A blog series by Steward Bill Ellemor from on board the Australian National Maritime Museum’s HMB Endeavour replica as it sails from Sydney to Geelong. See our Sail the Endeavour page to learn more about joining voyages like this.
Day Eight, Thursday 4 February 2016
Our final night in open sea was a somewhat bouncy one as we ambled around south of Port Phillip Heads keeping away from other vessels, but generally making sure we were in position to advance to pilot meeting area on time in the morning. As we approached, the local population of dolphins turned out in force for a friendly welcome. The sea was a little too rough for boarding so the pilot boat escorted us until we were inside the Heads. Our pilot, Neil, boarded between Point Lonsdale and Queenscliff and remained with us all the way to Geelong. He thoroughly enjoyed the experience of piloting a vessel so different from those of his daily round.
The narrow entrance to Port Phillip is called The Rip because of the huge amount of water that runs in and out of it as the tides change. The only safe time for ships to pass through is at slack water—the point between the tides at which the sea level outside and inside equalises. This is why we had to be ready on time, as the next opportunity, had we missed the deadline, would have been 12 hours later.
The scenic passage through the Heads was enjoyed by all. Later, on the long run across to Corio Bay, almost all voyage crew had the opportunity to go aloft one more time to gasket the Fore Topsail and Fore Course. It was a great sight seeing all hands aloft together—and the beaming smiles back on deck for a job well done.
The final task of the day was anchoring. Mostly this involved professional crew, but extra hands were required for certain tasks. Nevertheless there were plenty of interested onlookers. It was a long day, but we were finally safe at anchor a little before 8.00pm. Thereafter there was much bonhomie as we proceeded to the traditional mess dinner—served by professional crew, who also took care of galley duty—and a couple of well prepared items for Sods Opera.
On that note it must have been a devastating turn of events for Cook at and beyond Batavia. From May 1768 to October 1770 he had traversed the Atlantic, rounded Cape Horn east to west, completed a successful stay in Tahiti, crossed the unknown south Pacific, circumnavigated and mapped New Zealand, sailed the length of the east coast of New Holland—careening and repairing the ship along the way—without losing a single life to scurvy, and only 8 lives lost in all to a variety of causes. However, Batavia was such an unhealthy place that during his stay there and the sail home a further 30 lives were lost in only 10 months. A sad end to his magnificent voyage.
And so a final question: who or what was Tupia?
Day Nine, Friday 5 February 2016
Tupia was a Tahitian chief whom Cook was persuaded to take along when Endeavour sailed. He was of immense help to Cook all the way across the Pacific and New Zealand, doing a serviceable job of interpreting both language and culture. When it came to Australia, however, he was as helpless as the British. This underscores the fact that the various peoples of Polynesia are connected by common roots, while the Aborigines of Australia are unique. Sadly Tupia was one of the many deaths from fever in Batavia.
As we had anchored in harbour at Geelong, the final day of our voyage was a cinch—weigh anchor, move a few hundred metres and tie up alongside Cunningham Pier. Both operations—retrieving a two and a half ton anchor from the sea floor and safely stowing it; and bringing the ship safely alongside—are complex and time consuming. Once the ship was made fast the Captain’s farewell meeting was held in the Great Cabin, certificates and track charts were handed out, and voyage crew and supers were at last free to say their final farewells and depart. It has been a great week together. Thank you all.
– Bill Ellemor, Steward