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Series 03: The Endeavour journal of Joseph Banks, August 1768 - July 1771

Provenance note

The provenance of the manuscript journal of Banks' Endeavour voyage is contentious. H.B. Carter describes it as having been sold at auction by Sotheby, Wilkinson and Hodge on 17 June 1880. It was presumably offered for sale by Edward Knatchbull-Hugessen, Lord Brabourne. It was purchased at the time by Quaritch of London who subsequently sold it to the Australian collector Alfred Lee. In 1906 the journal was bought from Lee by David Scott Mitchell who bequeathed it to the Library in 1907. 

J.C. Beaglehole in the introduction to his transcription of the journal records it being in the possession of Sir J. Henniker Heaton, M.P., during the 1890s, presumably privately acquired from Lord Brabourne. From Henniker Heaton it passed in 1894 to Alfred Lee and thence to David Scott Mitchell. 

The previous Mitchell Library shelf location number of the journal was ML Safe 1/12-13. 

Background note

The collier Earl of Pembroke was purchased in March 1768 by the Royal Navy for conversion to HMS Endeavour. TheEndeavour, under the command of Lieutenant James Cook, was to undertake a voyage of discovery to the Pacific. Cook received his final secret instructions for the voyage on 30 July 1768. 

The reasons for Cook's firstPacific voyage were threefold. The first was an astronomical imperative. Cook was instructed to establish an observatory at Tahiti to view the Transit of Venus on 3 June 1769. The data obtained from this and similar observations at stations throughout the known world would be important in determining the distance between the sun and the earth, information vital to navigation. 

The second goal was the more obvious one of geographical discovery. After leaving Tahiti Cook was to search for the southern continent, and make other discoveries in the name of George III. 

The final aim of the expeditionwas natural history observation and discovery. This innovation and its execution were inspired, financed and directed by the 25 year old Joseph Banks. 

In addition to the usual complement of officers, marines and seamen, the Endeavour also included Banks and his party of natural scientists, artists and servants. Banks was accompanied by his friend and colleague Dr Daniel Solander, a Swedish botanist who had trained under Linnaeus. His party also included natural history artists Sydney Parkinson and Alexander Buchan; secretary and artist Hermann Sporing; and Peter Briscoe, James Roberts, George Dalton and Thomas Richmond as servants and field assistants. Banks also took along his two greyhound dogs. 

The Endeavour set sail from Plymouth on 25 August 1768. At sea and on land Banks was engaged in natural history pursuits at every opportunity, when not incapacitated by seasickness. The Endeavour moored first at the Portuguese occupied island of Madeira in September 1768 providing Banks and his party with six days collecting on land. During their next stop at Rio de Janeiro in November, despite a stay of 24 days Banks achieved very little. The local authorities denied the men the opportunity to go ashore and only a few risky and illegal expeditions on land were attempted. 

In January 1769 the Endeavour rounded Cape Horn. The six days spent at Tierra del Fuego almost ended in the deaths of Banks and members of his party caught unexpectedly overnight on land in blizzard conditions. Two of Banks' party, George Dalton and Thomas Richmond, died as a result. 

In April 1769, the Endeavour moored at Matavai Bay, Tahiti. Over three months were spent at Tahiti preparing for the Transit of Venus on 3 June. On departing Tahiti on 13 July the Endeavour carried two extra passengers: the Tahitians Tupia, who joined Banks' party, and his servant boy Tiata. After sailing to the Society Islands, Cook reached New Zealand and circumnavigated the north and south islands during the final months of 1769 and early months of 1770. Time ashore was employed in botanising and restocking supplies before sailing west from New Zealand in March 1770. 

The Endeavour reached the east coast of Australia at Botany Bay in April 1770. After a brief, and for Banks fruitful sojourn, the expedition sailed north along the Australian east coast. The Australian experience was dominated largely by the desperate struggle to keep the Endeavour afloat after she struck part of the reef along the Queensland coast on 10 June 1770. Repairs were carried out at the mouth of the Endeavour River near present day Cooktown. The Endeavour sailed out of Australian waters in August. 

After successfully passing through Torres Strait, the fortunes of the expedition declined. A voyage marked by success, including an exemplary health record, was devastated by the effects of dysentery and malaria in the East Indies where in Batavia extensive vital repairs were carried out on the Endeavour during the months from October until December 1770. A total of 34 men died as a result of illness at or after leaving Batavia. Banks' talented young artist, Sydney Parkinson, was among them. Another five died at Cape Town or during the last leg of the voyage. 

The voyage of HMS Endeavour was completed on 12 July 1771. For Cook the voyage was distinguished by the excellence of his survey work and the discoveries he made, notably the east coast of Australia, and New Zealand. For Banks the achievement of the voyage was the identification and documentation of around 1,400 plants and more than 1,000 animals previously unknown to European science. 

Banks kept his journal conscientiously during the three year voyage making an entry for  almost every day. He added headers at the top of each page, summarising the location or direction of the expedition, at a later stage.