Cook and the ‘Swan of Litchfield’

Death announcement of Captain Cook in the London Gazette, 18 January, 1780 (source – British Library)

Death announcement of Captain Cook in the London Gazette, 18 January, 1780 (source – British Library)

When the news of Cook’s death reached London in 1780, it did not make front page news, but rather, was merely noted with a small announcement of a single paragraph. But public expressions of grief came, one being ‘Elegy on Captain Cook’ written by Anna Seward in 1780.

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Endeavour: Geelong to Adelaide, day 6

Endeavour minus main top gallant. Image: Paula Tinney

Endeavour, minus main top gallant. Image: Paula Tinney

A blog series by Steward Bill Ellemor from on board the Australian National Maritime Museum’s HMB Endeavour replica as it sails from Geelong to Adelaide. See our Sail the Endeavour page to learn more about joining voyages like this.

Sunday 14 February 2016

Last night’s conditions were not conducive to restful sleep. With the wind in the wrong quarter, we had to travel under engine power all night, which is usually a rougher ride. Add to that, being side-on to a rolling swell from the port beam, and the ship jumped around like a cranky horse. Most people managed to catch up on lost sleep to some extent during the day.

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Endeavour: Sydney to Geelong Voyage, days 1–6

HMB Endeavour on the first day of its voyage to Geelong.

HMB Endeavour on the first day of its voyage to Geelong.

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 one, Thursday 28 January 2016

We are underway, under sail and heading south at 5 knots. We’ve had our first “All Hands” call to set sail—and all is well!

For the record, voyage crew came on board at 0800 and got quickly into safety briefing training drills and a full scale fire drill. Then around 1600 the engines grumbled to life and we knew departure was imminent. Finally we slipped off the pier at 1630 and turned for the main harbour. At almost exactly 1800 we passed through the heads into the open sea and at 1830 the PA crackled out the order: “All hands on deck to set some sail.” Before long the engines were powered down and finally cut completely. At last we were doing what we all came for and smiles were getting broader. As if to emphasise the point, we watched a large, modern cruise liner emerge from the Heads astern of us and pass us off the the port side. She will reach Melbourne faster than us—but we’ll have a lot more fun.

Lastly, as we are sailing in a replica of James Cook’s famous ship, a bit of learning about that voyage of discovery. Each blog we will post a question for readers to ponder, answer to follow. Day One question is an easy one: Who or what was the Earl of Pembroke?

Day two, Friday 29 January 2016

Shipboard life is starting to take shape as voyage crew and supernumeraries woke to their first morning at sea—wake up calls on the PA; two sittings for each meal; morning briefing from the Captain; happy hour (housekeeping time, not the other sort!). We were shadowed all morning by shearwaters and there was the occasional dolphin sighting, we set more sail until we had ten up fighting for what wind we could catch to drive us south. Averaging 4 knots our skipper was more or less happy with the state of our world.

Preparing the gallant

Day two: Preparing the gallant

The afternoon was a different story. The horizon to the south west showed darker and darker, split by the odd flash of distant lightning. Would it stay over the land? Before long we had our answer. From 1500 to 1600 hours the thunderstorm passed directly over us. The winds were not especially strong—20 to 25 knots—but oh, the rain! At times the lightning seemed directly overhead as the thunder crashed all around. But, Endeavour weathered it all beautifully, and like all storms, eventually it passed.

The storm did have one positive—our speed increased to around 8 knots in more or less our intended direction. Afterwards this advantage was soon lost as the wind shifted to the wrong quarter before dying almost completely and reluctantly the noisy iron staysails were ordered into action to help us get back on track. And there on the horizon was Pigeon House Mountain. But hang on, said a few observant souls, wasn’t that there two hours ago? Ahh, such is life at sea.

Yesterday’s question concerned the Earl of Pembroke. This was the name of the Whitby collier purchased by the Admiralty in 1768 and renamed. As Endeavour she was repurposed and refitted according to a new set of Admiralty plans, to take a scientific party to the south Pacific—specifically the newly discovered Tahiti—to take part in a worldwide project to observe the transit of Venus from several separate locations across the globe, combine the results and so accurately determine the distance between the Earth and the Sun. And how fortunate are we? Those refit plans still exist, so when a decisions was taken to build a replica the plans were dusted off and used again. Hence we are currently aboard the most authentic replica tall ship in the world.

Now today’s question: What is a fearnought? (Hint: we needed these today.)

Day three, Saturday 30 January 2016

After a night of “rock ’n roll”, day three began with a fire alarm—which turned out to be false. For professional crew it was an opportunity to test their fire response. In time the all clear was given and normality gradually took over once more.

