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Researchers Believe They May Have Located a Famous Ship Once Owned by Captain Cook


A team of researchers in the USA believe that they've located the area of the wreck of Captain James Cook’s ship. The HMS Endeavour is known for being the ship which reached Australia on April 19, 1770, during the first of three expeditions led by the explorer.

The ship was originally named ''The Earl of Pembroke'', and it was purchased for the expedition by Cook and renamed. The HMS Endeavour weighed 368 tons (334 metric tons) and measured 105 feet (32 meters) long. After the adventurous voyage with Cook, the Endeavour was retired from the navy. It was renamed yet again, this time as the Lord Sandwich and became a ship used to transport troops during the war in 1775.

During the American Revolution in August 1778, Americans were in trouble and hoped for the support of the French navy. The British decided to scuttle 13 ships into Newport, including Lord Sandwich. They wanted to block the French navy en route.

Painting of the Earl of Pembroke, later HMS Endeavour, and finally Lord Sandwich leaving Whitby Harbour in 1768. ( Public Domain )

The expedition searching for the Endeavour started a few years ago by mapping 8 shipwreck sites in the Newport Harbor. The team discovered that all of them were a part of the fleet of 13 transport ships that sunk in 1778. The first results of the research were presented during the meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology in Quebec in January 2014.

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According to the BBC, The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) says that it is 80 to 100 percent possible that they have found the location of the famous wreck. RIMAP is a non-profit organization that was set up 1992. Their main goal is to complete underwater archaeology with their skills and support studies of maritime history and marine archaeology sites in Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay. With the grant received from the Australian National Maritime Museum , RIMAP was able to track down historic documents connected with the ships scuttled in 1778.

As Dr. Kathy Abbass, the executive director of Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project said to CNN: ''Lord Sandwich was the first lord of the admiralty at the time so the name makes sense -- a nod by its private owner. We know from its size, dimension and these records that the Sandwich was the Endeavour."

Selected sites of RIMAP studies – Shipwrecks of Rhode Island. ( RIMAP)

However, the RIMAPs researchers wrote in a statement published recently that they still cannot say that they have found the wreck of Endeavour for certain because the site maps have too little information. Archaeological excavations are necessary to conclusively announce that they discovered the famous wreck. They wrote: ''Meanwhile, there are a number of more subtle targets in Newport Harbor that will need attention before we can with confidence say we have found all of the transports lost there in 1778.''

The next step for RIMAP is to investigate the ships and the artifacts they contain. However, they have decided that before that phase of the research they want to build a facility to conserve, manage, store, and display the material which they will take from the water. The r esearchers of RIMAP believe that it is meaningful that the discovery of the wreck of the Endeavour takes place during the year of the 240th anniversary of the day when Rhode Island colonial legislature disavowed loyalty to King George III of England and the colonies issued the Declaration of Independence.

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There are still many controversies surrounding the voyage of Cook to Australia. On May 24, 2014 Ancient Origins reported that research had linked an old swivel gun found in Darwin, Australia to a mine on the Spanish Iberian Peninsula, suggesting that the Portuguese reached Australia not only before Cook, but also before the Dutch made the first European sighting of Australia in 1606.

A replica of the HMS Endeavour in Sydney, Australia. ( CC BY SA 3.0 )

Furthermore, the “discovery” of Australia in 1770 is also a painful point in history due to its connection to the decimation of Aboriginal culture . However, a positive part of Cook's expeditions was created by the scientists who accompanied him, including for example, the astronomer Charles Green, the botanist Joseph Banks, and the naturalist and ethnologist Johann Georg Adam Forster.

Johann Georg Adam Forster joined Cook during his second expedition to Australia 1772 - 1775. He joined the crew due to Cook’s fame for his voyage from 1768-1770. During the stay in Australia, Forster completed research which allowed him to write two books about the natural environment of the area: ' De Plantis Esculentis Insularum Oceani Australis Commentatio Botanica ' and ' Florulae Insularum Australium Prodromus '.

Portraits of Captain James Cook and Johann Georg Adam Forster. (Public Domain )

Apparently the relationship between Forster and Cook was very strained. Memoirs written by the researchers who joined the crew of the expedition said that Cook didn't like and didn't respect their work. He was just interested in exploring and bringing goods to the King. Cook was also irritated when he had to wait until the scientist collected enough of information about animals, plants, etc. As a result, Cook decided not to take any scientists with him on his third and last voyage.

Featured Image: HMS Endeavour off the coast of New Holland. Source:


James Cook

Captain James Cook FRS (7 November 1728 [NB 1] – 14 February 1779) was a British explorer, navigator, cartographer, and captain in the British Royal Navy, famous for his three voyages between 1768 and 1779 in the Pacific Ocean and to Australia in particular. He made detailed maps of Newfoundland prior to making three voyages to the Pacific, during which he achieved the first recorded European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands, and the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand.

Cook joined the British merchant navy as a teenager and joined the Royal Navy in 1755. He saw action in the Seven Years' War and subsequently surveyed and mapped much of the entrance to the Saint Lawrence River during the siege of Quebec, which brought him to the attention of the Admiralty and the Royal Society. This acclaim came at a crucial moment in his career and the direction of British overseas exploration, and led to his commission in 1766 as commander of HMS Endeavour for the first of three Pacific voyages.

In these voyages, Cook sailed thousands of miles across largely uncharted areas of the globe. He mapped lands from New Zealand to Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean in greater detail and on a scale not previously charted by Western explorers. He surveyed and named features, and recorded islands and coastlines on European maps for the first time. He displayed a combination of seamanship, superior surveying and cartographic skills, physical courage, and an ability to lead men in adverse conditions.

Cook was attacked and killed in 1779 during his third exploratory voyage in the Pacific while attempting to detain the ruling chief of the island of Hawaii, Kalaniʻōpuʻu, to reclaim a cutter taken from one of his ships after his crew took wood from a burial ground. He left a legacy of scientific and geographical knowledge that influenced his successors well into the 20th century, and numerous memorials worldwide have been dedicated to him.


Captain Cook’s lost Endeavour ship that ‘discovered’ Australia ‘finally found sunk off coast of Rhode Island’

CAPTAIN Cook's long lost ship may have finally been uncovered, sunken off the coast of America.

The shipwrecked Endeavour was used by Cook to "discover" Australia – and was eventually used as a prison ship, before being lost to history.

Maritime archaeologist now believe they've found it in Newport Harbor, Rhode Island.

It marks the beginning of the end to a decades-long search for the ship, which was intentionally destroyed by the British in the late 18th century.

Experts still need to positively identify the ship, and say it could take months or years to verify its identity.

But scans and samples have been collected by researchers who hope they're on to a winning discovery.

"We do not think we are going to find something that says ⟊ptain Cook slept here' — that is not likely," said Kathy Abbass, of the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project, speaking to Live Science.

"But if we find some of the smaller stuff that is consistent with how we know she was used — as a transport and as a prison ship in Newport, then we know we have got her.

"Everything we see this year is consistent with it being the Endeavour, and we have seen nothing that says it can't be."

The Endeavour began life as a coal carrier vessel, but was later commanded by James Cook, who was then a Royal Navy Lieutenant.

