Voyage Stories: Volunteering in Darwin

Meet Kit Edwards, who volunteered as a guide and shipkeeper onboard HMB Endeavour while in port at Darwin. We asked him about his time onboard Endeavour.

Kit Edwards volunteer in Darwin

Kit Edwards, volunteer guide onboard HMB Endeavour in Darwin

Which port did you volunteer at?
Port of Darwin at the Stokes Hill Wharf

What made you want to volunteer on the ship?
I’ve always been fascinated by the history of discovery and by the history of watercraft. 

Have you done anything like this before?
Never. Visiting tall ships like the Esmeralda from Chile or the Dewaruci from Indonesia is interesting and exciting (even controversial in the former case) but working as a volunteer on a ship replica with a relevance to one’s own country’s history is a unique experience.

What was your first impression of Endeavour?
Some years ago I saw Endeavour from the cliffs surrounding Botany Bay at the commencement of the voyage to Britain. It looked so small, just like a large yacht. You can hardly imagine how the original ship managed to find space for a complement of ninety four officers and crew, the scientific gentlemen and their servants, as well as supplies livestock and five boats! On board, it’s the smell of the freshly-tarred rigging that first strikes you, forever evocative of a proper sailing ship.

Kit Edwards nightwatch volunteer

Moonlight nightwatch. Slept on deck. Happy.

What was your role as a volunteer? 
My primary role was as a guide-educator for the school groups in the mornings. Families came in the afternoons, the adults curious find out about what had seemed a distant history, but which became tangible immediately upon stepping aboard. I also volunteered to be a ship keeper at night and, with other volunteers, was responsible to the ship’s watch keeper for the safety and security of Endeavour whilst it lay alongside.

What was the best thing about your experience onboard Endeavour? And what was the worst?
A very positive benefit was meeting visitors of all ages and backgrounds. I even met one of the original shipwrights of Endeavour. My fellow volunteers and the professional crew came both from Australia and overseas and I learned lots about their lives and their experiences during this time. The hardest thing was watching the crowds grow and realising how warm it was on the dock. I felt an internal conflict between giving those on board the best experience and welcoming those waiting to visit the museum-on-a-ship. I believe most visitors went away happy appreciating the efforts of the volunteers and crew.

Did you learn anything new while onboard Endeavour?
Aside from the details of the museum exhibits, in particular at the foredeck, in the galley and mess decks, I began to appreciate the amount of preparation the original voyage needed and also the extent of its achievement, scientific and geographical. Similarly, I came to value the vision of this project of circumnavigation by the Australian National Museum and see how it connects with the histories of all Australians, including the Aboriginal and former refugee students who visited the ship with their teachers.

What’s your advice for anyone considering being a volunteer?
Be open to learning lots of new things quite fast. Learn from others. Appreciate the questions from visitors as they lead you to think in new ways. Maintain a sense of humour and be patient even when you’re asked the same question for the umpteenth time.

Would you do it again?
In a flash!

We would like to thank Kit for his generous contribution to the HMB Endeavour Circumnavigation Project.

— Volunteer with HMB Endeavour, find out more on our website —

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