A new book about the HM Bark Endeavor brings to life not only one of history's greatest journeys, but also the spirit of the Age of Discovery. STEPHEN LEWIS reports
This weekend, two hundred and fifty years ago, a small Whitby-built necklace from Plymouth embarked on a journey never seen before.
The HM Bark Endeavor had been built just four years earlier and was originally called the Earl of Pembroke. It was a blunt-nosed bucket of a ship intended to carry heavy cargo on the east coast, built not on speed but on rugged reliability.
It was this latter property that saw her chosen as one of the most remarkable journeys of all time. She was assigned to the Royal Navy, renamed the Endeavor and placed under the command of a young naval lieutenant, James Cook. As was the custom of the navy, this young lieutenant, once on board, was addressed as captain instead.
At a glance, the ship would have looked like an ordinary, dull coal necklace as it sailed slowly out of the harbor. But a closer look would have revealed more. "There was … the red ensign over her stern signaling that she was a commanded ship of the Navy," writes Peter Moore in his new book Endeavor: The Ship and the Attitude that Changed the World. Under the tension of the provisions, she was underwater, moving about fourteen yards. Then there was above all the number of sailors: everywhere it was swarming with men, with crossed legs on the back and the main deck, which hangs from the shrouds and bends over the arches, high up. "
Endeavor's mission was to sail into the Pacific Ocean to map the transit of Venus in 1
After their epic journey of discovery, our view of the world should never be the same again. Cook made another famous sea voyage – on another ship, the Resolution. The Endeavor was largely forgotten – ready to operate the Atlantic between Britain and the Falkland Islands, then sold in private hands and renamed Lord Sandwich, hired as a British troop-carrier during the American Revolutionary War. She ended her life by being sunk in 1778 during a blockade of Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island.
It is this extraordinary story that Moore, a journalist and academic, wants to tell in his book. He gives the journey for which this ugly collage of coal will go down in history, and writes with almost poetic force the epic journey into the unknown.
In January 1769, the Endeavor circled the notorious, storm-ridden Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of South America, sailing through the Strait of Le Maire, which runs through the labyrinth of islands south of Tierra del Fuego. an eerie calm that nobody had expected from their crew before they departed for the Pacific Ocean's secluded waters. "Cook was in the southwest, the best he could do with the headwinds," Moore writes. "They took them to an area with wet mists, billowing winds and screaming rain and hailstorms, and more and more south of the cape Endeavor and the royal albatrosses were the only signs of life left."
Months later, on the evening of June 10, Endeavor, after claiming several Pacific islands for the Empire and mapping the coast of New Zealand, sailed west in search of the "unknown southern land." There was a "fine, even breeze," writes Moore. "It was a clear, moonlit night, and as he swung the lead (to check the depth of the water), the sailor found something that surprised him, the depth had deepened … but then the trend reversed … Then, a few minutes past eleven … the hull rumbled against something, all its forward motion halted in a single, shattering moment. "Endeavor was stranded at the Great Barrier Reef.
Moore's research is impeccable, his writing brilliant and poetic. He brings the epic journey of ship and crew to a vibrant, vibrant life. But Endeavor, the book, is much more than a story about this one trip.
It is also about the spirit of the Age of Discovery. The word "endeavor", writes Moore, comes from the French "devoir" – to fulfill his duties. It became something like "an exhausting attempt or a business". "Making an effort to find something that is not easy to achieve may be bordering on the impossible," he writes. "It's something you feel pushed to or have a duty to read anyway." They would not try to learn the guitar, but they might try to explore space – or Cook and his crew set off in a small coal ship in Whitby to discover a new world.
That was the spirit of Cook's age. And it is the spirit that follows this wonderful book from the first to the last page.
It is a wonderful reminder why Whitby has the right to be proud of this inconspicuous little ship that has changed our understanding of the world.
BLOB Endeavor: The ship and attitude that changed the world, by Peter Moore, is released today by Chatto & Windus at prices of £ 20