It was a mixed day of steady progress down the south coast of NSW. Mixed because the winds were changeable, so we had some good sailing, but also a lot of hard slog under power. Despite that, we covered 125 miles in a 24 hour period. Remarks like, “she seems to roll more when there’s no sails up” indicate the voyage crew are starting to get to know the ship.

View from Endeavour, day three.

Bow and wave. Day three on HMB Endeavour’s voyage to Geelong.

On the social side, people are getting to know one another and discover things of common interest and all are enjoying themselves—even the few who are recovering from sea sickness, though for them the smile is through gritted teeth! There are some pre-existing groupings of course—friends from way back; a husband and wife; even a father a son, where the father is voyage crew and the son a supernumerary—which one drew the short straw? One happy young group on board comprises three 17 year old school friends from St Luke’s in Dee Why who are missing the first week of their final year at school to take this voyage. We say, Well Done! to Callum, Emma and Todd. What you miss in the classroom you will more than make up for in life experience.

Emma, Callum and Todd on board HMB Endeavour

Emma, Callum and Todd on board HMB Endeavour

Meanwhile up on deck, at one stage we had a clear, starry sky on the port side and continuous lightning to starboard—a portent of things to come.

To answer yesterday’s question, fearnought was the name given to a particular variety of weatherproof jacket common in James Cook’s day.

And today’s question: where is, or was, Cape Everard?

Day four, Sunday 31 January 2016

The lightning last night was indeed a portent. On two occasions overnight, extra professional crew were summoned to help the watch on deck, first to brace up then to take in sails. The first of these calls was under threatening skies, the second in pitch dark and heavy rain; it all adds to the experience of those involved. Eddy and Rachael did a magnificent job co-ordinating it all.

Day four. The view from HMB Endeavour. Image: Andy Berry

Day four. The view from HMB Endeavour. Image: Andy Berry

Early this morning we passed around Cape Hicks and entered Victorian waters in Bass Strait. The day brought sunshine and moderating seas, but unfortunately winds in the wrong direction—in our face. So we have had no option but to motor pretty much all day, and the prospect for more favourable conditions for sailing is not great. Still, at least everyone gets some respite after a hectic couple of days and nights.

HMB Endeavour fairlead

Day four. Through the fairlead. Image: Andy Berry

Interestingly, today we passed Point Hicks on the East Gippsland coast. This is significant as it was the first point of mainland Australia sighted from Cook’s Endeavour in 1770. It was easy to imagine sailors on that Endeavour looking in wonder at the obvious high mountains stretching along the horizon. Cook named the feature after his Second Lieutenant, Zachary Hicks, who was the first to spot it. Cook and his crew assumed that the stretch of water to the south of here was a wide bay, and part of Tasmania, the southern part of which had already been seen and mapped, and didn’t attempt to explore in that direction—their aim was to follow this coast northwards mapping as they went, assuming it would eventually lead them to Batavia (now Djakarta) in what was then the Dutch East Indies.

This all leads to Cape Everard. At some stage in Victoria’s history this name was assigned to this same point of land, supplanting the name given it by Cook. Around the time of the Cook Bicentennial year, 1970, the name Hicks was restored.

The Day Four question: Cook and his crew celebrated Christmas Day inside the Antarctic Circle in which year: 1769, 1770, 1773 or 1776?

Day five, Monday 1 February 2016

In the late afternoon and evening Sunday many of the Bass Strait oil rigs were visible to the north of us as we motored on into that head wind. Then in the early hours the dawn watch and anyone else who cared to take the deck at that hour had a lovely view of five planets stretching in a line across the sky.

Soon after breakfast our Captain decided to alter course to use the available wind to sail for most of the day. And what a beautiful day it was—calm sea, sunshine, the quiet of sailing, 360-degree horizon, the occasional ship passing in the distance but much of the time in our own magnificent isolation. A good portion of the morning was taken up for all hands on deck setting sail. Our initial course put us on a heading towards Flinders Island; around 1600 we braced around to start heading back towards Victoria again. It was noticeable that more off-duty crew were taking to the deck to relax, obviously enjoying themselves.

During the afternoon the first lecture took place. The ship was left in the hands of the professional crew as voyage crew and supers retired to the Great Cabin to learn about the night sky and navigation. Later, Eden gave a further lecture to her own watch on points of the compass.

Around tea time the Captain decided to bring in sails and motor again so that we could make some good westing overnight, as we have to be in position outside Port Phillip on Thursday morning where a pilot will board and take us through The Rip at slack water.

