This year the 16th of February marked the beginning of a voyage around the world, a voyage of discovery, a voyage that changed the world. On this day the Royal Society of London petitioned the King of England to fund a expedition to the Southern Islands to observe the transit of Venus.
The King agreed, but with a secret mission for the Captain of this exhibition – find the fabled southern land; and make claim to her.
This project will relive this story in real time through the eyes of those who were there. The journals of Captain James Cook, the scientist Sir Joseph Banks, and artist Sydney Parkinson will be combined and recited day by day.
It’s hard to pick a catalyst that set in motion this expedition, it can easily be argued the following is only a step in a much larger chain of events, but we had to settle on somewhere to start this story.
On the 16th of February 1768 (250 years ago) the Royal Society of London petitioned the King of England to fund a scientific undertaking to observe the transit of Venus across the sun in 1769. In this memorial to King George III, the fellows suggested a number of sites around the world, including perhaps most importantly; somewhere in the southern ocean below the equator.
With rumors of Terra Australis already becoming fact, was this the perfect excuse/disguise to send a ship to investigate? The King hastily agreed, but with a secret mission for the Captain of this exhibition — find the fabled southern land; and make claim to her.
This project will relive this story in real time through the eyes of those who were there. The journals of Captain James Cook, the scientist Sir Joseph Banks, and artist Sydney Parkinson will be combined and recited day by day. One major challenge with this is the glaring differences in how each of these people wrote about their experiences. Cook — Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy wrote his journal with great precision, making sure to note wind direction, sea conditions and any remarkable events on board. However wrote in ship time, which is Mid-day to Mid-day the next day. Banks with the eyes of a scientist saw differently than Cook, and mostly wrote his journal day by day.
Parkinson on the other hand, obviously busy on board would recap his experiences every few days, sometimes with weeks in between. My goal will be to try, and line up events taking place in each journal and recite them day by day. Which in my mind is a little easier to understand than Cook’s Ship time.
Each day along the voyage we will post via our Twitter @FirstVoyage250,Facebook page FirstVoyage250, here on Medium and here our website Cobble. This list may expand over the next few weeks as we explore alternate locations to tell this story. But for now, these will be our homes.
I have one more major goal with this project. To seek out and record the points of view of the indigenous people Cook and his crew interacted with along his expedition. I am not in a position to speak for these communities. However, these stories exist, in many cases via oral histories, rumours and legends. During this project I will be seeking out and make contact with historians in these areas, leaders of the communities and seek their input.
Ultimately, I hope to interpret and construct the indigenous side of the story, and to put their story side by side Cook, Banks, and Parkinson’s journal entries. Together, day by day this would be a remarkable way to relive this world changing journey.
During the next 3 years to help bring this story to life, we’ll be doing our best to find primary source materials to share with you — so you can see exactly how things happened in those times. One thing I hope you’ll love as much as I — The way people wrote back in the 1700’s — glorious!
Again — Please follow along, I’ll be expanding on all these points along the way — we do have three years together after all :-), oh and if you happen to be in a position to help with this project, please get in touch — we would love to hear from you!
Visit the Project Page for more info and to follow our research