ENDEAVOR: The ship that changed our view of the world

A new book on the HM Bark Endeavor brings not only one of the greatest journeys in history to life, but also the spirit of the era of discovery. STEPHEN LEWIS reports

TWO hundred and fifty years ago this weekend, a small Whitby-built necklace from Plymouth sailed on a journey she had never made – like any other ship.

The HM Bark Endeavor was only built four years earlier and originally called the Count of Pembroke. She was a blunt nose of a ship designed to carry heavy loads of coal along the east coast, and not built for speed, but for firm reliability.

It was that last trait that saw her chose one of the most remarkable journeys ever made. She was hired by the Royal Navy, the Endeavor was re-baptized and placed under the command of a young naval lieutenant, James Cook. As marine use wanted it, once on board, this young lieutenant was instead called captain.

With a fleeting glance the ship would look like an ordinary, non-glamorous coal mine as it slowly sailed out of the harbor. But a closer inspection would have revealed more. & # 39; There was … the red flag about her severe sign that she was a navy ship working on stand-alone tasks & # 39 ;, writes Peter Moore in his new book Endeavor: The Ship and the Attitude that the world changed. "There was her lowness in the water under the tension of the facilities, pulling something fourteen feet back and forth, and then there was more than anything else the enormous number of sailors: men crawled everywhere, sitting cross-legged on the front and the main deck, hanging from the shrouds, bent over the bow, high in the tops. "

Endeavor's mission was to sail to the Pacific Ocean to chart the passage of Venus in 1769 over the sun – a measure that scientists would use to calculate how far away we were from the sun – and then continue sailing in the unfamiliar waters of the Southern Pacific looking for the "terra australis incognita", or "unknown southern ground." It would take almost three years for her to return to her native region, to roam the world, to claim several islands in the Pacific Ocean for the British Empire, to chart the coast of New Zealand, the first European ship to visit the east coast of Australia – and crashes on the Great Barrier Reef.

After her epic voyage of discovery, our view of the world would never be the same again. Cook went on to make another famous sea voyage – on another ship, the resolution. The Endeavor was largely forgotten – on its way to the Atlantic between Great Britain and the Falkland Islands, then sold in private hands and renamed Lord Sandwich, hired as a British troop transport during the American War of Independence. She ended her life during a blockade of Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, in 1778 to be sunk.

It is this extraordinary story that Moore, a journalist and an academic, wants to tell in his book. He gives the journey for which this ugly coal gallery will go down in history to its fullest and with an almost poetic power describes the epic journey to the unknown.

In January 1769 the Endeavor completed the infamous, stormy Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of South America, sailing through the Strait of Le Maire, which runs through the maze of islands south of Tierra del Fuego, with & # 39 a creepy calm that none of its crew members had expected before entering the solitary waters of the Pacific Ocean. "Cook ran south-west, the best he could do with the opposite wind," Moore writes. "It brought them to an area of ​​humid mists, swaying winds, and bursting showers of rain and hail.In and to the south of the cape Endeavor and the royal albatrosses remained as the only signs of life."

Months later, on the evening of June 10, after they had claimed several Pacific islands for the empire and mapped the coast of New Zealand, Endeavor sailed west to look for the unknown southern land & # 39 ; There was a "fine, even wind", Moore writes. "It was a clear, moonlit night, with a sweeping head start (used to control the depth of the water), the sailor found something that surprised him. The depth was deeper … but then the trend changed in an instant … a few minutes before eleven o'clock … the hull clung to something and all her forward movement was held at one moment. & # 39; The effort was stuck on the Great Barrier Reef.

Moore's research is impeccable, his writing luminous and poetic. He brings the epic journey of ship and crew to a lively, lively life. But Endeavor, the book is much more than just a report of this one journey.

It is also about the spirit of the era of discovery. The word & # 39; Strive & # 39 ;, Moore writes, is derived from the French & Dvoir & # 39; – do duty. It meant something like & # 39; a strenuous effort or venture. "Try to look for something that is not easily achieved, perhaps bordering on the impossible," he writes. "It is something that you feel if you strive or are nevertheless obliged to read." You would not try & # 39; & # 39; to learn the guitar, but you could try to explore space – or, like Cook and his crew, to set off in a small coal ship built in Whitby to discover a new world.

That was the spirit of Cook's age. And it is the spirit that haunts this beautiful book from the first to the last page.

It is a wonderful reminder of why Whitby has every right to be proud of this inconspicuous little ship that changed our understanding of the world.

BLOB Endeavor: The Ship and the Attitude that Changed the World, by Peter Moore, published by Chatto & Windus, is priced at £ 20 today

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