A blog series by Steward Bill Ellemor from on board the Australian National Maritime Museum’s HMB Endeavour replica as it sails from Sydney to Geelong. See our Sail the Endeavour page to learn more about joining voyages like this.
Day one, Thursday 28 January 2016
We are underway, under sail and heading south at 5 knots. We’ve had our first “All Hands” call to set sail—and all is well!
For the record, voyage crew came on board at 0800 and got quickly into safety briefing training drills and a full scale fire drill. Then around 1600 the engines grumbled to life and we knew departure was imminent. Finally we slipped off the pier at 1630 and turned for the main harbour. At almost exactly 1800 we passed through the heads into the open sea and at 1830 the PA crackled out the order: “All hands on deck to set some sail.” Before long the engines were powered down and finally cut completely. At last we were doing what we all came for and smiles were getting broader. As if to emphasise the point, we watched a large, modern cruise liner emerge from the Heads astern of us and pass us off the the port side. She will reach Melbourne faster than us—but we’ll have a lot more fun.
Lastly, as we are sailing in a replica of James Cook’s famous ship, a bit of learning about that voyage of discovery. Each blog we will post a question for readers to ponder, answer to follow. Day One question is an easy one: Who or what was the Earl of Pembroke?
Day two, Friday 29 January 2016
Shipboard life is starting to take shape as voyage crew and supernumeraries woke to their first morning at sea—wake up calls on the PA; two sittings for each meal; morning briefing from the Captain; happy hour (housekeeping time, not the other sort!). We were shadowed all morning by shearwaters and there was the occasional dolphin sighting, we set more sail until we had ten up fighting for what wind we could catch to drive us south. Averaging 4 knots our skipper was more or less happy with the state of our world.
The afternoon was a different story. The horizon to the south west showed darker and darker, split by the odd flash of distant lightning. Would it stay over the land? Before long we had our answer. From 1500 to 1600 hours the thunderstorm passed directly over us. The winds were not especially strong—20 to 25 knots—but oh, the rain! At times the lightning seemed directly overhead as the thunder crashed all around. But, Endeavour weathered it all beautifully, and like all storms, eventually it passed.
The storm did have one positive—our speed increased to around 8 knots in more or less our intended direction. Afterwards this advantage was soon lost as the wind shifted to the wrong quarter before dying almost completely and reluctantly the noisy iron staysails were ordered into action to help us get back on track. And there on the horizon was Pigeon House Mountain. But hang on, said a few observant souls, wasn’t that there two hours ago? Ahh, such is life at sea.
Yesterday’s question concerned the Earl of Pembroke. This was the name of the Whitby collier purchased by the Admiralty in 1768 and renamed. As Endeavour she was repurposed and refitted according to a new set of Admiralty plans, to take a scientific party to the south Pacific—specifically the newly discovered Tahiti—to take part in a worldwide project to observe the transit of Venus from several separate locations across the globe, combine the results and so accurately determine the distance between the Earth and the Sun. And how fortunate are we? Those refit plans still exist, so when a decisions was taken to build a replica the plans were dusted off and used again. Hence we are currently aboard the most authentic replica tall ship in the world.
Now today’s question: What is a fearnought? (Hint: we needed these today.)
Day three, Saturday 30 January 2016
After a night of “rock ’n roll”, day three began with a fire alarm—which turned out to be false. For professional crew it was an opportunity to test their fire response. In time the all clear was given and normality gradually took over once more.
It was a mixed day of steady progress down the south coast of NSW. Mixed because the winds were changeable, so we had some good sailing, but also a lot of hard slog under power. Despite that, we covered 125 miles in a 24 hour period. Remarks like, “she seems to roll more when there’s no sails up” indicate the voyage crew are starting to get to know the ship.
On the social side, people are getting to know one another and discover things of common interest and all are enjoying themselves—even the few who are recovering from sea sickness, though for them the smile is through gritted teeth! There are some pre-existing groupings of course—friends from way back; a husband and wife; even a father a son, where the father is voyage crew and the son a supernumerary—which one drew the short straw? One happy young group on board comprises three 17 year old school friends from St Luke’s in Dee Why who are missing the first week of their final year at school to take this voyage. We say, Well Done! to Callum, Emma and Todd. What you miss in the classroom you will more than make up for in life experience.
Meanwhile up on deck, at one stage we had a clear, starry sky on the port side and continuous lightning to starboard—a portent of things to come.
To answer yesterday’s question, fearnought was the name given to a particular variety of weatherproof jacket common in James Cook’s day.
And today’s question: where is, or was, Cape Everard?
Day four, Sunday 31 January 2016
The lightning last night was indeed a portent. On two occasions overnight, extra professional crew were summoned to help the watch on deck, first to brace up then to take in sails. The first of these calls was under threatening skies, the second in pitch dark and heavy rain; it all adds to the experience of those involved. Eddy and Rachael did a magnificent job co-ordinating it all.