We are now sailing in waters Captain Cook never saw, as noted yesterday, and yesterday’s question concerns an event that did not involve Endeavour. Christmas Day at 67° south took place in 1773 during Cook’s second voyage. Although the Endeavour voyage had done enough to satisfy Cook himself that the “great southern land” was a myth, he nevertheless recognised that there were still vast areas in the southern Pacific unvisited, and the mystery of the Antarctic to unravel. His second voyage was intent on addressing these matters. Again Cook was equipped with Whitby coal cats—two of them this time—Resolution, larger but otherwise very similar to Endeavour, and Adventure, somewhat smaller. The story goes that a young sailor named Vancouver, when he heard the order to brace around to retreat from the ice, raced out to the very tip of the bowsprit so that he could brag forever more that he had been “further south than any other man alive”.

And now the Day Five question: who was Alexander Dalrymple, and what part did he play in the Endeavour expedition?

Day six, Tuesday 2 February 2016

This morning our Captain John announced his decision to head in close to Refuge Cove on the east coast of Wilson’s Promontory, then move slowly along the coast to round the light station on South East Point before setting sail and heading away from the coast once more. This plan was greeted with approval all round and lead to all on board having a lovely morning watching one of the prettiest coasts you would find anywhere, then a very pleasant sail in light winds for the rest of the day. By evening we had changed course to the west and shortened sail in readiness to meet an expected south westerly change overnight.

Learning the sextant

Learning the sextant

Yesterday’s lecture was followed by a practical session with sextants for those interested, giving them some insight into the art and science of navigation.

As people are getting to know one another voyage crew stories are coming out; one interesting one is our husband and wife team, Marie and Mark. They have flown across the world just for this trip, Marie from their home in England and Mark from his current post with UK’s diplomatic service in Kabul. And today we were all able to celebrate with them Mark’s birthday. He had to share the honours with Emma, whose birthday was on the first day of the voyage. Their cake made a lovely dessert for the evening meal—thanks Alan and Paula.

Birthday cake on Endeavour

Mark and Emma’s birthday cake.

Yesterday’s question concerned Alexander Dalrymple. He had fashioned himself into THE expert in Britain on the riddle the Endeavour expedition was aiming to solve, once it’s primary astronomical project was completed—Terra Australis Incognita. Dalrymple had studied every report by every visitor to the south Pacific and made it known that he KNEW there was a great south land, and he KNEW where to look. His claims appeared to make him the obvious choice to lead the expedition, and he certainly expected to. However, wiser heads prevailed; his lack of other skills regarded as essential to such a project lead to the decision to appoint Lieutenant James Cook instead.

Day Six question: why did Cook have charcoal fires lit in buckets down in the hold of his ships?

Bill Ellemor, Steward

“She will be the first woman that has ever made it.”

In 1766 Louis-Antoine Bougainville, a 37 year old French army and navy veteran, received his wish from King Louis XV to become the first Frenchman to circumnavigate the globe. In a time of European rivalry, Bougainville’s journey would be an ‘enlightenment expedition’ – not only searching for new lands and the power and glory they would bestow of France, but also of learning. To help him achieve this he took with him the botanist and physician, Philibert Commerson.

Commerson was a man passionate about his field of study and he bought with him a keen sense of observation for all new discoveries – natural, cultural and scientific. He also bought with him something that no one on the expedition could ever have foreseen, a woman.

Philibert Commerson, the botanist who relied so much on Jeanne Baret

Philibert Commerson, the botanist who relied so much on Jeanne Baret

Women were of course explicitly forbidden on French naval ships and Commercon and his “assistant” had gone to great lengths to conceal her true identity. Her name was Jeanne Baret and she was a skilled and knowledgeable botanist. Whilst never formally trained, Jeanne’s skill as a herbalist had made her a valuable assistant to Commercon prior to his acceptance of Bougainville’s expedition.

Jeanne and Commerson had lived together after the death of Commerson’s first wife. It seems initially Jeanne acted as Commerson’s housekeeper and nurse due his continuous ill health. But clearly intelligent and gifted, Jeanne also became an assistant in Commerson’s botanical studies. Jeanne had given birth to a child that many believe was Commerson’s and yet social conventions and class restrictions seemed to prevent them ever marrying.

Perhaps it was Jeanne’s own sense of adventure and scientific interest , a love for Commerson or a sense of responsibility to care for his health and assist in his studies, that saw the pair convince Bouganville that she, now known as “Jean”, was a Commerson’s male assistant. They were allocated a shared cabin aboard the Etoile where they could work, sleep and store their equipment. This alleviated many of the practical problems of keeping herself disguised from the crew. Nonetheless, suspicion grew on board that all was not quite what it seemed with “Jean”.

