Endeavour’s arrival 247 years ago

Detail from an engraving of Poverty Bay by Sydney Parkinson

Detail from engraving of Sydney Parkinson’s views of Poverty Bay.4

October 2016 marks 247 years since the arrival of the Endeavour off the east coast of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Commanded by Lieutenant James Cook, the Endeavour’s 1768-1771 voyage to the South Pacific sought to find the fabled southern continent “Terra Australis Incognita” and to carry out scientific observations, including studying the transit of Venus across the sun from Tahiti in June 1769. After completing the astronomical observations, the ship headed south and then west. On 6 October 1769, surgeon’s boy Nicholas Young spotted land at the southern end of the bay Tūranganui, which Cook named Poverty Bay. Two days later, Cook and others went ashore1 for what would be the first of many “world-shifting encounters” between Māori and Europeans during the Endeavour’s nearly six-month circumnavigation of the country.2 After mapping New Zealand’s coastline, they reached and charted the eastern coast of Australia before heading home.

Engraving of a waka by Sydney Parkinson

Detail from engraving of Sydney Parkinson’s “A War Canoe, of New Zealand”.4

On board the Endeavour was natural history artist Sydney Parkinson, who was engaged to document specimens collected by naturalists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander. These engraved images of Poverty Bay and a waka taua (war canoe) are from sketches by Parkinson.

Both of these engraved reproductions were made by Richard Bernard Godfrey (c.1728-c.1795)3 and were published in the 1773 and 1784 editions of Parkinson’s A Journal of a voyage to the South Seas….4 Parkinson’s Journal was published posthumously by his brother Stanfield after the artist died from dysentery in January 1771 on the homeward leg of the journey.

Special Collections holds both 18th century editions of Parkinson’s Journal and the official narrative of the voyage, edited by John Hawkesworth, An account of the voyages undertaken by the order of His Present Majesty for making discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere… These are just two of the hundreds of titles on Pacific voyaging, travel and exploration which Special Collections holds in the NZ Glass Case and which researchers can use in the Reading Room.

Jo Birks, Special Collections

1 Salmond, A. (2003). The trial of the cannibal dog : Captain Cook in the South Seas. London : Allen Lane, pp.24, 113, 115.

2 Salmond, A. in, Reihana, L. (2015). Lisa Reihana : In pursuit of Venus. Auckland : Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, p.3.

3 Lucy Peltz, ‘Godfrey, Richard Bernard (b. c.1728, d. in or after 1795)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2006.

4 Parkinson, S., Parkinson, S., Fothergill, J., Cook, J., Lettsom, J.C., & Kenrick, W. (1784). A journal of a voyage to the South Seas in His Majesty’s ship the Endeavour. London : Printed for Charles Dilly … and James Phillips … [Other versions]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *