Posted by: travelrat | March 29, 2020




Peter Moore

Chatto & Windus

If I ever took part in the BBC’s Mastermind quiz, my ‘specialised subject’ would probably be James Cook. Although I suspect that someone else has chosen him long ago. So, when this book came out, I pounced on it eagerly.

But, it’s not all about Cook; it’s about the first of his ships, and his voyage is only a part of Endeavour’s story. The story starts with an acorn, from which grew the oak from which the Earl of Pembroke was constructed. That was the original name of Endeavour; a Whitby-built collier, whose main business was carrying coal around the North Sea.

She was re-named when she was bought into the Royal Navy, and sailed to the Pacific under Lieutenant James Cook, to observe an astronomical phenomenon called the Transit of Venus.

‘And, while you’re about it’ Their Lordships might have said ‘You might go and see if there’s anything in this ‘Great Southern Continent’ malarkey!’

Of course, Cook didn’t actually ‘discover’ New Zealand or Australia. He did, however, establish that New Zealand was two islands, not a peninsula of the fabled GSC, and accurately chart its coastline, and that of much of the eastern coast of Australia.

After this famous voyage, Cook went on to command Resolution, and Endeavour was sold into private ownership, and renamed Lord Sandwich, to serve first as a supply ship and then as a prison hulk. She met her end by being ignominiously scuttled off Nantucket, as a harbour defence during the War of Independence.

Endeavour’s story involves much of the history, politics and personalities of the time, and this book gives a fair insight into them. And, much of it witnessed by a small collier brig from Whitby … if only it could talk.

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