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What Do We Know About The Endeavour?


For nearly three years I have been following the voyage of Captain Cook, in his ship the Endeavour, around the world.

But what do we know about this ship? She is not described in the journals of Cook, Banks, etc. And there are few contemporary sketches or paintings of her.

I started by looking in Cook's Log. Doug Gibson wrote "Captain Cook's Endeavour"1 summarising her history from purchase by the Admiralty in 1768 to final breaking up in 1793 in Newport, USA. Ian Woolford expanded on her destruction in "The Fate of the Endeavour" 2.

I then turned to one of the books Doug Gibson refers to, "Captain Cook: The Seamen's Seaman" by Alan Villiers3. As a Master of a sailing ship not much different to Cook's, he sailed the Pacific, and even touched upon the Great Barrier Reef, getting off by carrying out anchors with his boats and heaving off by capstan operated by his crew. He describes the Endeavour, how she would have looked and how she would have handled. In a Technical Appendix he explains the rigging, sails, sailing manoeuvres, and anchor-work.


Captain Cook's Endeavour
by Karl Heinz Marquardt
I looked at several books with the word Endeavour in their titles4, but was disappointed in what I found, until I came across K.H. Marquardt's "Captain Cook's Endeavour"5. This book, published in a series called "Anatomy of the Ship", contains 100 pages of drawings of every aspect of the Endeavour imaginable, including the ship's wheel - elevation and plan. The author, a ship modeller and draughtsman, precedes the drawings with a detailed description of the hull, fittings and rig. He quotes from Beaglehole's book of the First Voyage6 the parts that you and I would easily miss, for example in identifying how many spare anchors were carried.

One piece that caught my eye is the discussion as to whether there were four or five windows on the stern. Marquardt says that Sydney Parkinson's sketch of the ship "finally lays to rest the false assertion that the Endeavour had five stern windows, a myth which has haunted all models and paintings of the ship. The central window was a dummy, added for purely aesthetic reasons. Arguments about the number of actual windows should never have arisen, since the size of the helmport in the lower counter and the quarterdeck shows that the rudder stock passed up through the cabin enclosed in a rudder-trunk, a solid wooden protective casing, which took up the whole space between the two centre counter-timbers and thus the space behind the so-called 'centre-window' and no shipwright would give a window to a rudder-trunk. Its bogus nature is further confirmed by Parkinson's sketch, which shows shutters on only the outer four windows, the dummy centre window not having them as it did not need them." The Australian replica has four windows, but the one at Stockton has five!


Marquadt uses many technical terms without explaining them, so when I borrowed through my local library two articles he had written earlier about the ship, I was delighted to find they were much easier to understand. In the first7 he explains why Thomas Luny's well known painting "The Earl of Pembroke leaving Whitby Harbour" may not be an accurate representation. He writes "Luny was eight years old when the event occurred. His first paintings date from 1777, two years after the Endeavour had been sold out of service. It may be assumed that the idea for this painting surfaced when news of Cook's death reached England early in 1780. What Luny brought to his canvas was not an authentic portrait of the Earl of Pembroke but the portrait of an anonymous eighteenth century collier which, for patriotic and commercial reason, the artist labelled Earl of Pembroke."

He goes on to say "Modern artists do not have Luny's choice of near-contemporary craft to guide them in depicting the Endeavour, but they can refer to the original plans or to a model for their conceptualisation. However, the contemporary plans are not very explicit about the stern, hatches are shown only as empty spaces, and many minor details are omitted. Painters and model makers alike either ignore what the plans do not show, or give rein to their imagination even where research into other contemporary sources would provide a more satisfactory answer. For example, until recently the Endeavour was generally thought to have had no stern decoration at all. Some interpretations show the ship's name on the upper counter even though research would have shown that this fashion did not come in for the Royal Navy until 1772, and lasted only until the beginning of the war against revolutionary France."

In his second article8, Marquadt explains what drove him to his research. "I planned to build a model (which has not eventuated for lack of time) and tried to tie up a few loose ends. Having looked at the original draughts, at a multitude of modern kit versions, artists' impressions, and a number of museum models, I could not believe what I saw... I found a whole fleet of contrasting models". In this article he compares and contrasts the two models built at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich and presented by Her Majesty to the Queen to the Australian and New Zealand Nations, and one built for the National Maritime Museum by Robert Lightley. The last one is well described and illustrated by the modeller in another article9.

