As April 1768 began, James Cook was still expecting to take the brig Grenville back to Newfoundland to undertake another season’s survey. However, things were happening that would have a major effect on Cook’s life. The Royal Society and the Admiralty had been in talks concerning organising an expedition to the South Pacific to observe the Transit of Venus, expected in 1769.
The Navy Board had been instructed to find a suitable vessel for the expedition, and by the end of March, Adam Hayes, the master shipwright at Deptford, reported back recommending a collier named Earl of Pembroke. She was purchased, renamed Endeavour, and registered as a Bark. Despite what some authors have written, neither James Cook nor Hugh Palliser was party to choosing her. Cook was still preoccupied with Grenville when vessels were being inspected in late March, and Palliser was still governor of Newfoundland. Cook would have certainly applauded the choice of the Navy Board and the Deptford Dockyard but he played no role in the decision.
Work was needed on the vessel, and the dockyard began sheathing and filling her to provide extra protection against the teredo worm, which ruined ships’ hulls in the tropics. For sheathing, a layer of tar and hair was applied to the hull, and then a further outside layer of boards was added. While copper was starting to be used for sheathing it was not used on Endeavour. Filling involved completely covering the sheathing with broad-headed nails.
It was also found that most of her masts and yards needed replacing, while various modifications were required, including the installation of new cabins. New decks were also created. The cost of repairs and alterations was £5,394-15s-4d. By Monday, 18 May, Endeavour was out of dry dock.
While all the activity was taking place over the acquisition of a ship for the Transit of Venus expedition, James Cook was still working with Grenville. At the same Admiralty meeting where Endeavour’s name was sanctioned, reimbursement for Cook for past work was discussed.
Mr Cook’s vouchers amounting to £12-16s-0d for the money he paid in hiring men well acquainted with the coast of Newfoundland, to point out to him the hidden dangers therein, to be transmitted to the Navy Board with orders to repay it, also vouchers for the repairing of Mathematical Instruments and stationary ware for the ensuing summer, amounting to £28.1
Cook’s accident in 1764, when he had his hand damaged in an explosion, and the death of James Surridge in 1767 (the only one recorded during Cook’s time in Newfoundland), highlighted for Cook the need for a surgeon in Grenville to deal with sickness and emergencies. Cook wrote to Philip Stephens, the Admiralty Secretary, on 9 April asking for the appointment of a surgeon’s mate. The minutes of an Admiralty meeting of Tuesday, 12 April, show that his request was granted.
Mr Cook, commander of the Grenville schooner, desires she may be allowed a surgeon’s mate, as she is employed at places distant from any of His Majesty’s ships. To be allowed accordingly.2
But those same Admiralty minutes are one of the first indications of the upheaval that was about to affect James Cook. They record that Hugh Palliser, Governor of Newfoundland, was seeking a replacement for Cook, who was “to be employed elsewhere”. Michael Lane, Cook’s deputy in 1767, was recommended.
A letter was read from Commodore Palliser, that he understands Mr Cook who is master of the Grenville schooner, is to be employed elsewhere, and desiring that Mr Lane, mate of the said vessel, may be appointed to succeed him. Resolved that he be directed to appoint Mr Lane accordingly in Mr Cook’s absence.3
Having found a vessel for the expedition, the search was underway for a man to lead it. A meeting of the Royal Society on Sunday, 3 April, 1768, received a letter from the Admiralty informing the Society that a vessel had been purchased for the expedition, and enquiring who was to go, and what instructions the Society had for her commander. Lord Morton, President of the Royal Society, reported that Alexander Dalrymple had already been recommended as commander but that their nomination had been rejected with horror by the Admiralty. The First Lord, Sir Edward Hawke, is supposed to have said that he would suffer his right hand to be cut off rather than allow a civilian to command a naval vessel. Dalrymple, present at the meeting, reacted with equal horror, and withdrew from the expedition. He had expected to lead it, and a letter of his written in December 1767 shows his position.
It is necessary to Observe that I have no thoughts of making this voyage as a passenger nor in any other capacity than having total management of the Ship intended to be sent.
An important figure now emerged. Captain John Campbell already had a distinguished naval career, having served with Lord Anson on his Pacific adventure and as Hawke’s flag captain at the Battle of Quiberon Bay in 1759. He had also been interested in navigational instruments, and had worked with John Bird to develop the sextant in the late 1750s. His scientific interests had led to him being elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1764. Campbell acted as a mediator in the days to follow. Cook would later acknowledge Campbell by naming after him a headland in Cook Strait, New Zealand.
Someone was needed who would be acceptable to both sides. A naval officer with interests and abilities in astronomy was required, and it is probable that Philip Stephens put forward Cook’s name. Stephens had been dealing with Cook for several years, and knew his qualities. Hugh Palliser was approached, and would have given Cook a good reference. It then required Cook to be presented to the Royal Society. Campbell was the man for this task, taking Cook to a meeting of the Royal Society on Thursday, 5 May. Banks’s notes for that meeting record t
he Society were informed that Mr Js Cooke appointed by the admiralty to the Command of the vessel was a proper person to be one of the Observers was called in & accepted the Office in Consideration of Such a gratuity as the Society should think fit & £120 a year for victualling himself.