Jeanne Baret as

Jeanne Baret as “Jean”

Whilst on shore, Jeanne acted as Commeson’s eyes and legs. He was still plagued by leg ulcers and it is unlikely he could have walked the vast distances required to collect specimens. She carried all their equipment and often trekked the terrain alone and armed to ensure no further suspicions would be raised by any perceived lack of strength on her part.

The great reveal came whilst the Boudeuse and the Etoile were at Tahiti. Interestingly it seems it was the local inhabitants who exposed “Jean” rather than the dubious crew. Faced with the situation, Bougainville had no choice but to address it.

'Bougainville at Tahiti' by Gustave Alaux ANMM Collection 00000921

‘Bougainville at Tahiti’ by Gustave Alaux, 1930,  ANMM Collection

In his book ‘A Voyage Round The World In The Years 1766, 1767, 1768 and 1769’  Bougainville gives a very low key account of the event:

Some business called me to the Etoile and I had an opportunity of verifying a very singular fact. For some time there was a report in both ships, that the servant of Commerson, named Bare, was a woman. His shape, voice, beardless chin, and scrupulous attention of not changing his linen, or making the natural discharges in the presence of anyone, besides several other signs, had given rise to and kept up their suspicion. But how was it possible to discover the woman in the indefatigable Bare, who was already an expert botanist, had followed his master in all his botanical walks, amidst the snows and frozen mountains of the Straits of Magalhaens, and had even on such troublesome excursions carried provisions, arms, and herbals, with so much courage and strength, that the naturalist had called him his beast of burden?”

Bougainville's account of the journey which includes the story of Jeanne. This first English edition is part of the ANMM collection and was originally from the library of Matthew Boulton, associate of Sir Joseph Banks

Bougainville’s account of his journey which includes the story of Jeanne.  ANMM collection

What happened immediately after the discovery is not known for certain. Bougainville states that “after that period it was difficult to prevent the sailors from alarming her modesty” and certainly most accounts acknowledge serious physical repercussions against Jeanne by the crew. She claimed initially that Commerson had not known her or her gender before the expedition and it was her own interest in the journey and a lack of money at home that had caused her to act as she did.

Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, the expedition leader who would become an unlikely ally to Jeanne

Louis-Antoine de Bougainville, the expedition leader who would become an unlikely ally to Jeanne

Despite the illegality of her ruse, Bougainville seems to have had some sympathy and good will for both Commerson and Jeanne. Once the expedition reached Mauritus, he arranged with Pierre Poivre, the governor there, to ‘acquire the services’ of Commerson to carry out a survey of possible medicinal plants on the island. Poivre, an avid botanist himself and a forerunner in the area of conservation, became a patron of Commerson and provided him with a “huge apartment in his house where he could prepare and conserve his plants, birds, insects.. [Poivre] hosted him at his table, lent him his servants and rewarded his talents in the most generous possible way.”

There is no mention of Jeanne. Can we assume she stayed with Commerson? Safe now in Poivre’s house? It seems she was again pregnant with another son that she adopted out but she was certainly still in Mauritius when Commerson died in 1773.

After this, with Commerson’s death and Poivre replaced as governor, Jeanne was alone. One account tells that she found work as a herbalist or tavern maid and married a French solider. They made their way back to France in 1774 or 1775 and by doing so, Jeanne became the first woman to circumnavigate the globe. She took the considerable trouble to bring back with her the specimens and notes she and Commerson had compiled and the collection became part of the Musee du Roi in Paris.

Jeanne had been left some money by Commerson in his will and although her achievements were not acknowledged publically, she did later receive a small pension from the government in acknowledgment for her work on the expedition. There is one theory that it was Bougainville, who rose to great heights under Napoleon, who ensured this pension was paid to her. While some suggest Bougainville had wanted to distance himself from the fact a woman had been on his expedition, I rather think he admired her for it.

He does acknowledge in his book that in going around the world:

she will be the first woman that has ever made it, and I must do her the justice to affirm that she has always behaved on board with the most scrupulous modesty.”

Jeanne died in 1807 at the age of 67 but it was not until 2012 that a fitting tribute to her was created. Eric Tepe named a new plant species from southern Ecuador and northern Peru after her. In his dedication of ‘Solanum baretiae’ Tepe says:

“We believe that this new species of Solanum, with its highly variable leaves, is a fitting tribute to Baret.” They describe the plant’s namesake as “an unwitting explorer who risked life and limb for love of botany and, in doing so, became the first woman to circumnavigate the world.”

Solanum baretiae The plant named for Jeanne in 2012.

