JAMES COOK AND THE EXPLORATION OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC.
On April 3, 1768, the Earl of Pembroke, an awkward looking North Sea coal carrier, was put into dry dock in a choice slip at the English Naval Shipyard of Deptford, on the Thames River near London. Stout and heavy, with a steep bow and a narrow stern, the new ship appeared sharply out of place amidst the rows of sleek frigates and magnificent ships of the line; the ships being repaired and refitted for service (Allen 107). A few Deptford officers bluntly questioned if the bark-rigged vessel was even listed in the Royal Navy (Day 35). For what conceivable reason could the Admiralty require the services of a grimy boat as the Earl of Pembroke?.
In fact, the homespun collier was intended for a single adventurous role. She would carry a handpicked group of British scientists and naval officers to the farthest reaches of the known pacific to conduct vital astronomical research, and to find the centuries old legend of Terra Austrialis Incognita (Southern Land not yet known). A Collier had been selected because it could hold the large amount of supplies and scientific equipment that the voyages would require, and also because it was flat-bottomed and was able to take the pounding of an accidental grounding (Allen 107).
On April 5, the British Admiralty renamed the vessel Endeavour and commanded the Deptford carpenters to prepare her for the greatest dispatch a vessel had known. By the end of four weeks her hull had been sheathed with a second layer of planking. This would protect the ship from tropical sea worms (Allen 109). Her mast and yardarms were sacrificed for new ones, and all of her rigging was replaced with new hemp ropes. On May 18th the ship was refit and moored in the Deptford Basin, alongside the mighty vessels of the British Empire, to await the arrival of her commander.
To many Londoners, the selection of Lieutenant James Cook was as surprising as the Admiralty's choice of the Endeavor.