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The Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks 1768–1771 [Volume Two]

2. Banks to Sandwich

2. Banks to Sandwich

My Lord,

the patronage and assistance which I have always met with from your Lordship encourages me to Adress you; my situation with regard to the voyage I have undertaken is become exceedingly critical, and I hope will be found a sufficient excuse for the trouble which I am going to give your Lordship.

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When I was askd whether or not I would go to the South Seas again if his majesty should think proper to Send ships to perfect the discoveries which had been begun in the last voyage, I Joyfully embracd a proposal of all others best suited to my disposition and Pursuits I pledgd myself then to your Lordship and have since by the whole tenor of my conversation and Correspondence pledgd myself to all Europe to go the voyage, and not only to go the voyage but to take with me as many able artists as the Income of my Fortune would allow me to pay by whose means the Learned world in general might reap as much benefit as possible from those discoveries which my good Fortune or industry might enable me to make.

With this view I engagd Mr Zoffany a Painter of well known abilities and five others to accompany me, who were to delineate such Objects as I might think worthy to be presented to my freinds at home, and assist me in keeping such Journals &c. as the nature of the undertaking might require my Freind Dr Solander also voluntarily engag'd to take the department of Natural History conscious that his abilities and experience could alone compleat the discoveries in that Science which himself had began in the course of our last voyage.

Six domestick servants also to collect and preserve such Objects as we might think worthy notice, in all thirteen persons besides myself have I engagd to spend three years of the Prime of Lives far removd from their connexions and amidst the dangers and difficulties of unknown Oceans

this done I askd of the Publick proper conveniencies and accomodations for myself and these my Companions that we might be enabled to exert our utmost endeavours to serve them where soever the Course of our Discoveries might induce us to proceed the navy Board was in consequence of this orderd to purchase two ships and fit them up in a proper manner for our reception two ships were accordingly purchasd and during the Course of Preparing them the board of Longitude thought proper to engage two Astronomers and even the House of Commons thought the undertaking of so much importance as to vote a sum of four thousand pounds to enable Dr Lind to accompany us and assist us with his extensive knowledge of Natural Philosophy and mechaniks as soon as the principal ship was bought I went down to see her and immediately declard her in my opinion very improper for the voyage instead of a Collier the Kind of vessel which I always understood to have been intended she was a ship of a mixd kind built in order to be sold if Possible to the Russians as a ship of war the upper part of her was narrow'd in considerably in order to support her guns a circumstance which at once made her sure to turn out inconvenient and not unlikely (as since has been prov'd) to be likewise dangerous1

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seventeen people were to go in two ships besides their usual complement of men and an extrordinary establishment of Officers which was thought necessary on account of the difficulties and dangers which we were likely to experience in seas of which we know no circumstance but that of their being Tempestuous

Fourteen of these were to go in the Principal ship for them it was necessary that there should be a more than common provision of accomodations to put it in their power to carry on the different branches of Science which they embarkd in order to pursue for such accomodations I ask'd and was told that they could not be made without rendering the ship dangerous. the Expedition said I was intended to accomodate me and my people and unless I have such accomodations as will enable me to take out and make use of such people as I find necessary I will not go the alternative then lay with those who had provided the Ship either to buy another or give up me and my share of the undertaking but difference of opinion rising it was upon the whole judgd that the proper alterations would not damage the ship and they were orderd to be put in execution, those your Lordship saw and I flatter myself did not think them too large, even the great Cabbin as that room was intended to be at all times the place for six and sometimes eight principal people besides servants to carry on their respective employments

On falling down the River the Ship was found absolutely incapable of the voyage your Lordship if I am not misinformd receivd an account of her being so from the first Lieutent and Pilot which latter I am told went so far as to declare that he would not venture to carry her even round to Deal without a fair wind

the navy Board have attributed this imperfection of the Ship to her extrordinary accommodations and have orderd at once above half of them to be destroyd and whether that will make her absolutely safe is a matter in which I find many able seamen concurr with me in doubting.

But supposing she should’ be no longer dangerously top heavy I will take the liberty of informing your Lordship in what other particulars the intended alterations will render her if not absolutely incapable at least exceedingly unfit to undertake the voyage which I have proposd to the Publick to perform.

she will in the first place be deep wasted a fault which the Captains of India ships are so sensible of that the largest number of them are built flush tho they are only to Encounter in their Passage round the Cape of Good Hope the Seas which we are to be involved [?] with during our whole circumnavigation.

in the next place the people near thirty of whoom usd to live under the deck which is to be cut off will all be crowded under her gun deck which in her is by no means airy such a disposition would in all probability cause putrid distempers even in a passage to the west Indies how much more likely then to do it in a voyage during the course of which we must pass through a variety of climates and perhaps for whole seasons page 341 never be able to give our people air by opening the few scuttles which there are

What my Lord ought more to be dreaded by a discoverer than such distempers far removd as he must be from any European assistance such a calamity would soon oblige him to quit his discovery and very probably even put it out of his power to bring home any account of what he has done previous to its fatal influence

I do not contend my Lord but that the Resolution might be made fit by the intended alterations for a passage to America or the West Indies but in a voyage such as I have undertaken we should instead of a ship barely fit to make a short passage be furnishd with the Safest and most Commodious one that could possibly be procurd we have pledgd ourselves my Lord to your Lordship and this Nation to undertake what no navigator before us has ever even suggested to be practicable we are to attempt at Least to pass round the whole Globe in those very Latitudes the only passing into which in order to get round one Cape had almost destroyd the whole squadron Commanded by Ld Anson we have done more we have undertaken to approach at least as near the Southern pole as we possibly can and how near that may be no man living or who ever has livd can give the least guess

Shall I then my Lord who have engagd to leave all that can make life agreable in my own countrey and throw on one side the pleasure to be reapd from three of the best years of my life merely to compass this undertaking pregnant enough in its own nature with dangers and difficulties be sent off at last in a doubtfull ship after having been promisd every security and convenience that the art of man could contrive without which promise no man in his senses would ever have undertaken the voyage will the publick expect me to go out in a Ship the very security of which I have the greatest reason to doubt or should I embark would they expect any thing material to be done by people under circumstances so highly discouraging

So much for the ship in general I come now to my own more particular department that of Accomodations I confess my Lord I was very much hurt when at this critical time at the very point of Sailing I found it expected of me to put up with much less room for myself and my people than that which in the very first instance I had rejected by the alternative of refusing the voyage it is necessary room not the accomodations of Luxury that I contend for I am now offerd a Cabbin which when the tumbling in of the side is substracted will be only feet by in it not only me and my people but Captn Cooke and his assistants are to carry on all their drawings in the same room we are to eat and two at least to sleep neither Dr Solander nor myself are to be allowd the least place of retirement in case of sickness nor are we to have room to put a single Bureau for the preserving of our papers draughts &c. or any part of the many Books necessary for our studies the number of which now on board is by no means inconsiderable unless we make the small page 342 room still less by crowding them into it in the Endeavour the ship in which we performd the last voyage we had a Cabbin of feet by and a place of retirement which just held a few Books and our papers then we had but three assistants but had not one of them dyed we should have found the Cabbin too small even for them

1 ‘instead of a Collier … dangerous’: this is all of course quite nonsensical, and how on earth Banks came to write the sentence is hard to understand. The Resolution was built as a collier and bought as a collier.