I have recently, with enjoyment, read your book entitled New Zealand Mysteries, and now wish to enlarge on the latter part of Chapter 2 of your book which discusses the probable fate of Captain Cook's ship, the Endeavour.
In your book you discuss, and rightly dismiss, the poorly substantiated evidence that Cook's Endeavour became a French ship renamed La Liberte which after grounding found her last resting place in Newport, Rhode island. From the following facts it is however probable that the Newport relic has a strong Cook tradition. The Resolution, an ex-Whitby collier as was the Endeavour, was Cook's vessel on his second and third voyages. After the third voyage, from which Cook did not return, the Resolution was converted to an armed transport. In June l782 she was captured in the Indian Ocean by the French admiral Suffren and became a French naval vessel. Ten years later she was sighted at Porto Praya in the Cape Verde Islands by the crew of HMS Lion, she then being a French whaler from Dunkirk and renamed La Liberte. There had been a French subsidised American whaling settlement at Dunkirk since l785. A Captain Heyden purchased an ex naval vessel with a Cook tradition which was renamed La Liberte. It therefore seems almost certain that the Newport relic is of Cook's Resolution.
This constitutes a ship with a Cook tradition being given the wrong name. The tradition that a convict hulk moored in the Thames had a Cook association is one of the same name but wrong ship. A ship named Discovery, which had been Captain George Vancouver's Discovery, did become a convict hulk in the Thames in 1808.
However when writing in 'The Mariners Mirror', the journal for the Society for Nautical Research, in May 1968, Admiral P.W. Brock quoted from the Admiralty Progress Books to show that Cook's Discovery of the same name had been dismantled at Chatham in 1797.
Of Captain Cook's bluff bowed quartet, Endeavour, Resolution, Discovery and Adventure, all ex-Whitby colliers, this leaves the fate of Adventure and Endeavour to account for. The nautical writer A.J. Villiers has written that the Adventure resumed trading as a North Sea collier, however the aforementioned Brock has stated that Adventure was broken up in 1783.
This leaves us to consider the fate of the most illustrious ship of all, the Endeavour. In the 18th century Lloyds Register was issued at the beginning of each year. The issue for 1776 reported that an Endeavour of 350 tons, and built at Whitby in 1764, had been surveyed at London in 1775 for a voyage to Archangel, and that this ship had been thoroughly repaired "in the King's yard".
In February 1776 she was renamed Lord Sandwich and was so listed in 1778 and 1779 from which date she disappears from the records. Surely this was Cook's Endeavour and research into what became of the "Lord Sandwich" would be interesting reading indeed.
Mrs Peter Bolhouse, Curator of Manuscripts for the Society, suggested I write to Godfrey Blunden, author of Charco Harbour and I feel his reply is a fitting conclusion to this controversy:
So far as I am concerned there is no mystery about the fate of the Endeavour. A distinguished New Zealand historian, Robert McNab, in his book, Murihiku, published 1909, presents the relevant facts. In substantiation of his account there are a number of accounts by seamen and others who saw the ship moored in the Thames after she had been declared a hulk. These can be found in the Providence Journal and the Boston Evening Transcript (US) as well as in various London magazines and newspapers.
I have been in correspondence with Mr C.P. Beauchamp Jeffreys, President of the Newport Historical Society. His claim goes no further than stating that the ship of which they preserve fragments was bought in 1790 by Captain William Hayden, a New England shipping merchant, from the French firm of Du Bacque Frères of Dunkirk. It was then named La Liberté and the vendor is said to have told Captain Hayden that it was Cook's old ship. No documentary proof of the ship's previous history is possessed by the Newport Society, nor does Captain Hayden appear to have had any. In other words the Newport claim is based on hearsay.
Pursuing my researches here in France I have been able to find no record that would suggest that Cook's ship was sold to the French at any time. Captain Muracciole, Chef du Service Historique in the Defence Ministry here, has been unable to find any record of the transaction by which Captain Hayden bought his ship, nor of any earlier transfer of a like ship from British to French nationality which could possibly have been the Endeavour (though the records are far from complete, mainly due to war damage).
Two significant facts suggest a rational solution to the mystery. First, the ship sold to Captain Hayden in 1790 was called, according to the Newport documents, La Liberté. During the French Revolution, which had begun the previous year and was still far from being concluded, many ships and other properties changed hands. It does not seem improbable that the ship so liberated might have been sold at a bargain price to a foreign buyer, whose interest it would have been to conceal the ship's original ownership under a new name. Secondly, Captain Hayden adopted as the name of his ship the revolutionary slogan La Liberté which suggests that the transaction was a word-of-mouth deal, for there, has never been a ship named La Liberté on French registry, the article being invariably masculine (Le not La).
If this disposes of the Newport claim it does not explain why we have not heard more about the Endeavour's last days as a prison hulk on the Thames. After having studied all the available evidence I believe that this is due, in the first instance, to official indifference and, later, to general embarrassment that so noble a vessel should have become like Cook's own discoveries - accessory to the English convict system.
From information supplied by Ron Moore
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 1377, volume 20, number 2 (1997).
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