CHAPTER II. Narrative of Captain Cook's first voyage round the world.
The gentlemen who had originally been fixed upon to take the direction of the expedition, was Alexander Dalrymple, Esq. an eminent member of the Royal Society, and who, besides possessing an accurate knowledge of astronomy, had distinguished himself by his inquiries into the geography of the Southern Oceans, and by the collection he had published of several voyages to those parts of the world. Mr. Dalrymple being sensible of the difficulty, or rather of the impossibility, of carrying a ship through unknown seas, the crew of which were not subject to the military discipline of his majesty's navy, he made it the condition of his going, that he should have a brevet commission, as captain of the vessel, in the same manner as such a commission had been granted to Dr. Halley, in his voyage of discovery. To this demand Sir Edward Hawke, who was then at the head of the Admiralty, and who possessed more of the spirit of his profession than either of education or science, absolutely refused to accede. He said, at the board, that his conscience would not allow him to trust any ship of his majesty's to a person who had not regularly been bred a seaman. On being further pressed upon the subject, Sir Edward declared, that he would suffer his right hand to be cut off before he would sign any such commission. In this he was, in some degree, justified by the mutinous behaviour of Halley's crew, who refused to acknowledge the legal authority of their commander, and involved him in a dispute which was attended with pernicious consequences. Mr. Dalrymple, on the other hand, was equally steady in requiring a compliance with the terms he had proposed. Such was the state of things, when Mr. Stephens, secretary to the Admiralty, whose discrimination of the numerous characters, with which by his station he is conversant, reflects as much credit on his understanding, as his upright and able conduct does on the office he has filled for so many years, and under so many administrations, with honour to himself and advantage to the public, observed to the board, that since Sir Edward Hawke and Mr. Dalrymple were equally inflexible, no method remained but that of finding out another person capable of the service. He knew, he said, a Mr. Cook, who had been employed as marine surveyor of Newfoundland, who had been regularly educated in the navy, in which he was a master, and whom he judged to be fully qualified for the direction of the present undertaking. Mr. Stephens, at the same time, recommended it to the board, to take the opinion of Sir Hugh Palliser, who had lately been governor of Newfoundland, and was intimately acquainted with Cook's character. Sir Hugh rejoiced in the opportunity of serving his friend. He strengthened Mr. Stephen's recommendation to the utmost of his power; and added many things in Mr. Cook's favour, arising from the particular knowledge which he had of his abilities and merit. Accordingly, Mr. Cook was appointed to the command of the expedition by the lords of the Admiralty; and, on this occasion, he was promoted to the rank of a lieutenant in the royal navy, his commission bearing date on the 25th of May, 1768.
When the appointment had taken place, the first object was to provide a vessel adapted to the purposes of the voyage. This business was committed to Sir Hugh Palliser; who took Lieutenant Cook to his assistance, and they examined together a great number of the ships which then lay in the river Thames. At length they fixed upon one, of three hundred and seventy tons, to which was given the name of the Endeavour.
While preparations were making for Lieutenant Cook's expedition, Captain Wallis returned from his voyage round the world. The Earl of Morton, president of the Royal Society, had recommended it to this gentleman, on his going out, to fix upon a proper place for observing the transit of Venus. He kept, accordingly, the object in view: and having discovered, in the course of his enterprise, an island called by him George's Island, but which has since been found to bear the name of Otaheite, he judged that Port Royal harbour in this island would afford an eligible situation for the purpose. Having, immediately on his return to England, signified his opinion to the Earl of Morton, the captain's idea was adopted by the society, and an answer conformable to it was sent to the commissioners of the Admiralty, who had applied for directions to what place the observers, should be sent.
Mr. Charles Green, a gentleman who had long been assistant to Dr. Bradley at the royal observatory at Greenwich, was united by Lieutenant Cook in conducting the astronomical part of the voyage; and, soon after their appointment, they received ample instructions, from the council of the Royal Society, with regard to the method of carrying on their inquiries. The lieutenant was also accompanied by Joseph Banks, Esq. (now Sir Joseph Banks, Bart.) and Dr. Solander, who, in the prime of life, and the first of them at great expense to himself, quitted all the gratifications of polished society, and engaged in a very tedious, fatiguing, and hazardous navigation, with the laudable views of acquiring knowledge in general, of promoting natural knowledge in particular, and of contributing something to the improvement and the happiness of the rude inhabitants of the earth.
Though it was the principal, it was not the sole object of Lieutenant Cook's voyage to observe the transit of Venus. A more accurate examination of the Pacific Ocean was committed to him, although in subserviency to his main design; and, when his chief business was accomplished, he was directed to proceed in making farther discoveries in the great Southern Seas.