Solanum baretiae
The plant named for Jeanne in 2012.

 Myffanwy Bryant


HMB Endeavour: Sydney to Hobart Voyage, Day 2

IMG_3096A blog series from on board the Endeavour ship as she sails to Tasmania. See our Sail the Endeavour page to learn more about joining voyages like this.

Thursday 29 January 2015

The crew are in good spirits even though most are feeling some effects of the big waves.  More than one person has remarked that they would have felt ‘disappointed’ to come on this trip and not experience some challenging weather!

Man lines have been strung around the ship and we make our way carefully, clipped on for safety. There have been sightings of albatross, dolphins, flying fish and shearwaters, and a magic moment when a Caspian Tern kept with the shipwright beside the staysail. Continue reading

HMB Endeavour: Sydney to Hobart Voyage, Day 1


A blog series from on board the Endeavour ship as she sails to Tasmania. See our Sail the Endeavour page to learn more about joining voyages like this.

Wednesday 28 January 2015

A raining start to our grand adventure. By 12.30pm all voyage crew had completed their safety induction and necessary paperwork and after a delicious first lunch aboard of soup and salads, we were ready to depart.

The crews consists of 16 professional crew, 36 voyage crew and 4 supernumeries (for more information on crew types, see our Sail the Endeavour page).  There are a number of family groups aboard, including a group making up most of Foremast Watch, who are helping their father achieve a lifetime dream of sailing to Tasmania. Continue reading

Ashmore Reef Expedition 2015 – Part One

Voyage out past Mer (Murray) Island. Photo: Xanthe Rivett, Silentworld Foundation.

Voyage out past Mer (Murray) Island. Photo: Xanthe Rivett, Silentworld Foundation.

Ashmore Reef is a 30 kilometre long, isolated, lagooned coral reef system located more than 950 kilometres north of Cairns, Queensland, some 250 kilometres east of Thursday Island, Torres Strait and 30 kilometres offshore from the extreme northern end of the Great Barrier Reef in the Australian Coral Sea Territory.

The northern section of what is now called Ashmore Reef was first sighted by Captain Ashmore in the brig Hibernia in 1811 and unofficially called Hibernia Reef. The southern section of the reef was named the Claudine and Mary Reef an 1818 and the entire reef system called either Jones Shoal, Ormond’s or Great Ormond’s Reef by 1826. Continue reading

Celestial navigation and astronomy: Voyage from Newcastle to Sydney, day 3-4

Noon sights and calculating latitude

In clear conditions with minimal swell, day 3 of HMB Endeavour replica’s voyage was perfect for using sextants to measure the angle of the sun at its zenith.

Voyage crew and supernumeraries gathered in the waist of the ship at 1115 to practice using sextants. The sun’s highest point – known as Meridian Passage – would be at 1145, not noon, due to the time of year and the ship’s longitude.

Third mate Penny and supernumerary Bill measure the angle of the sun at its zenith. Photo: Eden Alley-Porter.

Third mate Penny and supernumerary Bill measure the angle of the sun at its zenith. Photo: Eden Alley-Porter.

One of our supernumeraries, Bill Morris, ran this session along with Penny, the third mate. Bill is an expert on sextants – he has collected 65 nautical sextants and is the author of The Nautical Sextant. His interest in navigation began at a young age.

‘I bought a book called Teach Yourself Navigation when I was about 14,’ Bill said. ‘I had no sextant and no horizon but I taught myself the rudiments of coastal navigation.’

Sextant. Photo: EAP.

Sextant. Photo: EAP.

The specific interest in sextants arose when he and his wife visited the Maritime Museum in London on their honeymoon. He didn’t really get to indulge this interest until he retired, many years later and then living in New Zealand. He has since started to collect and repair broken sextants.

Bill crossed the Pacific on a container ship, the Natalie Schulte last year – a 19-day passage from Auckland, NZ to Oakland, USA. During the voyage he took several sights on celestial bodies each day to determine the ship’s latitude.

After lunch on day 3, Bill and the other interested voyage crew and supernumeraries gathered in the Great Cabin to do the calculations required to determine the ship’s latitude.

Calculating latitude in Endeavour's Great Ccabin.

Calculating latitude in Endeavour‘s Great Ccabin. Photo: SMM.

There’s something very special about gathering in the Great Cabin to do this kind of work. Spangled reflections from the sea played across the bulkhead from the great windows in the stern as Penny explained the process of calculating the latitude.

At a table just like this one, in a Great Cabin just like that of the Endeavour replica’s Great Cabin, Cook would have followed similar calculations and would have worked on the detailed charts of Australia’s east coast.


