes a wealth of information about the project and an excellent Powerpoint presentation about their search for the ship.