Cook used Endeavour to sail around the world between 1768 and 1771, including on its first scientific mission to Tahiti.

The Endeavour's crew than went on to explore the South Pacific, mapping the coast of New Zealand before "discovering" Australia for Europe.

They landed at Botany Bay in 1770, recording local flora and fauna – including the first European sighting of a Kangaroo.

Eventually the Endeavour returned to England, where it was sold off by the Royal Navy to a private buyer.

It was then used during the American War of Independence to ship British troops across the Atlantic to fight.

During the war, the British also used it as a prison ship, but was intentionally sunk in 1778 – along with 12 other vessels – to prevent an invasion by the French.

Who was British explorer James Cook?

Here's what you need to know about the British explorer who led the first expedition to Australia.

  • James Cook was born in 1728 in Marton, England
  • He joined the Merchant Navy at the age of 18
  • As he worked his way up through the ranks he was able to travel thousands of miles around the world to places that westerners had never been before
  • He is most famous for the first recorded European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and Hawaii and for being the first to sail all the way around New Zealand
  • It is thought that the first European to set foot on Australia's east coast was actually Cook's nephew Isaac Smith
  • Cook was killed by Hawaiians during his third and final expedition after a quarrel was started between the sailors and the natives
  • Tey stole one of his smaller boats and he tried to kidnap and ransom their king so they stabbed him to death

The Endeavour is believed to be located near the La Liberté, another sunken ship found in Newport Harbor.

Some experts believe this ship had formerly been named the HMS Resolution, also used by Cook during a mega-voyage between 1772 and 1775.

It means two of Cook's four round-the-world ships may be located next to each other.

More dives to investigate the ship are now planned over the winter, with further excavations to follow next summer.


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The HMS Endeavour is one of the most famous ships in naval history and was used for Captain Cook's discovery of the East Coast of Australia in 1770.

The HMS Endeavour was first launched in 1764 as the Earl of Pembroke, and then renamed His Majesty's Bark the Endeavour after it was purchased four years later by the British Royal Navy.

It was sent out to explore the Pacific Ocean in August 1768 both to observe the 1769 transit of Venus across the sun and in the search for the continent which was then called Terra Australis Incognita, or unknown Southern land.

The previous transit of Venus in 1639 had provided a vast amount of the information astronomers and scientists had about the size of the solar system and universe.

It was decommissioned shortly after its return to Britain and then sold by the Royal Navy into private hands and had its name changed to Lord Sandwich.

She was called into action when Britain hired her as a transport vessel for troops to help fight the American War of Independence.

The last sighting of the HMS Endeavour was around 1778 and it was scuttled — or deliberately sunk — in the harbour off the coast of Rhode Island.

HISTORY OF COOK'S ENDEAVOUR

The HMS Endeavour was a British research vessel sailed by Captain James Cook.

Captain Cook set off from England in the Endeavour in 1768 in search of Australia – then known as the 'unknown Southern Land'.

The Endeavour was a small ship - less than 100ft long - and housed a crew of around 100 sailors.

Before coming to Australia, Captain Cook reached New Zealand in 1769.

He circumnavigated New Zealand's North and South Islands and drew the first complete chart of the country's coast.

The Endeavour was the first ship to reach the East Coast of Australia, landing in Botany Bay in 1770.

The vessel returned to England in 1771 and was largely forgotten before it was sold in 1775 and renamed The Lord Sandwich.

It was decommissioned shortly after its return to Britain and was then sold by the Royal Navy.

She was called into action when Britain hired her as a transport vessel for troops to help fight the American War of Independence.

The last sighting of the HMS Endeavour was around 1778 and it was scuttled — or deliberately sunk — in the harbour off the coast of Rhode Island.

The Endeavour was a small ship - less than 100ft long - and housed a crew of around 100 sailors (pictured). It was used to transport British soldiers during the American War of Independence and was deliberately sunk in 1778

Its origins have been unknown, but academics now believe they have spotted it in Newport Harbour, Rhode Island (pictured)

Marine archaeologists pinpointed the exact place where the scuttled remains of Captain James Cook's HMS Endeavour ship (a replica of the ship is pictured) are located last year

Captain Cook was killed in 1779 during a fight with Hawaiians on the island. The Endeavor soon become a naval transport ship

Captain James Cook (pictured) commanded the HMS Endeavour to Australia during his voyage of discovery in the late 1700s

The ship departed for its ground-breaking trip from Plymouth with 94 people on board, including Captain James Cook.

It travelled down the coast of Africa before cutting across the Atlantic and arriving in Rio de Janeiro in November of that year.

The boat then set out to round Cape Horn, which it managed to do on its third attempt in January after wind, stormy weather and difficult conditions foiled Cook's first two attempts.

In April the ship reached Tahiti, where it stayed for the next four months and where astronomer Charles Green was able to study the transit of Venus in June.

After months exploring the Pacific for islands, the Endeavour reached the coast of New Zealand in October, becoming the first European vessel to land on the island in over 100 years.

1770: English explorer Captain James Cook (1728 - 1779) proclaims New South Wales a British possession, shortly after his landing at Botany Bay. His ship, the Endeavour can be seen in the background

A cutaway painting of Captain Cook's HMS Endeavour ship during its famous voyage of discovery

Dutch explorer Abel Tasman had previously reached the islands of New Zealand and Tasmania during his 1642 journey while with the Dutch East India Company.

Cook spent six months exploring and mapping the coast of New Zealand and claimed the land for Great Britain before sailing west.

In April of 1770 individuals on the ship first spotted Australia, and on April 29 the HMS Endeavour became the first European vessel to make landfall on the east coast of the island.

Cook spent four months charting the coast and at one point ran into trouble when the ship struck part of the Great Barrier Reef.

The ship was 24 miles off the coast at the time with not enough life boats, but managed to clear the water from the hull of the ship and make its way safely back to shore.


Champagne Bay (Vanuatu)

Located on Espiritu Santo, the port of Champagne Bay is home to Champagne Beach, a pristine stretch of sand that has been named one of the world's best beaches by myriad travel publications. At low tide, a bubbling freshwater spring makes the ocean look like Champagne (especially if you've had one too many glasses of the real stuff yourself). With its crystal-clear waters and fringing reefs loaded with marine life, this port is ideal for snorkelling. It is also home to one of the world's most famous dive sites: the SS President Coolidge. Experienced divers can explore this famous wreck on a tour snorkellers and novice divers can see sunken jeeps and other military equipment littering the ocean floor nearby at Million Dollar Point.


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Although archaeologists are convinced they have found the Endeavour it could take four months to test wood taken from the shipwreck to prove it.

In 1983, Australia claimed victory in the America's Cup - the first time the US had lost the trophy in 132 years.

The Australia II ended the longest winning streak in sporting history, as well as the US domination of the racing event.

Marine archaeologists believe they have pinpointed the exact place where the scuttled remains of Captain James Cook's HMS Endeavour ship (a replica of the ship is pictured) are located

The official announcement took place on Goat Island, a small island in Narragansett Bay, off Newport, Rhode Island, near the scuttled remains.

The event involved archaeologists from RIMAP and the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANNM).

