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January - March 1768


At the beginning of 1768, James Cook had little idea of what the year had in store for him.  His life had entered a familiar pattern and he was expecting to repeat the events of recent years.  To this end, he was preparing to return to Newfoundland to undertake another season’s survey.  Over the winter, Cook had once again prepared his chart from the previous season and he submitted it for publication in early 1768.  James Larken engraved the chart and it was printed and sold by Mount and Page, Jefferys, and Dury.  It was entitled A Chart of the West Coast of Newfoundland, Surveyed by Order of Commodore Pallisser, Governor of Newfoundland, Labradore, &c. &c.


A set of sailing directions accompanied the chart and was sold by the same printers.  It was entitled Directions for Navigating the West-Coast of Newfoundland with a Chart thereof, and a particular account of the Bays, Harbours, Rocks, Sands, Depths of Water, Latitudes, Bearings and Distances from Place to Place, the Flowing of Tides, etc.  From an actual survey, taken by order of Commodore Pallisser, Governor of Newfoundland, Labradore, etc.


The copyright on the four chart engravings and three sets of sailing directions for Newfoundland still rested with Cook in early 1768.  However, it appears that, before he left on his Endeavour voyage, Cook conveyed his rights to Thomas Jefferys as, when Jefferys published a portfolio of charts of Newfoundland and Labrador, they were now the property of the printer. 


That work was entitled A Collection of Charts of the Coasts of Newfoundland and Labradore, etc.  Many of its charts had been drawn by Cook, while others were contributed by Michael Lane and Joseph Gilbert.  Of particular note is a chart of Newfoundland entitled A General Chart of the Island of Newfoundland with the rocks and soundings.  Drawn from surveys taken by order of the Right Honourable the Lord Commissioners of the Admiralty.  It is jointly attributed to James Cook and Michael Lane. 


It is interesting to compare this chart with Cook’s earlier versions from 1763 and 1764.  The amount of detail around the coast has increased dramatically, especially along the south coast, while some rivers and lakes in the interior are also displayed.


A companion volume of sailing directions was also issued by Jefferys.  This work contained Cook’s work and was published in 1769.  It was entitled The Newfoundland Pilot: containing a collection of Directions for sailing round the whole Island, including the Streights of Bell-Isle, and part of the Coast of Labradore, giving a particular account of the Bays, Harbours, Rocks, Land-Marks, Depths of Water, Latitudes, Bearings and Distance from Place to Place, the Setting and Flowing of Tides, etc.  Founded on actual surveys, taken by Surveyors that have been employed by the Admiralty, and other Officers in the King’s service.  Published by permission of the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty. 


An early version of the Collection of charts was issued in 1769, but without the general chart of Newfoundland.  The full edition, complete with the general chart, would seem to have appeared after May 1770, as an Act of Parliament of that date is included on the chart.


During the 1760s, the Royal Society in London had determined that it would sponsor observers of a Transit of Venus, expected in June 1769.  At a council meeting of the society held in November 1767, a sub-committee was set up,
To consider the places proper to observe the ensuing Transit of Venus, and the method, the persons fit, and other particulars relative to the same.


The sub-committee reported back that Alexander Dalrymple was,
A proper person to send to the South Seas, having a particular turn for discoveries, and being an able navigator, and well skilled in Observation


The Royal Society was, however, without funds of its own, and had no means of equipping ships to transport observers to locations around the world.  Therefore, the society petitioned the King in early 1768, seeking financial assistance.  Lord Shelburne informed the Admiralty on Monday, 29 February, that King George and the British Government were prepared to allocate £4,000-0s-0d to support the Royal Society’s plans for an expedition to the Pacific to view the Transit of Venus,
and the Admiralty should acquire a vessel to take an observer to the Pacific.


At the end of February, accordingly, the Admiralty instructed the Navy Board to find a suitable ship.
His Majesty has been graciously pleased to express his Royal inclination to defray the expense of conveying such persons as it shall be thought proper to send to make the observations [of the passage of the planet Venus over the disk of the sun]… I am commanded by their Lordships to signify their directions to you to propose a proper vessel to be fitted for this service.1


Tryal, a two-masted sloop built in 1744, was at Deptford being repaired, and the Navy Board initially suggested her.  It was realised that repairs would take too long.


