Travelling with James

From the mouth of the Thames to the shores of Tahiti. From New Zealand to Hawaii, Tonga and Botany Bay. We have spent big parts of 2016 trailing the waters of the great James Cook. We have even carried his biography around the world, and we have visited his ship!

When the great discoverer came to Polynesia the Polynesians were already there, so there is a limit to how much new land he actually discovered. It is however safe to say that he was the first Brit to travel the coast of East Australia and the first European in present day Sydney. He was the first to make a map of New Zealand, doing the number 8 around the North and the South Island, and he was the first European to see Hawaii.

Long before the cable car and the Greenwich Dome, the Thames was a busy centre for mariners and their ships. Close to here, the Endeavour was fitted out for her journey around the world.

James Cook and Her Majesty’s Bark Endeavour left London in August 1768. Ourselves, we took our last look at the great river Thames in January 2016. At the time we were all heading for Tahiti, where our paths crossed again in May 2016, some four months later. James Cook took a bit longer, though, spending eight months before arriving there in April 1769. Unlike us, using airplanes, trains and buses, James Cook travelled the world at walking speed. The «Endeavour» was built for strength and not for speed nor comfort. During the three years of Cook’s first voyage around the world his ship did an average of 4 knots, or 7 kilometres per hour!

ES and DHH in Tahiti – 247 years after the arrival of James Cook.

Cook landed at Matavai Bay on the northern shore of Tahiti, a short taxi ride from the island capital of Papeetee. Today the bay and its beautiful black sand beach is a memorial to the first visitors. A lighthouse dated is 1867, the anniversary of the 1767 arrival of the British ship «Dolphin», carrying the very first «westerners» to set foot on the island. Most of the attention however, is paid to William Bligh and Fletcher Christian and the men of The Bounty. They spent several months of 1788/89 anchored in the same bay, before the famous mutiny took place on their way back towards England in April 1789.

ES and DHH spent most of our time in Tahiti on the island of Moorea, close by. Cook came there too, but not until his third Pacific voyage in 1777. He came to the north island, to the very bay we visited, finding it «a paradise beyond compare» according to his biographer. His stay was not a happy one though; the visitors burned several villages on the island in revenge for the theft of some of the livestock they had carried with them from England.

On the «Costa Luminosa», in the fall of 2016, we have continued to cross paths with the great captain. We have been to Hawaii, then known as «O’Why’he», where Cook met his end and was killed and eaten (!) in February 1779. We have visited Tonga, where he came first time in 1773, and we have travelled the Cook Straight, the passage between north and south New Zealand that is named after his passage there in 1770.

Continuing west we visited Sydney, first put on a map by James Cook also in 1770. Heading south after leaving Sydney we passed the famous Botany Bay, named by Cook after the botanist on the «Endeavour». The same botanist, Joseph Banks, is credited with the idea of using Australia as an extension of the British prison system. The first shiploads of convicts arrived already in 1788. They were housed in tents set up in what is today called The Rocks, a picturesque part of downtown Sydney right next to where the «Costa Luminosa» was anchored during our time there.

A stretch of beach on the Cook Islands. If we exclude Biblical figures and various saints, we are left with four countries of the world that are named after «ordinary mortals». In addition to the Cook Islands those are (correct us if we are wrong) the Marshall Islands (John Charles Marshall), USA (Amerigo Vespucci) and Colombia (Christopher Columbus).

Travelling the southern Pacific you come across numerous landmarks named by – or after – James Cook. DHH has earlier been to the Cook Islands, a sovereign nation named entirely after the discoverer. Ironically this is one of the places he never came to. Cook noticed this group of islands and mapped their positions, but he only set foot on one uninhabited cliff. The main island of Rarotonga where the Cook Islands capital is to be found, he never even saw.

What we did get the chance to see however, was Cooks ship from his first voyage. At the Maritime Museum in Sydney’s Darling Harbour lies a very accurate replica of the «Endeavour», built to sail the oceans just as the original did. On board we were guided from room to room by museum volunteers, telling us about the equipment, the cabins and the daily life of the 94 men who for three years shared a ship measuring only 30 meters in length. This is less than the width of our cruise ship of today.

The Endevour replica in Sydney. The vessel was not elegant, but she was very solid, built to handle all the weather the North Sea could throw at her. This proved practical when she set out to travel the word.

The replica was built in Freemantle, Australia, in 1994, and has sailed as far as Whitby, Yorkshire, where the original was launched in 230 years earlier. For us, visiting the replica was the ultimate way to honour a remarkable sailor and navigator who has been with us throughout our entire journey.

Our circumnavigation of the earth is a good bit more comfortable than his. James Cook travelled the world about as fast as a man can walk, and his ship did a good bit more jumping when the seas were high! There is no doubt that the skills and bravery of the men of His Majesty’s Bark «Endeavour» will be remembered long after the world have forgotten all about the cruiseship «Costa Luminosa»!


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