Today marks a quarter of a millennium since HM Bark Endeavour left Plymouth to begin her voyage to the South Seas. Precisely 250 years ago (in an hour or two’s time) Joseph Banks set down the first of his many journal entries:
25 August 1768
After having waiting in this place ten days, the ship, and every thing belonging to me, being all that time in perfect readyness to sail at a moments warning, we at last got a fair wind, and this day at 3 O’Clock in the even weigd anchor, and set sail, all in excellent health and spirits perfectly prepard (in Mind at least) to undergo with Chearfullness any fatigues or dangers that may occur in our intended Voyage.
Already in this opening summary Banks’s optimism and cheer is on display, along with his abysmal spelling. There would be much more of all this over the next three years.
Happily synchronising time, this week I managed a launch of my own at the venerable John Sandoe’s bookshop off the King’s Road in Chelsea. I also spoke to BBC History Magazine’s podcast at length about the story and shared some of my reasons for wanting to write it. Otherwise reactions to the book have been thrilling and overwhelming. There’s a collection of press reviews on this page.
Most of all, if you’ve bought a copy of Endeavour, thank you! It’s a cheering thought that people will be meeting Thomas Fishburn’s collier once again, exactly 250 years after Banks, Cook, Parkinson and all the rest of them were finding their own sea legs. Happy sailing to you.
Image credit: Patrick McDonald