Mapping the Pacific Ocean

The three voyages of Captain James Cook (1768-71, 1772-75, and 1776-79) mapped the Pacific Ocean from Cape Horn to Australia, from the Antarctic to Alaska. Helped by accurate new clockwork time- keepers to measure the ship’s east-west longitude, they added more details to the map of the world than has ever been done in the space of years.

Like those of the great explorers before him, Cook’s voyages were not made in specially-designed vessels but in ordinary merchant ships of the time. Cook’s two famous sips, the Endeavour of the first voyage and the Resolution of his second and third voyages, were sturdy colliers built for the North Sea coal trade, known as “Whitby cats”.

Cook’s Endeavour was the for former collier Earl of Pembroke, rerigged and rebuilt with extra cabins for the officers and scientists she was to carry, and given an outer protective skin of planking to resist attack by the wood-boring worms of tropic seas. This outer skin was fastened in place with extra broad-headed nails driven in edge to edge. This was a cheap alternative to the new technique of protecting a ship’s hull with sheets of copper plating.

Endeavour measured 30 meters (97 feet) from bow to stern, and 8.8 meter (29 feet) across the beam. She carried ten guns on carriages and 12 light swivel guns for defense , and was equipped with three boats for exploring in shallow waters. A new deck was built across the former coal hold to provide more living space. When Endeavour sailed from Plymouth in 1768 she carried 94 mes: officers, scientists, servants, and crew.