The Voyage North along the East Coast, to Batavia and homeward bound
Cook continued northwards, charting along the coastline. He stopped at Bustard Bay (now known as Seventeen Seventy) on 23 May 1770 in 5 fathoms water on a sandy bottom at the South point of the Bay. On 24 May Cook and Banks and others went ashore. He sounded the channel (now known as Round Hill Creek) and found a freshwater stream, noting there was room for a few ships to take safely anchor. He noted a great deal of smoke on the hills and inspected one of the closest group of 10 fires around which were scattered cockle shells and other evidence of Aboriginal occupation.
A major calamity occurred when Endeavour ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef, on 11 June 1770. The ship was seriously damaged. Desperate to lighten the ship, the crew heaved nearly 48 tonnes of material over the side, including
Six of our guns ... our iron and stone ballast, casts, hoop staves, oil jars, decayed stores, and many other things that lay in the way of heavier materials ... are thrown overboard with the utmost expedition.
On the midnight high tide twenty-three hours later, the Endeavour pulled free.
The hull was already plugged with a large section of coral. The crew carried out 'fothering', which involves hauling a large piece of sail cloth over the hole to stop sea water flooding the ship. With the pumps working full time, the ship slowly travelled north, depth-sounding all the way, until they came upon a suitable inlet. Here the Endeavour is beached for repairs (near the docks of Cooktown, at the mouth of the Endeavour River). While there, Joseph Banks, Herman Sporing and Daniel Solander continued collecting Australian flora and fauna - while here the name "kangaroo" entered the English language, coming from the local Aboriginal word for a kind of grey kangaroo. The crew's encounters with the local Aboriginal people were mainly peaceable.
The voyage was delayed almost seven weeks, 17 June – 4 August 1770, repairs completed and the voyage continued.
At about midday on 22 August 1770 Cook reached the northernmost tip of the coast which he named Cape York. Turning west, he nursed the battered ship through the dangerously shallow waters of Torres Strait, earlier navigated by Luis Vaez de Torres in 1606. In sailing through the Torres Strait, all the while negotiating many shoals of coral reefs, Cook proved that New Holland and New Guinea were not part of the same land mass. His re-discovery of the strait meant that ships, with care, could be spared the tedious voyage around the northern coastline of New Guinea.
Seeking a high vantage point, Cook along with three others including Joseph Banks, climbed a steep hill on a nearby island. From the top the viewed a navigable "a passage into the Indian Seas". He signalled the good news down to the men on the ship, who cheered loudly.
Cook later wrote that he had claimed possession of the east coast when up on that hill, and named the place "Possession Island". However, the Admiralty's instructions did not authorized Cook to annex New Holland and therefore it is unlikely that any possession ceremony occurred that August. Importantly, Joseph Banks, who was standing beside Cook, does not mention any such episode or announcement in his journal.
On his arrival in Batavia (Jakarta) Cook learned that that the Frenchman, Louis Antoine de Bougainville, had sailed across the Pacific the previous year. To counter the possibility of any foreign power claiming his new discoveries, in his revised journal entry Cook wrote that he had claimed the entire east coast (later naming the region New South Wales) for the British Crown.
At that point in the voyage Cook had lost not a single man to scurvy, practically unheard-of in 18th-century long-distance seafaring. Adhering to Royal Navy policy introduced in 1747, Cook persuaded his men to eat foods such as citrus fruits and sauerkraut. At that time it was known that poor diet caused scurvy but not specifically that vitamin C deficiency was the cause.
At first the men would not eat the sauerkraut. Cook used a "method I never once knew to fail with seamen." He ordered it served to himself and the officers, and left an option for crew who wanted some. Within a week of seeing their superiors set a value on it, the demand was so great a ration had to be instituted. In other cases, however, Cook resorted to traditional naval discipline - the lash.
Cook's general approach was to encourage as broad a diet as circumstances permitted, serving as much greens as could be collected when making landfall. Everyone on-board ate the same food, with Cook specifically dividing equally anything that could be divided (and indeed recommending that practice to any commander.
Two cases of scurvy did occur on board, astronomer Charles Green and the Tahiti navigator, Tupaia, were treated. Cook was able to proudly record that upon reaching Batavia he had "not one man upon the sick list", unlike so many voyages that reached that port with much of the crew suffering illness.
The Endeavour visited the island of Savu, staying for three days before continuing on to Batavia, the capital of the Dutch East Indies, to put in for repairs. Batavia was renown for its outbreaks of malaria and, before they returned home in 1771, many in Cook's company succumbed to the disease and other ailments such as dysentery, including the Tahitian Tupaia, Banks' Finnish secretary and fellow scientist Herman Sporing, astronomer Charles Green, and the illustrator Sydney Parkinson.
After crossing the Indian Ocean, Cook rounded the Cape of Good Hope, stopping at the island of Saint Helena to replenish water and provisions. For centuries, the island was an important stopover for ships sailing to Europe from Asia and South Africa. Located in the mid South Atlantic Ocean, it is one of the most remote islands in the world and is Britain's second-oldest overseas territory after Bermuda. The Endeavour sailed up the English Channel and passed Beachy Head at 6 am on 12 July; that afternoon Endeavour anchored in the Downs, and Cook went ashore at Deal, Kent. His return was unexpected, as newspapers and journals had long since reported fears that Endeavour had been lost at sea or destroyed in combat against the French.
His legacy lives on - NASA named spacecraft after his ships.
Cook explored and mapped more territory than any navigator of his era, and his achievements later saw him honored by NASA. Cook’s HMS Discovery was one of several historical vessels that inspired the name of the third space shuttle, and NASA later named their final shuttle Endeavour after the ship he commanded on his first circumnavigation of the globe. When the shuttle Discovery made its final space flight in 2011, its crew carried a special medallion made by the Royal Society in honor of Cook.
- James Cook, journal, 11 June 1770, from Lieutenant James Cook’s 753-page account of the voyage of His Majesty’s Bark Endeavour (also known as HMS Endeavour) from 1768 to 1771 is the story of one of history’s greatest journeys of discovery.
© Arthur Phillip Chapter of Fellowship of First Fleeters 2020-