'There's still a lot of work ahead, but it is an exciting day,' Australian National Maritime Museum director Kevin Sumption told AAP.

'What will ultimately determine which of the ships is Endeavour is if we are lucky enough to do an excavation that finds evidence that it was used as a prison hulk,' Mr Sumption said.

Friday's confirmation comes twenty years after archaeologists learned that the ship was scuttled in Newport Harbor.

Researchers had to comb through 15 abandoned wrecks to identify the HMS Endeavour.

The HMS Endeavour is one of the most famous ships in naval history and was used for Captain Cook's discovery of the East Coast of Australia in 1770

Captain James Cook (pictured) commanded the HMS Endeavour to Australia during his voyage of discovery in the late 1700s

Pictured, a replica of the HMS Endeavour. The HMS Endeavour is one of the most famous ships in naval history and was used for Captain Cook's discovery of the East Coast of Australia in 1770

Australian naval archaeologist Dr James Hunter described the conditions as 'not easy' and 'Visibility is at about one metre'

Dr Abbass said the discovery would be significant for a number of countries, including Australia, the US, Britain and New Zealand.

Hopes have been raised the vessel will be excavated and returned to Australia for the 250th anniversary of Cook's arrival in Australia.

But the Rhode Island state government claimed official ownership of the whole fleet of shipwrecks, which includes the Endeavour, in 1999.

This suggests Australian officials would have to fight for any of the wreckage to be brought to back down under, The Age reported.

Australian researchers and divers have worked in teams to verify the vessel, and naval archaeologist Dr James Hunter described the conditions as 'not easy'.

'Visibility is at about one metre,' he told Nine News.

The recent developments follow the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project's discovery that the ship was scuttled in Newport Harbor in 1778 by British forces in the lead up to the Battle of Rhode Island.

A cutaway painting of Captain Cook's HMS Endeavour ship during its famous voyage of discovery

The HMS Endeavour was then discovered to be among 13 other ships in a massive archaeological investigation.

The investigation combined high-tech mapping of the seabed with analysis of historical shipping documents found in London.

Australia's Consul General in New York, Alistair Walton said on Friday, 'I think we can say with a great deal of confidence, based on everyone we've heard today that this is the resting place of the Endeavour here in Newport Harbor.'

The HMS Endeavour is one of the most famous ships in naval history and was used for Captain Cook's discovery of the East Coast of Australia in 1770.

The last sighting of the HMS Endeavour was around 1778 when it is believed the ship was sold, renamed the Lord Sandwich, and then used to transport British troops during the American Revolution.

The HMS Endeavour was first launched in 1764 as the Earl of Pembroke, and then renamed His Majesty's Bark the Endeavour after it was purchased four years later by the British Royal Navy.

The HMS Endeavour was first launched in 1764 as the Earl of Pembroke. Pictured, the Earl of Pembroke leaving Whitby Harbour in 1768


Gathering the First Fleet ships:

Reference Item 1786++: Margaret Steven, Trade, Tactics and Territory: Britain in the Pacific, 1783-1823. Carlton, Victoria, Melbourne University Press, 1983.

Reference Item 1786++: Eduoard A. Stackpole, Whales and Destiny: The Rivalry between America, France and Britain for Control of the Southern Whale Fishery, 1785-1825. University of Massachusetts Press, 1972.

Reference Item: Arthur Phillip, The Voyage of Governor Phillip to Botany Bay, With an Account of the Establishment of the Colonies of Port Jackson and Norfolk Island, including the journals of Lts. Shortland, Watts, Ball and Capt. Marshall. Melbourne, Facsimile edition for Georgian House, 1950.

Reference Item: Wilfrid Oldham, Britain's Convicts to the Colonies. Sydney, Library of Australian History, 1990. (With a commentary by Dan Byrnes)

Reference Item: Jonathan King and John King, Philip Gidley King: A Biography of the Third Governor of New South Wales. North Melbourne, Australia, Methuen Australia Ltd., 1981.

Roger J. B. Knight, `The First Fleet, Its State and Preparation, 1786-1787', pp. 121-136, in John Hardy and Alan Frost, Studies from Terra Australis to Australia. Canberra, Occasional Paper No. 6, Australian Academy of the Humanities, 1988.

Reference Item: Dr Noel Dan, 'Surgeons of the First Fleet', Australian Medical Association Gazette, 15 May, 1980., pp. 16-17.

Reference Item: K. M. Dallas, Trading Posts or Penal Colonies: The Commercial Significance of Cook's New Holland Route to the Pacific. Hobart, Fuller's Bookshop, 1969.

W. J. Dakin, Whalemen Adventurers in Southern Waters. Sydney, Angus and Robertson, 1977. [Angus and Robertson Non-Fiction Classics Edition]

Reference Item: See A. K. Cavanagh, 'The Return of the First Fleet ships', The Great Circle, Vol. 11, No. 2, 1989., pp. 1-16.

Dan Byrnes, "Commentary" to Wilfrid Oldham, Britain's Convicts to the Colonies. Sydney, Library of Australian History, 1990. ISBN 0 908120 77 X.

Dan Byrnes, "Outlooks for the English South Whale Fishery, 1782-1800, and the "great Botany Bay debate'", The Great Circle, Vol. 10, No. 2, October, 1988., pp. 79-102. ISSN 0156-8698. (On the strategies used by British whalers to open up the Pacific Ocean. Written before discovery of The Blackheath Connection in 1989 - updated, 1996). Total words, 19,319. Total pages, 38.

Dan Byrnes, ""Emptying The Hulks": Duncan Campbell and the First Three Fleets to Australia", The Push from the Bush: A Bulletin of Social History, April, 1987., pp. 2-23. ISSN 0155 8633. (Updated 1996)

Reference Item: Dan Byrnes, "The Blackheath Connection: London Local History and the Settlement at New South Wales, 1786-1806", The Push: A Journal of Early Australian Social History, No. 28, 1990., pp. 50-98. ISSN 0155 8633. ISBN 0 646 09384 3. (Updated, 1996) Total words, 31,776. Total pages, 83.

Mollie Gillen, The Founders of Australia: A Biographical Dictionary of the First Fleet. With appendices by Yvonne Browning, Michael Flynn, Mollie Gillen. Sydney, Library of Australian History, 1989.

Reference item 1786++: Harold B. Carter, Sir Joseph Banks, 1743-1820. London, British Museum (Natural History), 1988.
Banks' sets of interests almost ensured that he would take an interest in whichever shipping would be going newly into the Pacific Ocean, while his patterns of association, including with George III, helped ensure that nothing would interfere with his interests in ship movements. Carter especially in his biography of Banks outlines a set of information on Banks' interests in shipping which maritime historians have not yet emphasised - matters which these listings will re-explore.

Reference item 1786++ Dawson - Sir Joseph Banks - Warren R. Dawson, (Ed.), The Banks Letters: A Calendar of the Manuscript Correspondence of Sir Joseph Banks. London, Published by order of the trustees of the British Museum, 1958.

Reference item: Kate Thomas, A Biographical Appraisal of John Hunter RN (1737-1821). (Hons Thesis) University of New England, Armidale, NSW, 1992.