Calculating latitude. Photo: SMM.

At that time, there would have been little margin for error as there were no pre-existing charts to work from and no other way of working out the ship’s position.

Keen to repeat their successes of the previous day, some of the voyage crew gathered again on day 4 to measure the altitude of the sun – this time at 1146 and 44 seconds. The sun’s highest point is a little later each day as it moves north until the summer solstice on December 21.

With a little more swell running on day 4, Endeavour was not quite the stable platform that she had been on day 3. My calculated latitude was out by more than I care to admit, but Bill’s calculated latitude was within three miles of our GPS position.

Day 4 at sea

Overnight on Friday (day 3) the ship gained ground to the south under engines, taking us past Pittwater. With the strong southerly breeze, we were able to turn around and go sailing on Saturday morning – just for fun!

Furling the forecourse. Photo: EAP.

Furling the forecourse. Photo: EAP.

We began furling* sails around 1500 while sailing towards the entrance of Broken Bay. Furling continued once the rest of the sails were handed and we were waiting for Fred Watson AM and his partner and colleague Marni to arrive in the ship’s seaboat for the evening’s astronomy talk.

HMB Endeavour dropped anchor at 1700 in Broken Bay and we prepared for the last evening of the voyage.


The highlights of the evening were two sessions delivered by Fred about what we could see in the night sky. In the first, the sun had just set and Marni kept a keen eye out for the first star of the evening, Alpha Centauri (also known as Rigal Kentaurus), which is one of the two pointers to the Southern Cross.

Observing Saturn from the deck of Endeavour. Photo: EAP.

Observing Saturn from the deck of Endeavour. Photo: EAP.

Telescopes were set up to have a closer look at Saturn – thankfully there was no wind so the anchorage was very calm and the ship was a stable base for using a telescope.

After dinner, voyage crew returned to the deck with Fred to look at the after-dark night sky – including the Southern Cross, sitting low to the horizon at this time of year.

All’s well.

*Furling is the process of rolling or gathering a sail and securing it with gaskets (lengths of line) so that the sail does not flap in the wind.

– Suzannah Marshall Macbeth

Day 1: Newcastle to Sydney

Wednesday 17 September 2014, 2000 hours

A new crew has joined the HMB Endeavour replica and are settling into the hammocks that will be their place of rest for the next four nights aboard. Welcoming a new crew aboard is always exciting and this morning in Newcastle was no exception.

We departed Queen’s Wharf at 0900 and headed north for Port Stephens under engines while the 24 new voyage crew and supernumeraries underwent training and ship familiarisation.

Through the heads into  Port Stephens. Photo: Suzannah Marshall Macbeth.

Through the heads past Mount Yakaba into Port Stephens. Photo: Suzannah Marshall Macbeth.

The most hotly anticipated part of the training is usually climbing aloft, and today was no exception. I get the feeling we have a bunch of keen climbers aboard for this voyage – many of the new crew were all smiles by the time they returned to the deck after their first introductory climb.

Voyage crew member Rachel descends from her first climb in Endeavour's rigging. Photo: SMM.

Supernumerary Rachael descends from her first climb in Endeavour’s rigging. Photo: SMM.

One group finished their climbing once we were at anchor in Port Stephens, with the sun beginning to glow orange as it set in the west.

The landscape around our anchorage tonight is, once again, quite spectacular, though not nearly as remote as the coast around Broken Bay where we anchored on the previous voyage.

Although Port Stephens is lovely, it’s a challenging place for a ship of Endeavour’s size to enter due to the narrow entrance and shallow waters in places once inside the heads. Captain Cook named Port Stephens when he sailed by on 11 May 1770, but did not enter the bay itself.

We will stay here overnight before heading to sea tomorrow for two nights. The voyage crew will have many more opportunities to go aloft in the coming days to loose and furl sails.

Two of the climbers who came down from the rigging delighted with their first experience aloft were Beth and Kristian, a mother-and-son team from Newcastle. Beth is a mariner by trade and an experienced yacht sailor, but has never sailed on a square-rigged sailing ship.

A kayaker circles Endeavour at anchor in Nelson Bay, Port Stephens. Photo: SMM.

A kayaker circles Endeavour at anchor in Nelson Bay, Port Stephens. Photo: SMM.

Like others on the trip, Beth has come aboard both to experience sailing on Endeavour and to meet the Astronomer in Charge of the Anglo-Australian Astronomical Observatory, Fred Watson, aboard the ship on Saturday afternoon. He will lead an astronomy session that evening while we are at anchor off Pittwater.