Early this morning we passed around Cape Hicks and entered Victorian waters in Bass Strait. The day brought sunshine and moderating seas, but unfortunately winds in the wrong direction—in our face. So we have had no option but to motor pretty much all day, and the prospect for more favourable conditions for sailing is not great. Still, at least everyone gets some respite after a hectic couple of days and nights.
Interestingly, today we passed Point Hicks on the East Gippsland coast. This is significant as it was the first point of mainland Australia sighted from Cook’s Endeavour in 1770. It was easy to imagine sailors on that Endeavour looking in wonder at the obvious high mountains stretching along the horizon. Cook named the feature after his Second Lieutenant, Zachary Hicks, who was the first to spot it. Cook and his crew assumed that the stretch of water to the south of here was a wide bay, and part of Tasmania, the southern part of which had already been seen and mapped, and didn’t attempt to explore in that direction—their aim was to follow this coast northwards mapping as they went, assuming it would eventually lead them to Batavia (now Djakarta) in what was then the Dutch East Indies.
This all leads to Cape Everard. At some stage in Victoria’s history this name was assigned to this same point of land, supplanting the name given it by Cook. Around the time of the Cook Bicentennial year, 1970, the name Hicks was restored.
The Day Four question: Cook and his crew celebrated Christmas Day inside the Antarctic Circle in which year: 1769, 1770, 1773 or 1776?
Day five, Monday 1 February 2016
In the late afternoon and evening Sunday many of the Bass Strait oil rigs were visible to the north of us as we motored on into that head wind. Then in the early hours the dawn watch and anyone else who cared to take the deck at that hour had a lovely view of five planets stretching in a line across the sky.
Soon after breakfast our Captain decided to alter course to use the available wind to sail for most of the day. And what a beautiful day it was—calm sea, sunshine, the quiet of sailing, 360-degree horizon, the occasional ship passing in the distance but much of the time in our own magnificent isolation. A good portion of the morning was taken up for all hands on deck setting sail. Our initial course put us on a heading towards Flinders Island; around 1600 we braced around to start heading back towards Victoria again. It was noticeable that more off-duty crew were taking to the deck to relax, obviously enjoying themselves.
During the afternoon the first lecture took place. The ship was left in the hands of the professional crew as voyage crew and supers retired to the Great Cabin to learn about the night sky and navigation. Later, Eden gave a further lecture to her own watch on points of the compass.
Around tea time the Captain decided to bring in sails and motor again so that we could make some good westing overnight, as we have to be in position outside Port Phillip on Thursday morning where a pilot will board and take us through The Rip at slack water.
We are now sailing in waters Captain Cook never saw, as noted yesterday, and yesterday’s question concerns an event that did not involve Endeavour. Christmas Day at 67° south took place in 1773 during Cook’s second voyage. Although the Endeavour voyage had done enough to satisfy Cook himself that the “great southern land” was a myth, he nevertheless recognised that there were still vast areas in the southern Pacific unvisited, and the mystery of the Antarctic to unravel. His second voyage was intent on addressing these matters. Again Cook was equipped with Whitby coal cats—two of them this time—Resolution, larger but otherwise very similar to Endeavour, and Adventure, somewhat smaller. The story goes that a young sailor named Vancouver, when he heard the order to brace around to retreat from the ice, raced out to the very tip of the bowsprit so that he could brag forever more that he had been “further south than any other man alive”.
And now the Day Five question: who was Alexander Dalrymple, and what part did he play in the Endeavour expedition?
Day six, Tuesday 2 February 2016
This morning our Captain John announced his decision to head in close to Refuge Cove on the east coast of Wilson’s Promontory, then move slowly along the coast to round the light station on South East Point before setting sail and heading away from the coast once more. This plan was greeted with approval all round and lead to all on board having a lovely morning watching one of the prettiest coasts you would find anywhere, then a very pleasant sail in light winds for the rest of the day. By evening we had changed course to the west and shortened sail in readiness to meet an expected south westerly change overnight.
Yesterday’s lecture was followed by a practical session with sextants for those interested, giving them some insight into the art and science of navigation.
As people are getting to know one another voyage crew stories are coming out; one interesting one is our husband and wife team, Marie and Mark. They have flown across the world just for this trip, Marie from their home in England and Mark from his current post with UK’s diplomatic service in Kabul. And today we were all able to celebrate with them Mark’s birthday. He had to share the honours with Emma, whose birthday was on the first day of the voyage. Their cake made a lovely dessert for the evening meal—thanks Alan and Paula.
Yesterday’s question concerned Alexander Dalrymple. He had fashioned himself into THE expert in Britain on the riddle the Endeavour expedition was aiming to solve, once it’s primary astronomical project was completed—Terra Australis Incognita. Dalrymple had studied every report by every visitor to the south Pacific and made it known that he KNEW there was a great south land, and he KNEW where to look. His claims appeared to make him the obvious choice to lead the expedition, and he certainly expected to. However, wiser heads prevailed; his lack of other skills regarded as essential to such a project lead to the decision to appoint Lieutenant James Cook instead.
Day Six question: why did Cook have charcoal fires lit in buckets down in the hold of his ships?
Bill Ellemor, Steward