1786: King George - British registry, Capt Nathaniel Portlock, arrived 24 May, 1786, departed 13 Jun, 1786 - came a second time in Nov 1786 and a third in Sept. 1787. Accompanied by Queen Charlotte. (This item is from a website Hawaiian Roots on ships to Hawaii before 1819)

Queen Charlotte - British registry, Capt. George Dixon, with Portlock's expedition, arrived 26 May, 1786, departed 13 June, 1786. (This item is from a website Hawaiian Roots on ships to Hawaii before 1819)

1786: Boussole - French naval frigate, La Pérouse in command arrived 29 May, 1786, departed 30 May, 1786. He landed at Maui only. Accompanied by Astrolabe. (This item is from a website Hawaiian Roots on ships to Hawaii before 1819)

1786: Astrolabe - French naval frigate, de Langle in command, with La Pérouse's expedition arrived 29 May, 1786, departed 30 May, 1786. (This item is from a website Hawaiian Roots on ships to Hawaii before 1819)

1786: March, (Steven, TTT pp. 69ff) reports feverish activity first half of year, pro-whaling. Lord Dorset to Carmarthen re whale fisheries. 14 March, Sir James Harris at Hague to Carmarthen. Whale lobby in London gathers strength. Alexr Champion Jnr lives in Winchester St. John St Barbe c/- John's Coffee House.

1786: Addresses: Timothy and William Curtis, [sea] biscuit makers, 236 Wapping (London Directories). Together with Richard Henry Clark in 1788 at same address. Also, separate, Curtis, William, jun., Esq., Alderman, 236 Wapping, in 1786: in 1789 at Southgate or 40 Old Broad Street, in 1795 at Old South Sea House, Broad Street.

1786-1788/9: Addresses: St. Barbe and Green(e), ships husbands, and Insurance Brokers, 33 Seething Lane. (London Directories). St. Barbe, merchant, was at 1 Little Marlborough Street, London, in 1790).


Many people have claimed over the years that Australia may have been discovered before the first Europeans supposedly arrived in 1606, could rumours of a Mahogany Ship or other artifacts support these claims?

Official Historic records state that Australia was first discovered in 1606 by Willem Janszoon of the Dutch East India Company aboard the Duyfken. However many aboriginal stories and old records from early European settlers suggest the first outsiders to reach the Continent may have arrived around 1520.

The Official Discovery of Australia

Captain Willem Janszoon had worked for the still fledgling Dutch East India Company for several years and had crewed and then commanded his ship the Duyfken through many voyages throughout modern day New Guinea and the Islands of Java.

But it was early in 1606 that the Captain and ship made history as they charted what would later be known as the Cape York Peninsula of Australia. They later landed at the Gulf of Carpentaria, this became the earliest authenticated visit by Europeans to the Australian Continent which for a time became known as New Holland.

This was significant as it became the first time in Human History that all inhabited continents of the world were known at the same time.

The Mahogany Ship

The Mahogany Ship is a purported dark wooden shipwreck that is rumoured to lie beneath Armstrong Bay, 3-6 miles west of Warrnambool, Victoria. Many believe it to be the remains of a Spanish or Portuguese ship that made landfall in Australia almost a century before the Duyfken Voyage of 1606.

While no such wreck exists there today, 19th and 18th century accounts have described it in Aboriginal stories as well as in more Academic Papers of the time. Authors Ian McKiggan and Jack Loney endeavoured to document many of these accounts in the 1980's and found them to be proof at least of a strong local knowledge and folklore of the wreck dating back Centuries.

Many of the stories are hard to prove as definitive due to them being sometimes decades old and passed down by word of mouth or third party written accounts. McKiggan eventually concluded in his writings that there had been an object that locals knew as 'The Old Wreck' located near Warrnambool up until the mid 19th century but it's only in more modern accounts of the story that it took on the more mysterious name of 'The Mahogany Ship'.

Another Author covered the stories of the wreck in the early 21st century and concluded that based on the descriptions of the ship as well as its location and the amount of it that remained at the times the stories were first told it was very likely that 3 distinct wrecks existed and it was unclear which may have been the so-called 'Mahogany Ship'.

Various stories have placed the wreck in the shallow sea near the coast, visible at low tide on the beach and even lying inland as if carried in by a particularly high tide or storm.

Written Documentation of the Wreck

The earliest known publication describing the Mahogany ship was a local newspaper in 1847 that mentioned a large wooden ship wrecked 2 miles from Warrnabool. This article went on to talk of debris and wreckage found in 1841 that were of French origin and might be related.

Another well known story and potential source of the origins of the mystery wreck is an account known as the 1836 Hopkins River Incident. In the story a commander of a Whaling Station at Port Fairy known as Captain Smith travelled with two other men to the islands off the coast of Warrnabool.

On this trip they capsized while trying to land near the mouth of the river Hopkins and barely survived to make it to shore. They were forced to walk back along the coast to their Whaling Station and along the way were said to have spotted a large wooden wreck, likely an old Spanish Galleon lying half buried in the sand.

Captain Smith was said to have recorded the details of the wreck and later a Captain Mills who was serving as Harbour master of Belfast near Warrnabool set out and searched for the wreck without success.

According to a researcher named Jenny Fawcett the story was likely older then it had been purported to be when it was put into print, she went on to discover that Captain Smith didnt record the wreck in his official journals and that Captain Mills never wrote of going in search of it despite it being a central part of the story.

She chalked it up to folklore and retellings of the story being embellished over the 19th century.

Clues to the Wrecks Location

If the wreck does exist then letters that were found in the records of several local papers may help to find it, in one from 1890 it was described as being Eastward along the coast until you reach a point of land on which an old Iron Church Stood and the wreck was said to lie somewhere along a straight line from that point towards Tower Hill Island.

Another letter in 1910 recounted a local farmers story of how in 1853 there was an old Wooden Shipwreck that lay beyond two large sand hills on the Merri River and this account even went on to mention the Wreck described in the 1890 letter but said this was a different ship.

A fictional book called the Recollections of Geoffrey Hamlyn written in 1859 references a wrecked ship and a footnote at the bottom of the page explains that such a wreck can be found in Portland Bay near Port Fairy. It's been claimed since then that this wreck was that of the Sally Ann that has been blamed several times for being mistaken for the Mahogany Ship.

The first account of the wreck that referred to it as 'Mahogany' was in 1876 when Captain John Mason of Port Fairy wrote to a Melbourne Newspaper in which be described a shipwreck near where he lived that was dark in nature and may have been Cedar or Mahogany. In a letter later written by the same man in 1890 he clarified that it was likely the dark colour may have been due to the wood rotting.

Since 1890 a large number of Searches have been carried out up and down the coastline near Warrnabool. These began with the Museum Curator Joseph Archibald leading a large party to search for the wreck and document the many stories and sightings reported.

A former Whaler named Hugh Donnelly also carried out a large search using purported bearings recorded by Captain Mills. The Victorian Government also sponsored a large search for it.

Archibald would go on to write and deliver a paper about the ancient wreck believed to lie somewhere near Warrnabool while the other searches at the time lead to little new information.