I’m looking forward to learning more about the constellations that we can see above us on a clear night – as well as hopefully learning a little about celestial navigation, an exact science that was vital to Captain Cook’s navigation of the original Endeavour.

All’s well.

– Suzannah Marshall Macbeth

Day 1: Botany Basics voyage, Sydney to Newcastle

Monday 8 September 2014

At 8am on Monday morning, 16 new HMB Endeavour crew members were waiting on the wharf – voyage crew, supernumeraries and two botanists from the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney. Thankfully some of the fog captured by the Sydney Morning Herald photographer had faded by then!

The botanists, Dr Trevor Wilson and Dr Matt Renner, are with us as part of the voyage crew but are also on board to provide their expertise in explaining some of the vegetation in the Pittwater area of the lower Hawkesbury River.

Motoring into Broken  Bay. Photo by Eden Alley-Porter.

Motoring into Broken Bay. Photo by Eden Alley-Porter.

As soon as Endeavour‘s new crew were aboard, the priority was to head north towards Pittwater in preparation for the second day of the voyage, which would be spent ashore gathering plant specimens. With light northerlies forecast, we set off from Sydney Harbour under engines.

While motoring up the coast, the three watches undertook training rotations including climbing, line handling and a ship’s tour. This is the first stage of vessel familiarisation for voyage crew, in preparation for the anticipated sail to Newcastle later in the week.

After our difficulties with the ship’s smaller stream anchor in Broken Bay during last week’s voyage, we dropped the large bower anchor straight away and were comfortably at anchor by the time the nearly-full moon rose later in the evening.

Through the hawse pipe - the ship's anchor cable. Photo by Eden Alley-Porter.

Through the hawse pipe – the ship’s anchor cable. Photo by Eden Alley-Porter.

After dinner, the botanists gave a presentation about the vegetation that we could expect when going ashore the next day.

As Trevor explained, one of the exciting things about going ashore along the Hawkesbury River is that you might just find a plant species that hasn’t previously been collected or identified.

‘People tend to think all plant species have been described already, but that’s not the case at all,’ Trevor said.

‘The Sydney Basin is hugely diverse, and going to places where people haven’t collected in the past can provide the opportunity to find something new.’

‘The material collected during the voyage will be held at the National Herbarium of New South Wales indefinitely,’ Matt said. ‘So it will be available for other researchers to access in the future.’

All’s well.

– Suzannah Marshall Macbeth

Day 4-5: A Voyage on Endeavour


Early morning on the Hawkesbury River from onboard HMB Endeavour.

Early morning on the Hawkesbury River from onboard HMB Endeavour. Photo by Eden Alley-Porter.

On Day 4 of the HMB Endeavour replica’s first voyage of the season, we woke to a lovely sunrise on the Hawkesbury River. It was time to pick up the enormous 2.3 tonne bower anchor that we’d rigged and dropped late on day 2. Even better, it was time to go sailing!

The flukes of HMB Endeavour's 2.3 tonne bower anchor. Photo by Suzannah Marshall Macbeth.

The flukes of HMB Endeavour’s 2.3 tonne bower anchor. Photo by Suzannah Marshall Macbeth.

With the anchor safely lashed to the rail (along with a bit of that Hawkesbury River mud) we loosed sails and poked our nose outside Broken Bay late on Thursday morning. We found moderate swells and strong winds – mostly southerlies, which did not bode at all well for actual sailing back to Sydney.We had six sails set and for a while the wind looked as though it would allow us to set more, so both watches sent crew aloft to loose topsails (square sails) on the fore and main masts.However before the sails were loose and ready to be set, the wind picked up and we found ourselves re-furling the sails as quickly as possible.

Crew set sail as HMB Endeavour sails out of Broken Bay. Photo by Suzannah Marshall Macbeth.

Crew set sail as HMB Endeavour sails out of Broken Bay. Photo by Suzannah Marshall Macbeth.

For those who aren’t familiar with sailing, in stronger winds a ship will carry less canvas than she would in light winds. You may have seen pictures of Endeavour with most of her sails set – this would only be the case in light winds.

In strong winds, the smaller, higher sails could be torn, carried away altogether or put too much pressure on the ship’s rigging, which could pose a hazard to the ship. In this case, with 25-30 knot winds blowing and a relatively small crew on board, we were only able to safely set a small number of sails.

Still, the few sails that we’d set were certainly enough to provide plenty of hard work furling towards the end of the day, once we’d started the engines and turned around to head back to Sydney.

Voyage crew at the helm of HMB Endeavour. Photo by Suzannah Marshall Macbeth.

Voyage crew at the helm of HMB Endeavour. Photo by Eden Alley-Porter.

