HMB Endeavour In-Depth: The Great Cabin

HMB Endeavour In-Depth: The Great Cabin

The HMB Endeavour is the official “replica” of the original of Captain Cook‘s ship, the HMS Endeavour. It was the HMS that was used to sail from England to study of the transit of Venus across the sky from different parts of the globe in order to measure the distance between the Sun and the Earth as well as for a secret mission to find the mythical land of Terra Australis Incognita which has become modern day Australia. The original Endeavour was planned in April 1768 in Deptford Yard where the original first set of deck plans for the bark Endeavour were designed. When the main cabin was first designed, it was based on the sole use of the captain as his working and dining area with his bedplace led off on the starboard side with two smaller cabins on port side for use as pantries separated by a lobby. After Deptford Yard was notified that Joseph Banks would be on board they had to re-design the cabin so that it would be shared with Cook, Banks, and his men. In this re-design, the main cabin was not enlarged, but shortened to six feet 2 inches by six feet, described as a “place of retirement which just held a Few Books and our papers”. Due to Joseph Banks size at 6’4″, during the voyage, he would often sling his hammock in the Great Cabin for additional comfort as Did Dr. Solander.

The HMB Endeavour was built in Fremantle, Western Australia as a bicentennial gift to Australia from the Bond Corporation and is universally regarded as the most authentic replica afloat. As I joined the crew in April of 2011 right after the first leg of their first ever circumnavigation around Australia sailing just as they arrived from Sydney to Brisbane. As a volunteer tour guide, I quickly had to learn the history of Captain Cook and the Endeavour. One of my first duty stations was in the Great Cabin, re-created to be viewed as we imagine Captain Cook’s original “Great Cabin” was to have looked like during his quest to Australia. This chamber represented the place on board where Captain Cook, Joseph Banks, and Dr. Solander would have spent most of their time during the voyage while on board. Just like in the days of old, the current Great Cabin is the domain of the captain. Usually, the Great Cabin was not shared with other crew, but when the prestigious Joseph Banks and his group joined the expedition, Captain Cook had to share the room with them. The HMB Endeavour’s onboard museum has re-created this cabin to appear as the Australian National Maritime Museum has re-enacted it based on a scene described by Joseph Banks in his writings of the original journey.

The walls or bulkheads are panelled with a style based on sections of tongue and groove panelling recovered from the wreck of a 18th century merchant ship believed to be a collier built in Whitby, as was the original Endeavour believed to have had. It was fashionable in the middle of the 18th century to change the color of their rooms from olive, stone, beige, and brown to newer and brighter colors of blue and green. Wood brown and stone was chosen for the Endeavour replica to demonstrate more “masculine” rooms since it was used as a study and library. Shipyard specifications recommended they were painted with three coats of priming and one final coat of the color of stone, wood, or beige, well grounded and laid with linseed oil.

There is a letter from Cook on June 30, 1768 where he requested from the Navy board that a green baize floor cloth to be supplied for the Great Cabin’s floor which is described in Bank’s writings about the Great Cabin as having existed during their journey as a red floor cloth of painted canvas.

A heating stove stands in the front of the room against the wall between entrance to the Officer’s Mess, Captain Cook’s bedroom, and Joseph Bank’s Bedroom. This is a replica and serves to demonstrate what a onboard stove at this time would have looked like in this cabin. In 1791, the Royal Navy frigate named the HMS Pandora (built 1778 in Deptford) was travelling across the Great Barrier Reef when it became wrecked during a voyage to return Bounty mutineers. When the wreck was discovered in 1984, a heating stove was recovered. It is believed to have been a similar one to that which would have been originally found on the HMS Endeavour. This is the stove the replica is based on.

The Great Cabin had four stern windows and two quarter windows to provide as much natural light and ventilation as possible. It is unknown to date how these stern windows were opened and closed. For the replica, it was built with two curved top panes of each window fixed into position with the lower sash dropping neatly into the stern counter. Sashes were raised by lead weights replicated from weights found on the Pandora wreck.

In the corners of the room are wooden cabinets and cupboards that are styled after what Joseph Banks described to have been in the Main Cabin. Replicated bottles and pewter artifacts are displayed within them. A serving table extending from these cupboards are also displayed in this museum room.

The center sternpost in the main cabin contains a wooden “trunnel” surrounded by a brass ring that was originally carried aboard the US Space Shuttle “Endeavour” during its maiden mission into space in 1992 by its commander Daniel C. Brandenstein. When Daniel visited the Endeavour when it was built in Fremantle, he hammered this trunnel into the sternpost to unit the sailing ship’s voyage with the space shuttle’s mission.

In this museum room is the desk of Joseph Banks who spent many hours every day in this room writing in his naturalist journal about the voyage. Papers from his journal, replicated from the original on hand-made paper, sit atop the desk. Also are some of his 110 books replicated from editions that now reside in the British Library, as well as a replica of a cloak he traded in New Zealand, his shaving gear, and a collection of shells from the expedition.

At the main table in the center of the room is where it is believed that Dr. Solander sat checking new plants collected during the expedition and classifying them using Linnaeus’ taxonomy books “Species Plantarum”. He was known to first draw the plants from the live specimens, then dry them for the return voyage back. Also at the table would be charts by Sydney Parkinson and drawings by James Cook and his fellow officers.

Displayed around the great cabin are many artifacts and gifts received through the years by the actual HMB Endeavour to demonstrate similar gifts that would have been received during the voyages of the HMS Endeavour. These are gifts from indigenous communities that the replica has visited since 1994 including a Australian Aboriginal dalungda pendant (Nautilus shell) that hangs above the table, next to a Maori taiaha war staff from New Zealand, and a Maori manaia of carved whale bone. Above the sternpost can be found a Australian Aboriginal bunch of feathers next to a dithol. On the overhead beam is a Australian Aboriginal fishing spear. Portside wall has a Sooke Indian Paddle from Canada and a French Boomerang. Starboard is a South American seed, and an Australian Aboriginal boomerang and message stick, with another message stick above the fireplace.

For more Information About

The Living History Museum on board the replica of the HMS Endeavour –
The HMB Endeavour, while docked in port at Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.



Bibliography/Recommended Reading:

  • Australian National Maritime Museum
    2011: Guide Handbook. ( Issued during HMB Endeavour Around Australia 2011-2012: Voyage of a Lifetime ). ANMM: Sydney, Australia.
  • Macarthur, Antonia

    1998: “His Majesty’s Bark Endeavour: The Story of the ship and her people”. Angus & Robertson/ Harper Collins; ANMM: Sydney, Australia. ISBN: 0207191808.
  • Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.

    2011 Website Referenced: ~ “Captain Cook”, “HMB Endeavour”, “HMS Endeavour”, “Joseph Banks”, “Solander”.

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