Later searches were carried out in the 1980's likely sparked by the various books and Symposia carried out at the time in Victoria. These searches were considered to be of varying professionalism with many sponsored by local businesses and many lacked any concrete facts to begin their search with some modern accounts of them showing they ranged well beyond where the wreck likely lay.

Supposed Artifacts

A wooden Amphora which is an old style of Vase dating back to the neolithic period was found in 1943 on a beach near where the wreck is rumoured to lie, the wood was later examined and found to be from North Africa.

A length of white oak wood of European Origin was found near that same beach in 2000 but is believed to likely be cargo from a wreck in 1908.

Two rulers and a Pen holder have also been volunteered as potentially being made from the wreck, all of these items were found to be made of wood native to New South Wales.

Possible Theories

Many today believe that if the wreck exists and is as described it may very well prove a long running theory that Australia was discovered long before the Duyfken arrived on its shores, these theories suggest it is of Spanish or Portuguese Origin. Many experts refuse to be drawn on this theory saying that until a wreck is found its origin can only be surmised.

Another Theory suggested the ship was the missing Spanish Galleon Santa Ysabel that vanished while sailing from Peru in 1595. This theory has been called into question with a discovery of a wrecked 15th-16th century Spanish Galleon on the sea floor near Indonesia during searches for MH370 in 2014.

Another theory that is growing in popularity since the early 2000's is that the wreck is that of an ancient Chinese Junk, the dark wood descriptions as well as a long standing local Aboriginal Story of 'Yellow Men' coming from the wreck has been suggested by Author Gavin Menzies to point to Chinese Explorers having discovered Australia long before Europeans, very few historians support this theory though it has proven popular with conspiracy theorists.

The Portugese Theory

The Portugese Theory is one that has existed since the 1970's, Author and Historian Kenneth McIntyre wrote extensively on the subject and provided some very credible details that to this day continue to find support.

In his theory, McIntyre alleges that the so-called Mahogany Ship was part of a large Portugese Expedition to the South Pacific undertaken by Cristóvão De Mendonça in 1522. This expedition had set out from the Molucca Islands to seek out an 'Island of Gold'.

McIntyre explained that little to no records of this voyage exist today as the Portugese were in breach of a treaty with Spain that named all territory south of the Mollucas as theirs, they would then have had to keep the discovery secret and hope to be able to take advantage of the knowledge later. He also has volunteered the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake as being responsible for the loss of most records kept about the voyage as it was responsible for the destruction of a vast number of Portugese documents at the time.

During this Voyage McIntyre states that the explorers discovered and then began to chart the Northern Australian Coastline. He then suggests that one of the Portugese Caravels was wrecked while sailing around Cape Howe near Warrnabool. The expedition later had to turn back due to a lack of supplies and all records and maps were locked away by the Portugese Authorities as they didnt want Spain to learn of it.

McIntyre has stressed in his book that while his Theory does include references to the Mahogany Ship and the Geelong Keys he in no way endorses those theories as there is little evidence to directly support them.

Proof of the Portugese Theory

The Principal Evidence in this Theory are a set of Maps known as The Dieppe Maps which were created in France in the 1540's. These maps depict a large landmass called 'Java La Grande' located lying between Indonesia and Antarctica over 60 years before Australias official discovery.

The Maps first came to be known in 1786 but it wasn't until the mid 19th century that a push started among British Historians to have history revised to show that Portugal had in fact discovered Australia first.

The maps contain French place names but also most tellingly the large land mass South of Indonesia carrys Portugese place names and some Historians believe these may have been a result of trade of information between France and Portugal at the time of even espionage leading to the original Portugese maps being taken to France and copied.

Historians have suggested that the Dieppe maps are simply a product of stories of a large landmass south of Indonesia being described by the natives and documented by Portugese Explorers without them being visited. The argument against this is that the Coastline in the maps is too close to the actual coastline to simply have been 3rd party information.

Artifacts have also been found along the Northern Australian Coast which are believed to be of Portugese Origin, whether they were left by explorers or washed up having been dropped into the sea thousands of miles north isnt known.

Other Historians have pointed to the nearest Portugese Colonies in the 16th Century lying only 600 miles from Northern Australia as proof enough that more then one of their ships may have strayed south enough to find the landmass.

Captain Cooks voyage along the the coast line of Australia has lead many to believe he likely had prior knowledge of the coast from a source such as the Dieppe Maps. His ship Endeavour struck a reef near Queensland and despite it being a potentially deadly event the ship managed to limp along for four days until it found a safe natural harbour later named Cooktown Harbour to make repairs.

In his Journal Captain Cook made an unusual comment that has puzzled historians for some time, "This Harbour will do excellently for our purposes, although it's not as large as I had been told." This has lead many to believe he possessed a chart similar to the Dieppe Maps that had a rudimentary outline of the Australian Coast on it. Historians have claimed he was likely referring to a lookout having pointed out the harbour but many have conceded it is an odd comment for the explorer to make, even with later documentation of the journal suggesting he had been referring to a smaller boat that had been sent ahead to scout out the harbour the theory he may have been referring to foreknowledge of the area cant be dismissed.

The Dieppe maps do contain errors such as the placement of Japan, a landmass south of Japan that isnt known to have ever existed as well as a small landmass off South America that also didnt exist but supporters of the theory say that these errors shouldn't be used to discount the uncanny placement of the Australian Continent.

Helen Wallis, the Keeper of Maps at the British Museum supports the Portugese Theory and has spoken many times on both the theory and the Dieppe Maps themselves. She elaborated on the theory further in these discussions saying that the Dieppe maps may have resulted from a Portugese map brought back by French Explorers to Sumatra in 1529 and when copied.

While the Dieppe maps remain a contentious topic in historical discussions it remains that the large Landmass that bears a close resemblance to the Northern Australian Coast on them cant be easily explained away.

Other Evidence of Portugese Influence in Australia

In the 1970's and 80's a German Linguist named Carl-Georg Von Brandenstein was investigating the Aboriginal people when he came upon the same theory from a different direction.

He discovered during his research that 60 spoken words used by the Aboriginal People living in the Australian North West were of Portugese Origin.

The Aboriginal people speak a language called Pilbara and Dr Von Brandenstein had found that various words used actually were derived from Portugese and Latin. He suggested when writing about these findings that the Aboriginal people living in the North West must have encountered Portugese Explorers or Traders Centuries before, it appeared that while these meetings may have been brief it was enough to alter the language used by these people noticeably.

Von Brandenstein later made other claims related to ancient roads and stone work in the Australian North West that Aboriginal People simply wouldn't have been capable of without foreign influence. Historians have called many of his findings into Question and said that it's impossible to tell from the Aboriginal language when they may have encountered Europeans for the first time.

A separate piece of evidence that has been suggested to show Portugese knowledge of Australia before the Official discovery is the displaying in 2014 of a mid-16th Century Portugese Manuscript, one page of which contained an illustration of what the Gallery and other Historians have claimed is a Kangaroo or Wallaby. Skeptics of this theory have stated that the animal depicted could easily be a poorly drawn Deer or Aardvark and the similarities to the famous Australian animal could be a coincidence.