A few brave voyage crew joined the professional crew in the rig despite the rolling swell to bring in the ship’s two biggest square sails – the fore and main courses. It’s important the Endeavour’s sails are securely rolled up and lashed to the yard so that the sail can’t blow out and flog about in the wind.

Sydney Harbour as HMB Endeavour returns to port. Photo by Suzannah Marshall Macbeth.

Sydney Harbour as HMB Endeavour returns to port. Photo by Suzannah Marshall Macbeth.

The weather was against us all through the night as we motored into a headwind in order to get back to Sydney for the end of the voyage on Friday evening.We look forward to welcoming a new crew aboard Endeavour on Monday for the Botany Basics voyage to Newcastle!

All’s well.

– Suzannah Marshall Macbeth

Day 2-3: A Voyage on Endeavour

Wednesday 3 September 2014

HMB Endeavour

HMB Endeavour

It was a windy but bright and sunny day today on the Hawkesbury River, where HMB Endeavour replica is lying at anchor resting up after a very eventful Tuesday night. Just twenty miles north of Sydney, we are surrounded by rocky shorelines and vegetated headlands, with the town of Patonga around the bend and the rail bridge over the river just visible to the north.

Having made our way into Broken Bay past Barrenjoey Lighthouse while taking in sails and furling yesterday afternoon, we dropped anchor in the mouth of the Hawkesbury. Unfortunately, coming to anchor for the night didn’t turn out nearly as relaxing as it sounds! The expected blow accompanying a cold front from the south finally arrived and by the time dinner was over, it was clear that Endeavour’s stream anchor – our ‘small’ anchor, at 700kg – was not enough to hold the ship on the river’s muddy bottom as the wind gusted to 45 knots. Continue reading

Day 1-2 : A Voyage on Endeavour

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Our HMB Endeavour replica is back at sea again after close to a year in port. With a small group of voyage crew and one supernumerary, we went to anchor off Taronga Zoo yesterday afternoon to undertake emergency drills and initial training for the voyage crew.

From there, we had an amazing view all night of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. For an out-of-towner like me, it’s a spectacular sight.

The Sydney skyline as seen from onboard HMB Endeavour. ANMM photo by Donna Carstens

The Sydney skyline as seen from onboard HMB Endeavour. ANMM photo by Donna Carstens

Continue reading

Botany Basics 101: with Dr Matt Renner & Dr Trevor Wilson


Dr Matt Renner and Dr Trevor Wilson

The HMB Endeavour team has partnered with the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney to bring you our first themed voyage, Botany Basics, which sets sail on 8 – 12 September.

Sailing from Sydney to Newcastle via Pittwater, this special botany themed voyage features two very special guests from the Gardens, Dr Matt Renner and Dr Trevor Wilson.

Dr Renner and Dr Wilson kindly sat with us to tell us what they were most looking forward to about their maiden voyage. Continue reading

Ancestral pursuits aboard a historic American whaler

Charles W Morgan in dock

The Charles W Morgan alongside the shiplift dock. The shiplift was installed in 2007 and used to lift the whaleship, carefully cradled in blocks and braces, out of the water. A computer controls the lift, monitors and distributes loads and protects the vessel from damage. A horizontal track system moves the vessel ashore and a concrete platform under the rails collects all waste from the work on the ship. This protects the Mystic River’s water quality and marine habitat. Photos courtesy of Lesley Walker.

In April this year I climbed aboard the Charles W Morgan at her dock at Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut, United States for the first time. With a sailing date of 17 May fast approaching, riggers and shipwrights, painters and crew, electricians and carpenters, plumbers and deckhands were swarming about the ship in a frenzy of activity, patiently side stepping the curious and fascinated public who came to marvel and to question.

First Mate’s Cabin showing the writing slope and lamp for keeping the log.

First Mate’s Cabin showing the writing slope and lamp for keeping the log.

I sat for a while at the captain and mates’ table beside the cabins which Norfolk Islander George Parkins Christian occupied for 20 years, reflecting and writing, and exploring the crew cabins, the blubber room, the between decks areas. I felt the ship move heavily at the dock as she responded to the 45mph winds, listened to the creaking of the hull and the sound of the wind singing through the rigging. Almost as if she sensed her imminent freedom. I talked to Tim, a crew member painting thick tar on the dead eyes and rigging and Paul, a shipwright busy with woodwork below. Their excitement and passion for the project was infectious. Behind the roped off area, Paul showed me the gimballed and carved captain’s bed made for Lydia Landers when she joined her husband in 1863, the first of five captains’ wives who sailed on the Charles W Morgan. Quite comfy! Continue reading