Cook was now forty years of age. This was his first appointment in the Royal Navy. The mission entrusted to him called for varied qualifications, rarely to be met with in a sailor. For, although the observation of the transit of Venus was the principal object of the voyage, it was by no means the only one. Cook was also to make a voyage of discovery in the Pacific Ocean. But the humbly born Yorkshire lad was destined to prove himself equal to his task.

Whilst the Endeavour was being equipped, her crew of eighty-four men chosen, her store of eighteen months' provision embarked, her ten guns and twelve swivel guns, with the needful ammunition, shipped, Captain Wallis arrived in England. He had accomplished his voyage round the world. He was consulted as to the best spot for the observation of the transit of Venus, and he selected an island which he had discovered, and which was named by him after George III. It was later known by its native name of Tahiti. From this spot therefore Cook was to take observations.

Charles Green, assistant to Dr. Bradley, of Greenwich Observatory, embarked with him. To Green was entrusted the astronomical department, Doctor Solander, a Swedish doctor of medicine, a disciple of Linnæus, and professor at the British Museum, undertook the botanical part. Finally, Sir Joseph Banks joined the expedition, out of simple interest, anxious to employ his energy and fortune. After leaving Oxford, Sir Joseph Banks had visited the Newfoundland coast and Labrador, and had there acquired a taste for botany. Two painters accompanied the expedition, one a landscape and portrait painter, the other a scientific draughtsman. In addition to these persons, the company comprised a secretary and four servants, two of whom were negroes.

The Endeavour left Plymouth upon the 26th of August, 1768, and put into port at Funchal, in the island of Madeira, on the 13th of September, to obtain fresh fruit and make discoveries. The expedition met with a cordial reception.

During their visit to a convent, the staff of the Endeavour were entreated by the poor immured recluses to let them know when it would thunder, and to find a spring of fresh water for them, which they sorely needed, in the interior of the convent. With all their learning, Banks, Solander, and Cook found it impossible to satisfy these demands.

From Madeira to Rio de Janeiro, where the expedition arrived on the 13th of November, no incident interrupted the voyage, but Cook's reception by the Portuguese was hardly what he expected. The whole time of his stay in port was spent in disputes with the viceroy, a man of little knowledge, and quite incapable of understanding the scientific aspect of the expedition. However, he could not well refuse to supply the English with fresh provisions, of which they had absolutely none left. As, however, Cook was passing Fort Santa Cruz on leaving the bay, two shots were fired after him, whereupon he immediately cast anchor, and demanded the meaning of the insult. The viceroy replied that the commandant of the Fort had orders to allow no vessel to leave the bay without his having received notice, and although Captain Cook had notified his intention to the viceroy, it had, by pure neglect, not been communicated to the Commandant of the Fort. Was this an intentional act of discourtesy on the part of the viceroy? or was it simple heedlessness?

If the viceroy was equally negligent in all the details of his administration, the Portuguese colony must have been well regulated!

Cook entered the Straits of Lemaire on the 14th of January, 1769. Kippis, in his Life of Captain Cook, gives the following account:—

"The sea ran so high, that the water was above Cape San Diego, and the vessel was so driven by the wind that her bowsprit was constantly under water. Next day anchor was cast in a small harbour, which was recognized as Port Maurice, and soon afterwards they anchored in the Bay of Good Success. Whilst the Endeavourremained off this spot a strange and untoward adventure befell Banks, Solander, Dr. Green, and Monkhouse, the surgeon of the vessel, and their attendants. They were proceeding towards a mountain in search of plants, and as they climbed it they were surprised by cold, so penetrating and sudden, that they were all in danger of perishing. Dr. Solander was seized with vertigo, two negro servants died on the spot, finally the gentlemen were only able to regain the vessel after a lapse of two days. They rejoiced in their deliverance, with a joy which can only be estimated by those who have escaped similar dangers, whilst Cook showed a lively pleasure in the cessation of the anxiety their absence had caused him. This event gave them a proof of the severity of the climate."

It was the middle of summer in this part of the world, and the day, when the cold surprised them, had begun as warmly as an ordinary May morning in England.