Endeavour arriving at Matavai bay, Tahiti

I have painted Endeavour ready to come about to drop anchor, having reduced to topsails with the headsail balancing the mizzen.

Tahiti was the places chosen as best for observing the transit of Venus, part of the scientific enquiry to establish the distance of the Earth from the sun.  

The other objective of the voyage was exploratory.  As a Royal Navy navigator and cartographer of proven distinction, James Cook was  chosen to command the expedition.  To make command possible within the navy rules, he was promoted to lieutenant.  This was quite exceptional at that time for a warrant officer.

Endeavour was originally the Whitby-built collier bark Earl of Pembroke.  When 'bought in' by the Royal Navy at Deptford she was given a major refit and was re-rigged as a full-rigged ship.  Bluff-bowed and flat-bottomed, she was selected by Cook as a tough all-weather ship, of a type already familiar to him from his early maritime career out of Whitby.  He later said admiringly of her "No sea can hurt her".

 

The Golden Hinde returning to Plymouth 1580

The Golden Hinde is seen here returning from her epic and historic journey.  She was small, even for a ship of her time, at 100 feet long, 18 feet beam and 15 feet draught.  With her towering after-castle she looks highly unstable, but can't have been.  Drake was a master seaman and chose her for her strength and seaworthiness.  She was well built, with a double-sheathed hull.  Surprisingly, considering her size, she was manned by 90 fighting seamen, had 16 heavy cannon and numerous smaller ordnance.

Drake sailed in her from Plymouth in November 1577 at the head of a fleet of five vessels (of which she was the biggest!).  The dangerous intent of her voyage Drake kept from the masters of the other ships and from all crew.  They rounded Cape Horn (via the Magellan Strait in record time) to harass Spanish Pacific coast enclaves.

The ship's name was changed on the journey from Pelican to Golden Hinde, the heraldic beast atop the coat of arms of Drake's patron and friend, Sir Christopher Hatton, to honour the man.

Drake's perseverance in adversity and his fearless attack on bigger Spanish ships and ports is legendary.  Drake returned home with a fabulous cargo of plundered treasure from his licenced piracy.  He was the first Englishman to sail the Pacific and Indian Oceans, on his way to being the first fleet commander in history to circumnavigate the world, Magellan having died before completion.