Two United States postage stamps issued on January 20, 1978, changed my life. Until then I knew practically nothing about Captain James Cook. One stamp commemorated the 200th anniversary of his arrival in Hawaii, January 20, 1778, and the other his anchorage in Cook Inlet near Anchorage, Alaska on June 1, 1778. As a philatelist I was interested in the unusual arrangement of the two stamps on a single sheet. Half of the sheet displayed the Hawaii stamp which showed a John Webber etching and the other half of the sheet pictured Captain Cook as painted by Nathaniel Dance.
For some unknown reason, I decided I wanted to learn more of this man, and a trip to the public library to read about him started me off on an adventure which has lasted for twenty-two years. Other countries issued Cook stamps, so I decided I would collect as many as possible. Six years later I had accumulated enough stamps commemorating Cook to enter an exhibit in a nearby stamp show. My Cook exhibit won a gold award. During the show I was approached by a man who expressed interest in the exhibit. He introduced himself as a descendant of Henry Roberts who served with Cook on the second voyage. What a coincidence, I thought.
When I decided to visit the places Captain Cook made famous, I found out how vast his voyages were. My wife and I have visited Whitby, Greenwich, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, the Cook islands of Raratonga and Aitutaki, and the islands of Kauai and Hawaii. Never once in our travels were we on a ship.
In June I had hoped to visit the ship in San Francisco which is close to my home, but the Endeavoursailed through the Golden Gate and inland to California's capital, Sacramento. In November 1999, I flew to Kailua-Kona on the big island of Hawaii to board the H.M. Bark Endeavour replica.
Endeavour with large cruise ship in background The Endeavour had first anchored in Kealakekua Bay before sailing up the coast to a pier in Kallua-Kona. Hundreds of school children boarded the ship on the morning of November 2. My son James, a resident of Kona, my wife Catharine and I bought tickets for the afternoon visit and were pleased to see much shorter lines.
Outline of masts and rigging
Waves were pitching the ship around and soon damage to the side of the Endeavour was evident. My first impression of the Endeavour was that it looked like a large wooden bathtub - 30 feet wide and 109 feet long.
John Dusel (left) with volunteer guide Michael Gardner, Rotary Club of Kona
Now that I have been below decks, I have an appreciation of the discomfort the officers and crew must have experienced. The height of the marines' quarters was 4 feet 7 inches (140cm). I crouched in that area for a few moments while the volunteer guide described the surroundings and life in that area.
Close up of mast and rigging
I soon felt that my 6 feet 1 inch body was more comfortable sitting on the deck. The air was warm, oppressive and so stifling that one visitor had to leave the area and go on to the upper deck for fresh air.
I believe that neither the captain nor Joseph Banks could stretch out in their bunks. The cabins were too small for these tall men. Men on the Endeavourendured these conditions for years.
During these past twenty-two years of studying Captain Cook, I have never appreciated his accomplishments as much as when I walked and crawled through H.M. Bark Endeavour.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 1720, volume 23, number 2 (2000).
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