Captain Cook

By Amy Weiss

Feb 5 2019

The first voyage of James Cook was an expedition to the south Pacific Ocean aboard the HMS Endeavour, from 1768 to 1771. The aims of this first expedition were to observe the 1769 transit of Venus across the Sun, and to seek evidence of the postulated southern continent of Terra Australis.

On the Endeavour were two botanists skilled in collecting, preserving, and describing plants, Sir Joseph Banks and Dr. Daniel Solander (and with them were eight assistants, including three artists). Banks, at his own expense, provided all the equipment and stores needed to make collections in every branch of natural science.

Upon reaching Rio de Janiero, on the eastern coast of Brazil, the expedition encountered one of its first major setbacks when the Portuguese governor Don Antonio Rolim de Moura refused to allow anyone from the Endeavour to come on land, except to acquire necessities. This restriction, however, didn’t stop the two determined botanists. Banks and Solander risked being arrested as spies or smugglers in order to sneak onshore to collect specimens around the city.

James Cook and crew made their first landing on the continent of Australia, at a place now known as Botany Bay. At first Cook bestowed the name "Sting-Ray Harbour” to the inlet after the many such creatures found there; this was later changed to Botany Bay after the great quantity of unique plant specimens retrieved by the botanists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander and their crew. The expedition returned to England with a large collection of plant specimens including an estimated 110 new genera and 1,300 new species of plants.

A Closer Look