On Thursday, 10 March, HMS Rose, a 6th rate built in 1757, was proposed instead.  She was quickly rejected as being unable “to stow the quantity of provisions required on such an occasion”. 


The Navy Board then suggested to the Lords of the Admiralty,
if their Lordships incline to make choice of a cat-built vessel for the said service, which in their kind are roomy and will afford the advantage of stowing and carrying a large quantity of provisions so necessary on such voyages… a vessel of this sort of about 350 tons, may now be purchased in the River Thames if wanted.2


The Admiralty assented immediately, and ordered the Board to inspect two vessels, Valentine and Earl of Pembroke, which were both moored at Shadwell.
We do signify to you our approval of the employing of a cat-built vessel instead of a ship of war on the aforesaid service, and we desire and direct you to purchase such a vessel for the said service accordingly.3


Officers from Deptford dockyard led by Adam Hayes, the master shipwright, promptly surveyed both vessels, and inspected a third vessel, called Ann and Elizabeth.  Within a week Hayes reported back recommending Earl of Pembroke.
The Earl of Pembroke, Mr Thos. Milner, owner, was built at Whitby, her age three years nine months, square stern back, single bottom, full built and comes nearest to the tonnage mentioned in your warrant and not so old by fourteen months, is a promising ship for sailing of this kind and fit to stow provisions and stores as may be put on board her.4


The report valued Earl of Pembroke at £2,307-5s-6d.  She was purchased for £2,800-0s-0d. 


The Navy Board needed to know what to call the vessel and how to register her.  They also needed to know what special fittings were required for her new role. 
inform their Lordships that we have purchased a cat-built bark, in burthen 368 tons, and of the age of three years and nine months… and pray to be favoured with their Lordships’ directions for fitting her for this service accordingly, in which we presume it may be necessary to sheath her bottom… and that we may also receive their commands by what name shall she be registered on the list of the Navy.5


In anticipation, the vessel was taken down to the dry dock at Deptford. 
The Master Attendant and the Pilot went on board the Earl of Pembroke lately purchased for his Majesty’s service at Mr Bird’s Ways this morning, in order to bring her down to be unmasted and docked.6


The name Endeavour was chosen.  It was decided to register her as a Bark as there was already another vessel in service, a cutter, with the name Endeavour.
you are to cause the said vessel to be registered on the List of the Royal Navy as a bark by the name of the Endeavour.7 


Some authors have attributed the choice of Earl of Pembroke to Cook, either by himself or with Hugh Palliser.  However, it is safe to say that neither man was involved.  Cook was still preoccupied with Grenville when the vessels were being inspected in late March, while Palliser was still governor of Newfoundland, and not yet comptroller of the navy—that appointment came in 1770.  At this stage neither man had any connection with the planned Transit of Venus expedition.  Cook would have certainly applauded the choice of the Navy Board and Deptford Dockyard, but he played no role in it.


Events would soon involve James Cook as arguments began concerning who should lead the expedition to the Pacific.


John Robson



1.         Admiralty Secretary to Navy Board.  5 March, 1768.  Adm/A/2605.  Held at The National Archives (TNA), Kew. 

2.         Navy Board to Admiralty Secretary.  21 March, 1768.  Adm/B/180.  At TNA. 

3.         Admiralty Secretary to Navy Board.  21 March, 1768. Adm/A/2605.  At TNA. 

4.         Deptford Yard Officers to Navy Board.27 March, 1768.  Adm 106/3315.  At TNA. 

5.         Navy Board to Admiralty Secretary.  29 March, 1768.  Adm/B/180.  At TNA. 

6.         Deptford Yard Officers to Navy Board.27 March, 1768.  Adm 106/3315.  At TNA. 

7.         Admiralty minutes.  5 April, 1768.  Adm/3/76.  At TNA. 

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 10, volume 41, number 1 (2018).


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