Another well known piece of written evidence that is suggested to support the Australia discovered earlier then 1606 is an Atlas of the world called the Speculum Orbis Terrae written in 1593 that depicts 4 animals on its front cover, the animals shown are a Camel, Lion, Horse and a fourth animal that appears to have a pouch containing Offspring similar to a Kangaroo. Though skeptics again suggest the animal is based on a small Marsupial that was common to Indonesia at the time and the scale of the image may just appear wrong due to the other large animals.

Geelong Keys

The Superintendent of the Port Philip district, Charles La Trobe was searching a large number of marine deposits in 1847 related to Lime production in the area when he made an unusual discovery that continues to divide historians.

A worker at the site showed him two of a set of 5 keys he had found there the day before, the keys had reportedly been found among shells over 15 feet below their feet in a lime excavation. La Trobe became fascinated with the keys and believe they were likely 100-150 years old.

The earliest that European Explorers were known to have charted the area was 1802 and that meant that the keys may have been deposited by an earlier unknown expedition.

Kenneth McIntyre suggested in his book that the Geelong Keys as they were known may have belonged to Portugese or Spanish Explorers, the keys along with the 'Mahogany Ship' and other relics of African and European Origin found along the coastline over the years continue to be a subject of disagreement among historians.

Later investigations found the keys had been found at the bottom of the excavation and therefore could have fallen after becoming dislodged from any layer making identifying their year of origin impossible. A later pamphlet published by the Royal Society of Victoria about the keys recommended that they likely had been dislodged from a layer relating to over 200 years old, a later pamphlet circulated denying these claims.

The Geelong Keys and all Original known drawings of them have been lost for some time, La Trobe wrote himself that by the time they were shown to him the Lime Workers child had lost one and another had been given to a passer-by. La Trobe gave one to a friend while the last two went to a mechanical institution for study but ultimately disappeared when the institute went bankrupt.

The Kilwa Coins

In 1945 an RAAF Radar Operator found coins depicting the Kilwa Sultanate on the Australian Island of Marchinbar. In 2018 a coin depicting the Kilwa Sultanate was found on a beach on Elcho Island. These coins have been suggested to prove some sort of trade existed at the time between Australias Indigenous Population and the Sultanate or that Portugese, Spanish or Indonesian people using the currency had visited the Australian Islands.

Muhammed Arcone was a Portugese Puppet who was installed on the Kilwa Throne from 1505 to 1506. How the coins came to be on the Islands remains unexplained.

The Convict Ship Theory

A final theory about the Mahogany Ship that doesn't relate to wider theories of Australias discovery was advanced by Author Murray John's who suggested the Wreck seen by many people in the 18th and 19th century may infact have been a crude ship built by escaped convicts trying to escape Tasmania.

John's further claimed that other wrecks in the area may have been parts of the Schooner Prison Ship 'Unity' that was wrecked while transporting convicts to Tasmania and likely beached near Warrnabool.

Despite some efforts in the early 20th century to change the school curriculum in Australia and also to change the depiction of the discovery of Australia in museums there the Australian Government didn't support the theories around the Landmass being found by Portugal almost a Century before the Dutch landed there.

The McIntyre Book became listed on many school curriculums in the 1980's and more recently documentaries and revised sections of history books have shown a growing interest from the public to answer this question definitively.

In 1999 a Shipwreck searcher recovered wood fragments buried beneath the sands in the same area one of the wrecks was supposed to have been in the 19th century. Analysis of this wood showed they came from trees common to the United States and Europe but nothing else could be determined from them.

Tourists visiting the area these days can travel along the Mahogany Ship walking track and visit various sites the wreck is believed to have once laid.

What do you believe is the truth to the various claims around the Portugese discovery of Australia and the Mahogany Ship that might one day prove it?

Edit: I don't understand the anger and accusations of Bias directed at this post in the comments, clearly this was a discussion of whether the Dutch claim of European discovery of Australia was accurate. I mentioned more then once the Aboriginals having been there already and having likely met or seen these Europeans so obviously they were there first. I find myself saying this more and more on this subreddit lately so perhaps the Mods should step in and decide the issue but if you have nothing constructive to say here then don't say something negative.


Pathway to convict contractor William Richards - Contractor for the First Fleet. See Dan Byrnes´s production, The Blackheath Connection. On Richards´ various ambitions see The Blackheath Connection. Otherwise on Richards, see the file, thebc34.htm. (Pathways through the Labyrinth of Convictism)

A notable shipowner that Richards dealt with was Sir William Leighton (c.1750-1826), a London coal merchant recently re-researched by Gary Sturgess. Leighton was from a County Durham family, and had married one Mary. William had a brother George who married Elizabeth Swan and a sister Ann who married a butcher, James Wood. Sir William moved to London about 1779 after his father had died in 1774 and became a coal merchant shipping coal from Newcastle mostly using Whitby-built ships. He had a counting house at 18 Mark Lane, then was at the Coal Exchange. He first lived at Charlton, Kent, near Greenwich, and then at Kemnall House near Chiselhurst, a convenient eleven-mile commute into London. As a convict contractor he sent five ships in all to NSW, including several in the First Fleet. He perhaps had links with Martin Lindsay, also probably a minor convict contractor. After 1783, Leighton also send several ships as military transports to Quebec with Navy Board contracts. Leighton was Lord Mayor of London in 1806-1807, and continued as an alderman for Billingsgate till 1821. In 1796 he was on a committee of shipowners interested in the intended London Docks and Canal from Blackwall. In 1798 he was part of a committeee to supervise the appearance of a new register of shipping. As someone who took various government contracts, Leighton seems to have been a busy-but-modest man who got things done, his modesty meaning he made no publicity splashes in London life. As Lord Mayor he still remains little-known.

The ship Scarborough of the First Fleet was possibly part-owned by Hoppers and George Moorson. The latter was possibly actually one George Moorsom (sic) who has a known genealogy at Whitby, north of England.)

The ship Charlotte of the First Fleet was owned by William Matthews and Co., suggests Gary Sturgess. She was built in 1784 for [William] ]Matthews and Co. This William Matthews (died 1792) of London had a wife Charlotte Marlar (1759-1802, daughter of John Marlar died 1791 and Ann, John being son of Thomas a London calico printer. Thomas Marlar had a sister Susanna who married a gentleman, John Chandler) who probably gave the ship her name. See a wikipedia page on Matthew Boulton. Matthew Boulton of Watt and Boulton steam engine banked with Matthews, of 6 Green Lettice Lane, Cannon Street in the City of London. Matthews was a partner with Joseph Barton till their situation was dissolved 30 September 1779. Member of Society for Improvement of Naval Architecture. Matthews was London agent for Matthew Boulton by 1770 and his wife Charlotte continued as an agent for Boulton till 1801. The ship Charlotte then seems named then for Matthews' wife? Charlotte was built 1784 for William Matthews and Co. In 1789 Charlotte was owned by Thomas Bond and William Bond of Bond Court and Jonathan Fryer of Wapping. See also a Wikipedia page on Charlotte Captain Thomas Gilbert which after her run to Australia was sold to Bond and Co. of Walbrook for the Jamaica run, then sold to a Quebec merchant and lost off Newfoundland. Gilbert named Daniels Island, Pedder Island and Arrowsmith Island plus Fordyce´s Passage before Charlotte went to Macao. There was a William Bond at 4 Bonds Court Walbrook in 1792. Until 1789 one Benjamin Bond owned Bakers Coffee House in Exchange Alley, which he sold in 1789. (Per updates from Prof. Gary Sturgess who by 2017 has lodged this sort of information on webpages of Dictionary of Sydney. - Ed)

Other ships of the First Fleet. Alexander. Prince of Wales. Friendship. Lady Penrhyn. Borrowdaile. Fishburn. Golden Grove. HM Sirius (naval). HM Supply (naval).

