“Holograph journal, written entirely in James Cook’s hand, of the voyage of H.M.S. Endeavour during which Cook discovered eastern Australia and circumnavigated New Zealand.”
This somewhat innocuous description understates the significance of one of the highlights of the Spoken exhibition. James Cook joined the Royal Navy in 1755 and steadily advanced through the ranks. In 1768 Cook was promoted to become commander of Endeavour Bark sent to Tahiti to observe the transit of Venus. The Admiralty in ‘secret instructions’ asked Cook to find the mythical southern continent.
The Endeavour crew’s voyage of 1768-1771 was captured in many journals and diaries, most significantly by Lieutenant James Cook himself. These journals and catalogues present a vivid story of British exploration and discovery.
In 1769 Cook circumnavigated New Zealand, charted its coast and took formal possession for England. On 19 April 1770 Cook sighted another coastline. Sailing north Cook landed at Botany Bay and later charted 5000 miles of the Eastern coastline with great accuracy.
The Endeavour crew repaired their reef-damaged ship in the mouth of Waalumbaal birri (Endeavour River). The European expeditioners carried on with their mandate to map, collect and catalogue the Great Southern Land. James Cook, Joseph Banks and Sidney Parkinson recorded local words and singular meanings during their encounters with the Guugu Yimithirr. They recorded approximately 130 words. The most famous is Gangurru, recorded by Cook, with an accompanying sketch by Banks. This sketch is the earliest known Western depiction of a Kangaroo.
Saturday 23 July, 1770 – One of the Men saw an Animal something less than a greyhound; it was of a Mouse Colour, very slender made, and swift of Foot. On Saturday 4 August, Cook wrote in his journal that the animal was ‘called by the natives Kangooroo, or Kanguru‘; thus becoming the first Aboriginal loanword into English!
Alongside the Endeavour Journal in the Spoken Exhibition is the rich oral history of the Guugu Yimithirr. Listen to the story of that encounter on Wahalumbaal Birri through the eyes of Harold Ludwick and other community members from the Guugu Yimithirr Nation. The Endeavour and its crew of 86 men spent 48 days (seven weeks) in Cooktown, previously known as Waymburr – the longest and most significant land-based stay during Cook’s east coast expedition.
Cook’s long stay in Cooktown was due to the Endeavour hitting the Great Barrier Reef on high tide, damaging the ship and waiting for optimal sailing conditions. The Shore-to-Ship view from the Guugu Yimithirr people tells us that Cook and his crew landed in a neutral zone of Waymburr which by law no blood was to be spilled on the land.
During this time, Cook and his crew walked the shores of the
Wahalambaal Birri (Endeavour River), climbed Gambil (Grassy Hill) and other ranges, encountered and recorded numerous flora and fauna that was foreign to their experience, communicated with local Guugu Yimithirr people and explored the extensive coastline as they searched for safe passage out through the reef.
On 22 August 1770, on Possession Island (Bedanug) Cook took formal possession of New South Wales for England; HMS Endeavour completed its voyage on 12 July 1771. For Cook, the voyage was distinguished by the excellence of his survey work and the ‘discoveries’ he made, notably the east coast of Australia and New Zealand. For Banks, the achievement of the voyage was the identification and documentation of around 1,400 plants and more than 1,000 animals previously unknown to European science. Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander had increased the tally of plant species known to Western science by 10%!
The Endeavour Journal was inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2001. The Spoken exhibition represents the first time this significant item has been displayed outside of the National Library of Australia in Canberra.
State Library extends an invitation for all Queenslanders to see it first-hand and explore the many stories of Spoken: celebrating Queensland languages.
Indigenous Languages Coordinator, State Library of Queensland
State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Webpages
State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Map
Jarjum stories: A kuril dhagun showcase focusing on children’s books and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. 19 October 2019-10 May 2020.
Spoken: celebrating Queensland languages: A major exhibition exploring the survival and revival of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages throughout Queensland. Join in the many talks and events to celebrate the rich and diverse languages spoken today. Opens 21 November 2019-19 April 2020.
References and Further Reading
Banks, J. and Dalton, J. D. (2011) Journal of the Right Hon. Sir Joseph Banks during Captain Cook’s First Voyage in H.M.S. Endeavour in 1768-71. 910.41 BAN 2011
Banks, J. and Beaglehole, J. C. (1962) Endeavour journal of Joseph Banks 1768-1771. J 910.910.0461 BAN
Cook, J. and Wharton, W.J. L. (1968) Captain Cook’s journal during his first voyage round the world, made in H.M. Bark Endeavour, 1768-71 : a literal transcription of the original mss. / With notes and introduction edited by Captain W.J.L. Wharton. Q 910.4 COO
Journal of the HMS Endeavour, 1768-1771. MS1, National Library of Australia.
Phillips, R. (1898) “Vocabulary of Australian Aborigines in the Neighbourhood of Cooktown, North Queensland”. In The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. 27 (1898), pp. 144-147. Online access via One Search.
Captain Cook’s ‘Endeavour’. Photograph signed by Francis J. Bayldon, Commander R.N.R. 1923. JOL Negative number: 108324
Cook Memorial Monument on Possession Island, Queensland, 1970. JOL Negative number: 204976
Kangaroo from the painting by George Stubbs, Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks.
Harold Ludwick, Digital Story – Spoken exhibition.
Nuove scoperte fatte nel 1765, 67, e 69 nel Mare del Sud, 1779-1785. Online access via One Search.
Cooktown Expo 2020 website
National Library of Australia: Digital Classroom James Cook’s Endeavour Journal.