Title: Early New Zealand Botanical Art

Author: F. Bruce Sampson

Publication details: Reed Methuen, 1985, Auckland

Digital publication kindly authorised by: F. Bruce Sampson

Part of: New Zealand Texts Collection

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Early New Zealand Botanical Art

The return voyage

page 26

The return voyage

James Cook would have liked to return to England by crossing the Pacific at high southern latitudes towards Cape Horn, to prove or disprove the existence of the southern continent at these latitudes, but it was nearing winter and the hardships and dangers such a voyage would have entailed prevented this. Cook therefore decided to return via New Holland (Australia) and the East Indies (Indonesia).

It took nearly three weeks to reach Australia. For five months the Endeavour sailed up the east coast of Australia. The most important botanical collections were made at Botany Bay, near what is now Sydney. While off the Queensland coast, the Endeavour struck part of the Great Barrier Reef and the voyage almost ended in disaster (11 June 1770). As subsequent examination revealed, the ship was badly holed, but the leak was more or less plugged by "fothering" when the Endeavour had floated free from the reef. The procedure used was to mix oakum (loose fibre obtained by untwisting old rope) and wool, chopped small and

stick it loosly [sic] by handfulls all over the sail and throw over it sheeps dung or other filth. Horse dung for this purpose is the best. The sail thus prepared is hauld under the Ships bottom by ropes and if the place of the leak is uncertain it must be hauld from one part of her bottom to a nother untill the place is found where it takes effect; while the sail is under the Ship the ockam &ca is washed off and part of it carried along with the water into the leak and in part stops up the hole.

On 17 June the ship was run ashore and repaired, near the present town of Cooktown. It was seen that several pieces of fothering had plugged holes in the ship and that, fortunately, a hole "as large as a man's fist" was plugged by a piece of coral, which had remained when the Endeavour broke away from the reef. The delay enabled further collecting and the first clear view of a kangaroo.

During the Australian part of the voyage, plants were collected at eleven localities in New South Wales and Queensland. Parkinson made 412 sketches of plants and from these Banks had 362 finished paintings made. Fifty of these are reproduced in Sydney Parkinson (1983). Parkinson's industry drew the comment from Banks in his Journal, as the Endeavour sailed up the Australian coast (12 May 1770): "In 14 days just, one draughtsman has made 94 sketch drawings, so quick a hand has he acquired by use." Parkinson sometimes spent all night drawing. His illustrations were carefully supervised by Banks and Solander. Banks wrote: "we sat till dark by the great table with our draughtsman opposite and showed him in what way to make his drawings, and ourselves made rapid descriptions of all the page 27 details of natural history while our specimens were still fresh." Joseph Banks laid great stress on scientific accuracy in his artists' work. Despite the accuracy of his botanical illustrations, Parkinson sometimes "romanticised" the scenes he sketched. This is demonstrated, for example, in two sketches of the same scene in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, reproduced in Lysaght's (1979) article. The one by Spöring is factual but Parkinson's is, as Lysaght noted, romanticised and less accurate. It was therefore Spöring's sketch that Banks chose to have copied.

The Endeavour reached the tip of Australia on 21 August and New Guinea on 3 September. Cook then headed for the port of Batavia (now Jakarta). The ship, after the emergency repairs in Queensland, needed attention — it was leaking at the rate of up to a foot an hour — and Batavia had the facilities to enable thorough repairs to be made to the Endeavour. These took three months and the renovation was a highly skilled one.

When the Endeavour reached Batavia, the occupants of the ship were healthy, apart from a few suffering mildly from scurvy. Batavia was, as Stearn expressed it (in D. J. Carr (ed.), Sydney Parkinson, 1983), "that deadly stinking pestilential place". Canals intersecting the town served as dumping grounds for refuse "cheifly [sic] formed from human ordure" (Banks). Malaria and dysentery were rife, and only one man from the Endeavour escaped contracting one or both these diseases. The exception was the sailmaker, and Cook wrote, "what was still more extraordinary" he was "generally more or less drunk every day". Despite ill health, Banks and Solander did collect some plants in Java, and Parkinson made seventy-two sketches. On 26 December 1770 the Endeavour left Batavia. "We came in here with as healthy a ships company as need [go] to sea and after a stay of not quite 3 Months lift [sic] it in the condition of an Hospital ship." Seven had died there, including William Monkhouse, the surgeon, and the two Tahitians, Tupaia and Taiata. Between Batavia and the next port-of-call, the Cape of Good Hope, a further twenty-four men died. Among the dead were Green, the astronomer, Spöring (25 January) and Sydney Parkinson (26 January 1771). Banks, in a tribute to Parkinson, wrote after the voyage: "S. Parkinson certainly behaved to me, during the whole of the long voyage, uncommonly well, and with unbounded industry made for me a much larger number of drawings than ever I expected." Three more died after the ship had reached the Cape of Good Hope on 14 March.

After a stay of a month, the Endeavour set sail for England and on 12 July anchored off Deal, when Banks disembarked. Overall, about 1,300 new plant species were collected during the voyage. The quantity of biological material collected far exceeded any previously brought to Europe. The voyage of the Endeavour was, to quote Stearn (in D. J. Carr (ed.,) 1968), "the first organized and thoroughly equipped voyage of biological exploration" thanks to "the enthusiastic and unexpected participation of a wealthy young amateur, Joseph Banks." The plants collected were well selected and accompanied by detailed, accurate descriptions. Duplicate page 28 specimens of New Zealand plants collected by Banks and Solander are now in the collections of the Auckland Institute and Museum and the National Museum, Wellington. Sydney Parkinson made 952 drawings of plants on the voyage. He made 295 drawings of animals and about 100 drawings of landscapes, people, their houses and activities, canoes and tattoo designs. Incidentally, both Parkinson and Banks had been tattooed on the arm while in Tahiti.