If Cook was an unknown figure at the Royal Society at least his name would have been known to its fellows. He had submitted the results of his observation of the solar eclipse in August 1766, which had been turned into a paper by John Bevis, who read it before the Society in 1767. That, together with Bevis’s support, would have counted a great deal in the Society’s acceptance of him as being capable of making astronomical observations.
A fortnight later, on 19 May, Cook attended another meeting at the Royal Society. Banks reported
Captn Cooke attended & accepted the sum of one hundred Guineas as a Gratuity for his trouble as one of the Observers Ordered that £120 be paid to Captn Cooke on account of the Expence of Victualling the Ship before he Sets out & that he be at liberty to draw upon the Society for any sum not exceeding £120 whilst on his Voyage.
The Admiralty had obviously already decided on Cook for the role as he was discharged from Grenville on 12 April, together with his servant, John Smith, and several other members of Grenville’s company who would follow him to Endeavour. William Howson, Isaac Smith, Peter Flower, John Charlton, Alexander Weir and William Grimshaw would accompany him. Timothy Rarden, who was disqualified ill on 29 April, 1768, and Thomas Hardman, who was listed as running on 4 March, 1768, also joined Cook in Endeavour.
In Cook’s place, Michael Lane assumed command of Grenville on 14 April, 1768. He was accompanied as master’s mate by William Richardson, who transferred from Guernsey per order. Thanks to Cook’s earlier application the brig also now had a surgeon’s mate, George Rossant.
Instead of returning to Newfoundland, Cook was now about to set off on a voyage to the Pacific. Many things needed to be sorted first. There was the small matter of Cook’s rank to overcome. While it had been acceptable to have a ship’s master in charge of a surveying brig in Newfoundland, it was not permissible for him to lead an expedition to the Pacific. For that role a commissioned officer with at least the rank of lieutenant was necessary. Fortunately, Cook met the requirements to become a lieutenant as he was well over 21, and had more than the six years requisite experience in the Royal Navy. He attended an examination on Wednesday, 13 May, when he answered questions, and presented examples of his logs and references from several of his previous commanders. It was a formality really, and Cook easily gained his Lieutenant’s certificate, signed by George Cockburn, Captain Robert Man and Captain Abraham North. It may have been one of the most informal sessions ever as North was a neighbour of Cook’s in Mile End Old Town. North had lived on Redman Row since 1765, and his garden backed on to that of Cook so the men were most probably friends.
By 18 May, Endeavour was ready to receive her company. The 25th May proved an auspicious day for Cook as he received his Lieutenant’s commission.
Whereas we have appointed you First Lieutenant of his Majesty’s bark the Endeavour, now at Deptford, and intend that you shall command her during her present intended voyage; and whereas we have ordered the said bark to be fitted out and stored at that place for foreign service, manned with seventy men (agreeable to the scheme of the back hereof), and victualled to twelve months of all species of provisions (for the said number of men at whole allowance), except beer, of which she is to have only a proportion for one month, and to be supplied with brandy in lieu of the remainder. You are hereby required and directed to use the upmost dispatch in getting her ready for the sea accordingly, and then falling down to Galleons Reach to take in her guns and gunners’ stores at that place, and proceed to the Nore for farther order. Given, &c., 25 May 1768 Ed. Hawke, C. Townshend, Py. Brett.
The Admiralty minutes briefly recorded the act.
Resolved that Mr James Cook 2d be appointed first Lieutenant of the Endeavour Bark.4
He was James Cook the second as that other James Cook (whom Cook met at St. John’s, Newfoundland, in 1762) had preceded him to become number 1. The muster for Endeavour was opened with James Cook appearing as #1. He made his appearance on 27 May, accompanied by William Howson from Grenville as his servant (#2). Cook began his journal on Friday, 27 May.
Moderate and fair weather, at 11 am hoisted the Pendant and took charge of the Ship agreeable to my Commission of the 25th Instant, She lying in the Bason in Deptford Yard.
Deptford was a hive of activity for the next few weeks as Endeavour was made ready. On 31 May,
Lash’d the Ship alongside the Sheer Hulk & got in our Lower Masts.
Beaglehole summarised the activities during June as “setting up the mast and yards and rigging, and in taking on board and stowing ballast, coals, anchors, and stores of all kinds from water, beer, arrack to mustard and mustard seed”.5
Meanwhile a crew had been assembling. John Gathrey (#47) joined as boatswain on 10 June (sadly he was one of many who died on the voyage), while Stephen Forwood (#62) joined as gunner on 17 June. By the end of June, muster number 80 had been reached when Richard Orton, the clerk, joined on the 30th. However, 14 men had already run, and three men had been discharged, including the original cook, John Kelly, and his assistant.
In pursuance, etc of the 6th May 1768, we have examined Mr. James Cook who by certificate appears to be more than 39 years of age, & find he has gone to sea more than 11 years in the Ships and qualities undermentioned (viz)
He produceth Journals kept by himself in the Eagle, Northumberland, and Certificates from Captains Craig, Palliser and Bateman of his diligence, etc. He can splice, knot, reef a sail, etc and is qualified to do the duty of an Able Seaman and Midshipman. Dated 13 May 1768. George Cockburn, Captain Robert Man, Captain Abraham North.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 50, volume 41, number 2 (2018).
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