The genius of Captain James Cook was readily recognised by the Admiralty after the first great voyage of discovery. Plans were made almost immediately for a second voyage - this time to make a complete circumnavigation in the high Antarctic latitudes.
Cook had very vivid memories of near disaster while sailing through unknown waters and his choice of ships was accepted by the Admiralty who were very conscious of the magnitude of the undertaking.
The Navy Board purchased two vessels, the Marquis of Granby and the Marquis of Rockingham. Both were similar types to the Endeavour but were not really barks or barques. They could have been classed as ship-rigged sloops-of-war and were built by Thomas Fishburn in 1770 at Whitby. They were commissioned under the names of Drake and Raleigh. Lord Rockford, Secretary of State, thought the names might offend the Spanish and consulted both the King and the Earl of Sandwich. The Earl advised him they were to be renamed the Resolution and Adventure.
The Resolution impressed Cook greatly and he called her "the ship of my choice", the fittest for service of any I have seen". She was 14 months old and her tonnage of 462 was 100 more than the Endeavour. She had the same flat-floored, apple-cheeked hull as the Endeavour.
Her dimensions were:-
Lower deck length 110 ft 8 inches;
Keel 93 ft 6 inches;
Maximum beam 35 ft 3½ inches and
depth 13 ft l½ inches.
She was fitted out at Deptford with the most advanced navigational aids of the day, including a Gregory Azimuth Compass, ice anchors and the latest apparatus for distilling fresh water from sea water. Twelve carriage guns and twelve swivel guns were carried. At his own expense Cook had brass door-hinges installed in the great cabin.
The Resolution cost the Admiralty £4,151. It was originally planned that Joseph Banks with an appropriate entourage would sail again with Cook. A heightened waist, an additional upper deck and a raised poop or round house were built to suit Banks, but the ship was found to be top heavy in short sea trials. Under Admiralty instructions, the offending structures were removed. Banks refused to travel under "adverse conditions" and was replaced by Johann Forster and his son, George. The conversion bill had cost a further £6565.
Her complement when she sailed from Plymouth on 13 July 1772 was 112, and this included 20 volunteers from the Endeavour. On her second voyage (Cook's third voyage) she again carried 112.
On his first voyage Cook had calculated longitude by the usual method of lunars but on her second voyage the Board of Longitude spared no expense. It sent William Wales, a highly qualified astronomer, with Cook and entrusted a new chronometer, recently completed by Larcum Kendall (K1), together with three chronometers made by John Arnold of Aldophi. Kendall's K1 was remarkably accurate and was to prove to be most efficient in determining longitude on board the Resolution.
The Resolution was responsible for some remarkable feats and-was to prove one of the great ships of history. She was the first ship to cross the Antarctic Circle (17 January 1773) and crossed twice more on the voyage. The third crossing on 3 February 1774, was the deepest penetration - Latitude 71° 10' South, Longitude 106° 54' W. As a consequence the Resolution was instrumental in proving Dalrymple's Terra Australis Incognita (Southern Continent) to be a myth. On his third voyage, Cook in the Resolution crossed the Arctic Circle on 17 August 1778. Charles Clerke, who took over the command after Cook's tragic death again crossed it on 19 July 1779.
The Resolution was back in England in 1780. She was converted into an armed transport and sailed for the East Indies in March 1781. She was captured by De Suffrens squadron on June 9, 1782. His journal states he was joined by the Sylphide and her prize the Resolution, a ship made famous by the voyages of Captain Cook. After the action at Negapostam, the Resolution was sent to Manila for wood, biscuit and rigging, and to enter any seaman she found there. She sailed on July 22, 1782 and on June 5, 1783 De Suffren expressed a notion that she had either foundered or fallen into the hands of the English and was last seen in the Straits of Sunda. An extract from the Melbourne Argus, February 25, 1879 says that the Resolution ended her days as a Portuguese coal-hulk at Rio de Janeiro, but this is unconfirmed. In the possession of Viscount Galway, a Governor-General of New Zealand, is a ship's figurehead described as that of the Resolution. A photograph of it does not agree with the figurehead depicted in Holman's watercolour.
It was zeal and resolution which kept Cook at his tasks and helped him surmount so many obstacles. It is so befitting the man that such a noble ship of his choice should have been called the Resolution.
There are 57 stamps issued which depict the Resolution, and there is no doubt this number will be greatly increased by the anniversary of Cook's death. The 1968 Cook Island issue is a beautiful set, but for sheer atmosphere my choice is the 1973 Norfolk Island 35c stamp issued for the Bicentenary of the First Crossing of the Antarctic Circle. It has been adapted from a watercolour by William Hodges.
The Seaman's Seaman by Alan Villiers;
The Life of Captain James Cook by J.C. Beaglehole;
Cook's Voyage Round The World by A Kippis;
The Voyages of Captain Cook by Rex and Thea Rienits;
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 50, volume 2, number 3 (1977).