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Best Endeavours

The replica of Captain Cook’s ship HMB Endeavour. Its 2020 voyage around Australia is postponed indefinitely. However, exhibitions exploring Indigenous and European perspectives on the 250th anniversary of Cook’s Pacific explorations are opening at the Maritime Museum in Pyrmont. Photo: Alec Smart

by ALEC SMART

The voyage of the replica of Captain James Cook’s ship HMB Endeavour, which was scheduled to circumnavigate Australia from March 2020 to mark 250 years since Cook’s April 1770 anchoring in Botany Bay, has been postponed indefinitely.

However, many of the nationwide events and displays associated with the cruise will still proceed, including the launch of four exhibitions at Australian National Maritime Museum in Pyrmont on 22 June.

A spokesperson for the Maritime Museum told City Hub, “The Endeavour voyages have been suspended and there is no update on a continuation of that part of the program. We have been in consultation with traditional owners and community groups at the locations we were to visit in preparation for the voyages – we will of course continue these when decisions are made.”

The voyage, scheduled to visit 39 ports, beginning with Hobart then continuing clockwise around the mainland, was put on hold when the Covid-19 pandemic reached Australia. The Australian Govt invested $6.7million into the venture, which took four years of planning.

On 27 March the museum released a statement: “Australian National Maritime Museum has today announced the suspension of the circumnavigation of Australia by the HMB Endeavour and the companion touring exhibition Looking Back, Looking Forward.

“The Museum is currently considering options for other ways to mark the anniversary, including through its online program. The Museum has suspended the program to ensure the health and safety of the public and voyage crew given the current COVID 19 pandemic…”

The Maritime Museum reopens to the public on 22 June after the ‘Lockdown Laws’, implemented on 31 March 2020, necessitated closure of museums, galleries, theatres and other venues to halt the spread of the coronavirus contagion. However, strict social distancing and hygiene measures will continue to minimise the risk of new infections.

Encounters 2020
The museum spokesperson told City Hub that the four exhibitions are part of Encounters 2020, which investigate Cook’s 1770 voyage from indigenous as well as the British explorers’ perspectives.

“The Encounters 2020 program is focused on the theme of dual perspectives of ‘view from the ship’ and ‘view from the shore’. We wanted to bring balance to what was previously a predominantly European perspective to the 1770 voyage.

“Alongside clarifying certain misconceptions that had developed in the public about Cook and the Endeavour we wished to provide an opportunity for the wider public to hear the stories that had been shared by groups up and down the east coast.”

The top deck of the HMB Endeavour replica, moored alongside the Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour (the bay the Aborigines knew as ‘Tumbalong’), will also be open for exploration.

The HMB Endeavour is regarded as one of the finest replicas in the world due to its adherence to historic shipbuilding techniques.

Commenced in 1988 and built in a specialist shipyard in Fremantle, Western Australia, the Endeavour replica was assembled using traditional materials and methods where possible, although the vessel’s hull is built from jarrah, with Oregon pine also used above the waterline because the oak and elm used in the original ship is much more susceptible to rotting. Construction was finally completed in April 1994.

The original Endeavour suffered an ignominious fate.

The great barque (named HMB Endeavour to distinguish it from another ship known as HMS Endeavour) started life as Earl of Pembroke before carpenters significantly modified its interiors for Cook’s first Pacific voyage. Afterwards it was re-fitted as a troop transport ship and hauled troops and cargo between Falkland Islands and Britain. In 1775 it was renamed the Lord Sandwich II, and was used by the British Navy against American rebels during the American War of Independence.

In 1778 it was scuttled with 12 other boats in Newport Harbour, Rhode Island, as a military tactic to block the French Navy, America’s allies, from entering the bay. Of the 13 ships sunk in Newport Harbour, The Endeavour/Lord Sandwich II is the only one with a keel made of elm wood and a hull made of English white oak, which is how divers have distinguished it among the rotting ship’s graveyard.

Some of the exhibitions at the Maritime Museum

Under Southern Skies. Incredible feats of nautical navigation were not just accomplished by European sailors, but were part of global migration and trading, involving complex understanding of stars and planets as well as ocean currents and endurance. This exhibitions includes items ranging from bark paintings to sextants and compasses, as well as objects retrieved from the Endeavour and the infamous, blood-soaked Batavia shipwreck.

Here: Kupe to Cook. Legend has it that Kupe, a great chief in the Maori’s spiritual home of Hawaiki, paddled a giant canoe with his wife around Polynesian islands and eventually discovered Aotearoa (New Zealand) after a series of battles with sea monsters. Later he returned to Hawaiki and persuaded his fellow Maoris to settle in these new lands. Historians believe Maoris arrived by canoe in several waves between 1320-50.

Cook and the Pacific. Follow Captain James Cook’s three remarkable Pacific voyages, the first of which began in 1768 and ended in 1779. See the region through the eyes of the explorers as well as the First Nations people they encountered – sometimes involving trade or social exchanges, sometimes bloody skirmishes attributed to cultural misunderstandings – including Tahiti, the Polynesian islands, New Zealand, eastern Australia and the Hawaiian islands.

Paradise Lost: Daniel Solander’s Legacy. Commemorating the legacy of the Endeavour’s Swedish naturalist Daniel Solander. Solander collected and catalogued hundreds of plant specimens from New Zealand and Australia. In deference to his renowned fellow botanist, Joseph Banks, Solander held off publication of his discoveries whilst waiting for the completion of over 700 engravings. Unfortunately, he died prematurely of a brain haemorrhage, aged 49. Joseph Banks failed to publish the Florilegium upon which they were working together, which utilised Banks’ illustrations, and thus Solander never gained the full credit he deserved.

More information on the Maritime Museum exhibitions opening on 22 June can be found online at
https://www.sea.museum/whats-on/encounters-2020

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