Shipping/contractor names associated with the First Fleet include James Mather, better seen as a whaling investor.

James Mather (1738-1796), whaling investor, is thought to have married Jane Whale (1739-1807) and had three children, to named James and Thomas. He was sometime of 12 Birchin Lane, Cornhill. Mather bought Cook´s ship Endeavour from the navy once Cook had returned from his first voyage of exploration. He renamed her Lord Sandwich and re-hired her for naval use the ship was caught up in the American War, captured by the Americans and finally scuttled at Newport, Rhode Island, as part of an American blockade of that water to deny it to the British. Mather is mentioned only sporadically in relation to whaling in American or Pacific waters, presumably since he remained active in the Greenland Whale Fishery. Mather by 1784 leased land which was part of Blackwall Yard, its western section, perhaps with an Orchard House with a Thames RIver frontage, whicvh land was leased to the East India Co. in 1804. Mather used this land blubber boiling and whale oil extraction. In the early 1790s, Mathers leased land from Perrys, known as East Quay, to land Greenland whaling product. When Mather died in 1796 his three sons continued his business till 1803, when they leased land to the EICo, probably because the Greenland whaling trade had lost force in London and had anyway moved to Hull and Whitby. By 1797, John and Thomas Mather with partner John Anderson (so far unknown) were in whaling business at Mark Lane, London. The Mather family is noted in a book on the dark side of Captain James Cook. Apparently near the Orchard House, Sir Robert Fitzwigramn, who was also a convict contractor, had a freehold estate.

Essay Section by Dan Byrnes

By 15 September, 1786 William Richards had offered three ships to Government for "The First Fleet". By 19 September, William Richards Jnr. and Fernie (who remains still unknown) contacted the East India Company directors offering Scarborough, Brothers, and William and Mary, then Scarborough, Brothers, William and Mary, Britania (sic) and Brittania (sic) to carry tea cargoes. By 25 September, the East India Company had surveyed at least three of Richards' ships, so that he could properly tender their use. The idea had increasingly taken hold that the costs of the exercise to government - (perhaps to the king's Civil List?) - would be lessened by bringing home tea from Canton. (By 23 September, William Wilberforce had been responsible for recommending the Rev. Richard Johnson as chaplain for the new colony).

Bateson,The Convict Ships, p. 80. A ship named Prince of Wales owned by James Mather, a South whaler, built at Sidmouth, 1779, captained by a John Mason, was not the POW of Fleet 1. But the Mather-owned POW may have been the ship POW sent by John and Cadman Etches mentioned by J. H. Meares, but the second POW was also owned by Mather. Shaw, Convicts and The Colonies, p. 76, Note 2. Pitt to Wilberforce, 23 Sept. 1796. Byrnes, `Emptying The Hulks', Note 29. In 1793, James Mather, was of Cornhill, managing a wharf at Blackwall. Other whale fishery wharves were Paul's wharf, Mr. Lucas' wharf at Rotherhithe.
Information for the name Borrodaile (Borradaile) is sketchy and indeterminate. William Borrodaile (died 1826) dealt in the Australian trade and became a member of the Van Diemen's Land Company he was perhaps the brother of a woman who married into the Lloyd family of bankers? (George Sugden Le Couteur, Colonial Investment Adventure, 1824-1855: a comparative study of the establishment and early investment experiences in New South Wales, Tasmania and Canada, of four British companies. Ph.D. thesis, Sydney University. 1978., presents a list of members of the Van Diemen's Land Company, list of 1826. Broeze, Brooks, variously). William Borrodaile of Surrey was possibly the trader who had a first fleet ship? (Burke's Landed Gentry for Lloyd of Dolorbran.) He was of Bedford Hill, Streatham, Surrey. William Money was an East India Company shipowner, active 1790. (He was probably the one in Burke's Peerage and Baronetage for Boxall with a daughter who married William Percival Boxall and see also, for Chatfield, with a daughter of one William Money noted. (Chatterton, Mercantile Marine, pp. 94ff) Richard Borradaile Lloyd (1839-1913) was a London banker, son of Richard Harman Lloyd and Isabella Mary Borradaile he married Catherine Jean Campbell Money. (Burke's Landed Gentry for Lloyd of Dolorbran. Julia Money (died 1902), was daughter of Rev. William Money, noted in Burke's Peerage and Baronetage for Ryder/Harrowby. In general, the Borradaile descent involves the later names, Money, Gurney and Lloyd the banking family. See also, Burke's Peerage and Baronetage for Wigram.

The shipowners Richards dealt with as he gathered the First Fleet included London coal merchant William Leighton, Hoppers of Scarborough, William Walton and Co., the whaler James Mather and the Greenland whaler, alderman William Curtis, (though most of these merchants did not continue their involvements with the Pacific).

Whether he realised it or not at the time, Richards would develop numerous worthy ideas about servicing the new colony's needs for shipping. But also whether he knew it or not, he was inviting the competition of merchants who wished to see the Pacific explored commercially. Richards' more idealistic ideas were inimical to their ambitions.

So Richards gathered other ships: the Three Brothers, Friendship, Britannia, Scarborough, Lady Penrhyn, later Alexander in lieu of Friendship, then Golden Grove in lieu of Three Brothers and Borrowdale in lieu of Young William (Young William may have been a whaler owned by the whaler Daniel Bennet, later of Blackheath). Later, Richards tendered Fishburne and another Friendship to complete his contract.
Oldham, his original thesis: Wilfrid Oldham, The Administration of the System of Transportation of British Convicts, 1763-1793. Ph.D. thesis. London University. 1933., pp. 415, 430, 468, 430.

Richard's own ideas for use of the ships were well in line with government policy on the colony's purpose and likely development, and would have been useful if pursued. Government, as though in contempt of its own guidelines, first pulled the rug from under him by accepting tenders much cheaper than Richards' and allowing an atrocity to occur - the Second Fleet - then allowing a consortium of whalers and slavers - the Third Fleet - to organise more shipping than Richards could organise.

But who paid for it all? It seems, the First Fleet transportation was paid for from the king's Civil List. Maxine Young, writes: "Before 1815, it was the practise to borrow money from the king's current Civil List revenues to pay the running costs of New South Wales and other expenses concerning the colony. The money advanced was repaid by parliament in the next Miscellaneous Supply Grants."
Paying for the new convict colony from the king's Civil List might be the explanation for one striking feature of the exercise - it was consistently underfunded. If so, any notion of the new colony being an Imperial venture is given a slightly different complexion - a complexion suffused with the hues of royal outrage at the continued state of crime, at men unworthy, in the king's eyes, to remain in the kingdom!
Maxine Young, 'The British administration of New South Wales, 1786-1812', pp. 23-41., in J. J. Eddy and J. R. Nethercote, From Colony to Coloniser: Studies in Australian Administrative History. Sydney, Hale and Iremonger, 1987.

