- Letter Writer
- History - pre-Federation, Letter to the Editor
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- December 1992 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
I enclose a copy of the London Gazette of August 19th, 1768 which I regard as being a wonderful facet of naval history affecting the future of this continent and ourselves.
It is amazing to realise that when printed only 203 years ago this country was said to be “an unknown continent south of the equator”.
We have come a long way since.
Bert E Weston (Member)
Plymouth: Much secrecy surrounds the preparation for departure from England of HIS MAJESTY’S Bark, Endeavour.
Endeavour, under its Commander, Lt James Cook, is awaiting fair winds to begin its long voyage to the Pacific Ocean island of Tahiti to observe, for the Royal Society, the transit of the planet Venus across the face of the sun.
In view of extensive preparations being undertaken, your correspondent asks whether this Scientific study is the only reason for the Voyage of the Endeavour?
We have received certain information to the contrary, but this is denied by the Lords of the Admiralty and by Lt Cook himself.
The information we have acquired is that Lt Cook, a gentleman of great experience and ability in surveying, is in receipt of additional Sealed Orders which are not to be opened until he leaves Tahiti after the conclusion of the Scientific observations.
We have reason to believe these Orders are for a Voyage of Discovery, and will carry Endeavour to lands far distant in the South Pacific, and even to that vast Continent which is said to be quite as big as Europe and Asia together, and which is now marked on the maps as Terra Australia Nondum Cognita.
Such Orders would no doubt contain instructions to Lt Cook to take for HIS MAJESTY possession of such uninhabited Countries as may be found, and to set up proper marks as first Discoverers and Possessors.
They would also command him to observe the number and disposition of the natives, if any, and to cultivate a friendship and alliance with them.
Discussions have long been pursued by men of Knowledge, concerning the existence of this mysterious Continent. Some men say there must be an equivalent amount of land in the distant Southern Hemisphere to counteract the weight of the land in the Northern Hemisphere and thus balance the Earth.
It is no secret that the noted hydrographer, Alexander Dalrymple, who was originally the Royal Society’s choice for Commander of the Endeavour, before the Lords of the Admiralty insisted on Lt Cook, has given to Mr Joseph Banks a secret document he discovered while on expedition in Madras.
This is believed to contain the statement of Capt. Luis Vaez de Torres that he sailed between two great land masses in the far South more than one Century and a half since.
Further evidence is that Endeavour will carry among her stores every chart, book and scrap of evidence relative to the Pacific Ocean – and, your correspondent presumes, to Terra Australis.
If your correspondent is correct in surmising the ultimate destination of Endeavour, the task will indeed be one of great endurance, but it could solve a puzzle that has been debated since men first started making maps.
Lt Cook has achieved considerable renown as a map-maker since he first saw Service in HIS MAJESTY’S Navy in the dangerous task of surveying the St Lawrence River in the North American Colonies during the recent War with the French.
In this arduous employment he was continually liable to attack, not only from the French shore batteries, but also from marauding Indians. His charts of the River from the Sea to Quebec served to guide HIS MAJESTY’S Fleet before the victorious battle at the Heights of Abraham, when General Sir James Wolfe put the French to flight.
With this experience and his meritorious Scientific observation of the Solar Eclipse two years since, there could be none other so well fitted to take Command of such an Expedition to the South as Lt Cook.