The HMB Endeavour

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Ships typically have many lives and the HMB Endeavour was no exception. 

250 Years of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Australia

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European arrival

There were over 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations occupying this land for many thousands of years before Cook’s voyage to the east coast of Australia. 

For First Australians, looking back on the arrival of the Endeavour brings up many emotions—not just because of the voyage, but due to the 250 years since. To some Australians the voyage is a symbol of change for the people and the land, and a reminder of the European colonisers that followed.

Communication and the Lore of the Land

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During the HMB Endeavour's stop in Tahiti, Joseph Banks, the lead botanist on board the ship, developed a strong friendship with Tupaia, a Polynesian high priest and star navigator. 

Tupaia’s understanding of Polynesian language and culture, beyond the islands where he lived, was a skill that no one on the voyage possessed. This led Banks to invite Tupaia to join the voyage when it left Tahiti. Tupaia proved to play a significant role for the Pacific voyage.  

Australia’s First Reconciliation

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Many tales have been told about the HMB Endeavour expedition and, over the years, many ‘firsts’ have been attributed to the voyage.

In more recent times, another very significant ‘first’ has become more widely known—one of the earliest known acts of reconciliation between Europeans and Indigenous Australians. 

This story—of turtles and a broken spear—tells of the moment, in 1770, when two very different peoples and cultures clashed but found a way to step back from conflict. 

An artistic legacy forged at sea

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Alexander Buchan (unknown – 1769)

Unlike most of the HMB Endeavour crew, Alexander Buchan never saw New Zealand or the east coast of Australia.

One of several artists in Joseph Banks’ scientific party, Buchan died of an epileptic fit less than eight months after the ship left England. 

A quiet achiever — HMB Endeavour’s second - in - command

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Zachary Hickes (Hicks)* (1739–1771)

Lieutenant Zachary Hickes may be best remembered for being the first person on the HMB Endeavour to sight the east coast of Australia and holler, ‘Land ho!’, but it isn’t his only claim to fame. 

From Stepney to the South Pacific

Few details are known about Zachary Hickes’ early life. 

Finding Tupaia – Polynesian voyager on Endeavour

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Tupaia (c1725–1770)

The extraordinary story of Tupaia — and his remarkable contribution to the HMB Endeavour voyage — waited a long time to be told.
For more than two centuries, despite the significant role he played, Tupaia was largely left off the public record, relegated to journal entries and the occasional mention or footnote. 

With no personal records to draw on, the story of Tupaia’s life has slowly been pieced together from fragments — including the years 1769–70, which he spent on board the HMB Endeavour.  

The Banksia’s name sake

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Sir Joseph Banks (1743–1820)


The Endeavour voyage would not have been possible without the wealth and influence of enthusiastic botanist Sir Joseph Banks.

Early life – born into wealth 

Joseph Banks was the only son of William Banks, a wealthy country squire and member of the House of Commons. 

He went to the prestigious Eton College school from 1756 and studied natural history at the University of Oxford, though he left without gaining a degree.