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

6. Memorandum by Sir Hugh Palliser

6. Memorandum by Sir Hugh Palliser

[Sandwich papers, Hinchingbrooke. Endorsed ‘No. 98’. The paper is undated.]

Thoughts upon the Kind of Ships proper to be employed on Discoveries in distant Parts of the Globe.

Should the advantageous Properties of the Ships be given up or suffered to be in any degree diminished, in order to gain particular Accommodations for Individuals, such a Step may be considered as laying a foundation for rendering the Undertaking abortive at the very time it is set on foot—for undoubtedly the Success of it must principally depend upon that which ought to be the first Consideration, namely, the Safety of the Ships and the Preservation of the Adventurers: Circumstances which will not admit of those Encroachments on the requisite Properties of the Ships:

The greatest Danger to be apprehended in a Voyage on Discoveries to the most distant and unknown Parts of the Globe, is that of running ashore upon desart, uninhabited or perhaps savage Coast[s]: — therefore no consideration in the Choice of a Ship for such a Service should be page 346 set in competition with that of a Construction in which a Man may with the least hazard venture upon it: A Ship of that kind must be certainly preferable to any other, and that kind must be one of a large Burthen, and of a small Draught of Water, with a Body that will bear to take the Ground, and of a Size which in case of necessity may be safely and conveniently laid on shore to repair any accidental Damages or Defects.

In such a Vessel an able Sea Officer will be more venturesome and better enabled to fulfill his Instructions than he possibly can (or indeed would be prudent for him to attempt) in one of any other Sort or Size:—-

As to the Position that a three-deckt West India Ship with large Accommodations and being of a finer Body than a Bark, will hold a better Wind, and claw off a Lee Shore when a Bark will not be able so to do —- I think it is a mistaken One —- for her high built will surely render her as leewardly as the Bark, and prevent her carrying Sail so long, and will moreover greatly increase the Disadvantage of her finer Body in case of taking the Ground, as She would then prove topheavy and overset when the Bark would sit upright. —

I know a Notion has prevailed that when two Ships go on a Service of this Nature, they ought to be of different Constructions, on a Supposition that under any Circumstances of Danger there may be more probability of One of them escaping than if they were both constructed alike, and that the Chance of the Events of the Undertaking being preserved will be thereby doubled, and besides, that in case of the Loss of one of them, her Company may be taken up and preserved by the other: But altho’ I readily admit the Propriety of sending out two Vessels in consort upon an Enterprize of this Sort, yet I cannot by any means see why they should be of different Constructions — for whatever kind is Judged to be the most advantageous for a single Ship, must in my Opinion hold equally so for any greater Number to be employed on the same Service:—This cannot be well denied if it is once admitted that the greatest Dangers and those mostly to be apprehended should be guarded against preferably to any smaller Inconveniencies, and that in this matter the greatest Dangers really are those of going on shore, and the Want of Stores and Provisions necessary to enable the Adventurers to execute the Object of their Mission as already mentioned:—-

With regard to the Apprehension of being caught on a Lee Shore in Ships not the best adapted for clawing off—-that in my Opinion is not a Matter of sufficient Consideration to outweigh those more important Ones aforementioned, and I am sure that no prudent able Sea Officer will with any Kind of Ship whatsoever attempt to run down upon or explore such a Coast as a Lee Shore, in parts unknown, but that he will be equally cautious (whatever Kind of Ship he is in) to avoid being caught upon it:—-If however, the clawing off a Lee Shore be the principal Object, then the best sailing Frigates ought to be the Ships employed:—-

It has likewise been supposed that by the Ships being of different Constructions, an Advantage will accrue that One of them may be page 347 sent ahead to find out Channels and lead the other thro’, but I believe that Experience will convince any one, that Boats (where small Craft are not to be had) are certainly the best, and perhaps the only Expedients for discovering, and leading Ships thro’ unknown dangerous Channels, and that when the Weather is such that Boats cannot be employed in that Service, it will by no means be prudent to trust either of the Ships upon it, therefore the Frame of a small Vessel to be set up on a strange Coast may prove exceeding useful as well for exploring a Coast, as for collecting refreshments upon it, if uninhabited: The frames of two such small Vessels are accordingly put on board the two Ships now going out.—-

On the whole, I am firmly of Opinion that Ships of no other Kind are so proper for Discoveries in distant unknown Parts, as the Endeavour (formerly employed) was:—-for no Ships of any other Kind can contain Stores and Provisions sufficient (in proportion to their Complements) for the purpose, considering the Length of Time it may be necessary they should last, and if they could contain sufficient Quantities, yet on arriving at the Parts for Discovery, they would still from the Nature of their Construction and Size, be less fit and applicable for the purpose: Hence I conclude it is, that so little Progress has hitherto been made in Discovery in the Southern Hemisphere: for all Ships which attempted the Business before the Endeavour, were unfit for it, altho’ those employed did the utmost in their Power: As soon as Mons. Bougainville came in sight of a part of the new discovered dangerous coast which Capt Cook compleatly explored, he fled from it as fast as possible and durst not approach it with the Ship he was in: —-

It was upon these Considerations that the Endeavour Bark was chosen for that Voyage (the first of the Kind so employed) and notwithstanding those on board her who are not proper Judges found fault with her during the whole Voyage, yet it was to these properties in her that they owe their Preservation, and that enabled Capt Cook to stay in those Seas so much longer than any other Ship ever did or could do: and altho’ Discovery was not the first Object of his Voyage, it enabled him to traverse far greater Space of Seas, before then unnavigated: to discover great Tracts of Country in high and low South latitudes, and even to explore and survey the extensive Coasts of those new discovered Countries; in short it was those Properties of the Ship, with Capt Cook's great Diligence, Perseverance and Resolution during the Voyage that enabled him to discover so much more, and at greater Distance than any Discoverer performed before during One Voyage, and has very deservedly gained him the Reputation of an able Seaman, an Artist1 and a good Officer, and a Just Title to the Marks of Favor conferred on him:—-

It may be further observed that to embark a great Number of Passengers, claiming great Distinctions and spacious Accommodations with page 348 vast Quantities of Baggage, is incompatible with the Idea of a Scheme of Discovery at the Antipodes: If such Passengers do go, they must be content with the Kind of Ship that is fittest:—-The Business of Discovery, the Care and Navigation of the Ships and conducting of every thing relative to the Undertaking, must ever depend on the King's Sea Officers only, they being chosen Men, fit for it:—-

1 i.e. a highly accomplished practical man, not a theorist.