One point that Marquadt deals with is the description of the Endeavour as "a Cat-built Bark" by the Navy Board in 1768, "a bluff-headed bark" by Beaglehole, and "a sort of ship-rigged cat" by Villiers. He concludes that she was a "cat-rigged bark".

Sailing Endeavour: Including helpful extracts from the journal of James Cook, navigator
by Peter Petroff and John Ferguson
One way of learning about the Endeavour is to look at the Replica. There are three books associated with it. The first is Bruce Stannard's "Aboard Endeavour"10. Bruce, a former member of the CCSU (463), conceived the idea of the Endeavour replica as a permanent showpiece at the National Maritime Museum in Sydney's Darling Harbour. A maritime historian and a member of the museum's Council, it was he who set out to raise the necessary A$15 million11. This book is aimed at schoolchildren, and is written in the form of the imagined diary of midshipman Isaac Smith aboard Cook's ship. The colour illustrations by Sandra Laroche are beautifully executed, and give a good idea of what it must have been like during the voyage. Some appear to be based on paintings made at the time by Sydney Parkinson, and one or two from later voyages.

The second book is about life aboard the Endeavour Replica. Introduced by Bruce Stannard, "Sailing Endeavour" by Peter Petroff and John Ferguson12 has 68 superb photographs of the Replica, which give a real feel for what the original must have looked like. I was disappointed that there were none in colour, but I suppose that would have made the book quite expensive. The accompanying text is short and snappy, and just right in explaining life aboard without getting bogged down in detail, and without using too much sailing jargon! There are separate sections called rain, wind & spray, the weather deck, masts & spars, the rigging, the sails, working the ship, make & mend, as well as one, of course, on James Cook, navigator.



The Endeavour: A Collector's Souvenir
by Harriet B. Allan
The last book is the latest. "The Endeavour: A Collector's Souvenir" by H.B. Allan13. It has 24 colour photographs of the Replica, plus some of Cook and his crew. The text is a mix of Cook's life, how the replica was built, and descriptions of what life would have been like aboard. There are separate sections called the ship, the wheel, the weather deck, the lower deck, the scientists' quarters, and the Great Cabin.


So now I know quite a lot about the Endeavour.

Ian Boreham


  1. Cook's Log page 18, vol. 1, no. 3 (1976).
  2. Cook's Log page 491, vol. 10, no. 1 (1987).
  3. Alan Villiers, "Captain Cook: The Seamen's Seaman - A study of the great discoverer", 1967.
  4. William Beard, "Captain James Cook: his early life and voyage of the Endeavour", 1969.
    Lucy Elizabeth Craigie, "The Voyage of the Endeavour", 1982.
    Frank Knight, "Captain Cook and the Voyage of the Endeavour (1768 - 1771)", 1969.
    Lynette Roberts, "The Endeavour: Captain Cook's First Voyage to Australia", 1954.
  5. Karl Heinz Marquardt, "Captain Cook's Endeavour", 1995.
  6. J.C. Beaglehole, "The Journals of Captain James Cook, Volume I, The Voyage of the Endeavour, 1768 - 1771", 1955.
  7. Karl Heinz Marquardt, "Do We Really know the Endeavour?", in The Great Circle, volume 8, part 1, pages 27-32, 1986.
  8. Karl Heinz Marquardt, "H.M. Bark Endeavour, What Do We Really Know About the Ship?", in Nautical Research Journal, volume 35, part 1, pages 28-41, 1990.
  9. R. A. Lightley, "Endeavour", in Model Shipwright, part 24, pages 58-63, June 1978.
  10. Bruce Stannard, "Aboard Endeavour: Cook's voyage 1768-1771", 1995.
  11. Cook's Log page 940, vol. 16, no. 3 (1993).
  12. Peter Petroff and John Ferguson, "Sailing Endeavour: Including helpful extracts from the journal of James Cook, navigator", 1994.
  13. Harriet B. Allan, "The Endeavour: A Collector's Souvenir", 1995.

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 1273, volume 19, number 2 (1996).

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