Follows an impression of the family history of London Lord Mayor (1795-1796) Sir William Curtis
Descendants of Joseph Wapping CURTIS, (b.1715d.1771) business of sea biscuits at Wapping and sp: Mary TENNANT (d.1789)
2. London Lord Mayor, Freemason, Sir William CURTIS, Bart1 (b.1752d.1829) sp: Anne CONSTABLE (m.9 Nov 1776d.7 May 1853)
3. Investor in Australian Agric. Co., Charles CURTIS (b.1795d.1878) sp: Miss NOTKNOWN
4. Charles William CURTIS sp: Miss NOTKNOWN 4. Henry Downing CURTIS 4. Maj-General DSO, Reginald CURTIS (b.1863d.1922) sp: Hilda Margaret BARRINGTON (m.1894d.1929)
3. George CURTIS (b.10 Sep 1784) 3. Banker Timothy Abraham CURTIS, investor in Australian Agricultural Co. (b.30 Jan 1786d.1857) sp: Margaret Harriet GREEN wife1 (m.1809d.8 Jun 1847) 4. Lt.-General William Frederick CURTIS 4. Colonel James Charles CURTIS sp: Frances Pitt (Browne?) CONSTABLE (m.17 May 1851) 3. Sir William CURTIS, Bart2 (b.2 Mar 1782d.1847) sp: Mary-Anne LEAR (m.19 Nov 1803d.1864) 4. Sir William CURTIS, Bart3 (b.26 Aug 1804) sp: Georgina STRATTON (m.18 May 1831) 4. George CURTIS (b.15 Sep 1805) 3. Rebecca Mary CURTIS sp: RN Capt. Timothy CURTIS 4. Army Capt. Constable CURTIS (d.30 Mar 1909) sp: Henrietta Mary Anne ADAMS, cousin
2. Biscuit baker, Freemason, Timothy CURTIS of Hackney (b.1743d.1804) sp: Elizabeth WILDBORE, (a cousin) 3. William CURTIS 2. James CURTIS (b.1750d.1835) 2. Rev. Charles CURTIS, Bengal India (b.1784d.1805) sp: Miss NOTKNOWN 3. RN Capt Timothy CURTIS sp: Rebecca Mary CURTIS 4. Capt. (army) Constable CURTIS (d.30 Mar 1909)

December 1786: A London wit wrote satirically:
Away with those whimsical bubbles of air,
Which only excite a momentary stare
Attentions to plans of utility pay,
Weigh anchor, and steer for Botany Bay.
Let no one think much of a trifling expense,
Who knows what may happen a hundred years hence?
The loss of America what can repay?
New colonies seek for at Botany Bay.

Lady Penrhyn was owned by Alderman (later, Sir) William Curtis. She was also chartered by alderman Macaulay once she'd left Sydney to go to Nootka Sound for seal furs under Lt. John Watts, but ended arriving at Tahiti, thence China, before Bligh arrived at Tahiti in HMAV Bounty (as noted above).

Lady Penrhyn, convict transport, females only, 333 tons, Capt William Crofton Sever of 12 Princess Square, Ratcliffe Highway. Chief mate Nicholas Anstis, (master of Surprise of the Second Fleet). Took prisoners at Deptford or Spithead. Owner, alderman William Curtis. Possibly built Thames, 1786 and therefore her maiden voyage? Under East India Company Charter, departing Sydney in May 1788 after discharge from government employ in March. On leaving Sydney, taking a declaration from Gov. Phillip, proceeded east, Capt. Sever in July naming Macaulay and Curtis Islands after the owner and the alderman having chartered the vessel to obtain furs on the North-west American Coast. As the crew by then had scurvy, the ship went to Tahiti, thence China for a cargo of tea. The vessel may possibly have been named for the Lady of Richard Pennant, Lord Penrhyn, Chairman of the Planters and Merchants of the West Indies. Vessel later sold to the London firm of Wedderburns and put to the London -Jamaica run. E. A. Stackpole in "Whales and Destiny" presumes her voyage was an exploration of potential whaling grounds.
Lloyd's Lists of this period indicate - Also to China was alderman G.M. Macaulay's ship Pitt, Capt. G. Couper. Some other ships registered with Lloyds that year (1786-1787) were the First Fleet ships, Scarborough, Capt. J. Marshall, owned by Thomas Hopper, to Botany Bay, and Prince of Wales, Capt. J. Mason, for Botany Bay, owned by South Whaler J(ames) Mather of Cornhill.

Prince of Wales, Capt. John Mason. Convict transport, 350 tons. Mason died, being replaced by Samuel Moore on the voyage home. Ship built Thames in 1786. Launched 12 August after building by Christopher Watson and Co. Departed Sydney to be in England via Cape Horn and Rio, reaching Falmouth on 22 March 1788, at Deptford April 30. Owned by James Mather, South whaler, merchant of Cornhill. This vessel later continued to sail out of London. However, another view is that Prince of Wales (the First Fleet ship) had been built by Christopher Watson and Co. of Thames Yards. There were a John and a James Mather at Finsbury Square, London, it is yet unknown if they were related.

Alexander, 445 tons, Capt. Duncan Sinclair. Convict transport. The largest ship of First Fleet. Owners, Walton and Co. of Southwark, firm headed by William Walton. Took late-arriving convicts before she sailed. Surgeon, William Balmain. Some 16 male convicts died before she sailed. Left Sydney about 13-14 July, 1788, in company with Borrowdale, Friendship and Prince of Wales.

Storeship Fishburn, 378 tons, owned by Sir William Leighton. Capt. Robert Brown, storeship, 378 tons. Acting mate, Keltie, sometime RN. First mate is [Archibald?] Armstrong. Discharged from government employ on 18 November, 1788, being delayed whilst cellars were built ashore for Fishburn's cargo of three years' supply of rum. Thence England via Cape Horn and Rio de Janeiro for England in company with Golden Grove, until losing sight of her on 11 April 1789 at Falklands for recovery of sick members. She arrived home to be discharged from HM service at Deptford on 25 May 1789.

Storeship Borrowdale owner, William Leighton, 275 tons, departing 13 May 1787 as part of First Fleet. Contracted by William Richards Jnr. Crew of around 20. Capt. Hobson Reed (also perhaps known as Readihon Hobson?). Second mate was one William Richards (it is not known if he was a relative of Richards the fleet contractor). Departed Sydney 14 July, 1788 for England via Cape Horn and Rio as one of the ships in government employ for the round trip, under the direction of Lt. John Shortland, agent for the Transport Department. Crew so bad with scurvy that by mid-October, her captain took her into Rio de Janeiro.

Storeship Golden Grove, Capt. William Sharp. Storeship, 375 tons, owners unknown. First mate Simms, later on William and Ann of the Third Fleet. Departing England 13 May 1787. On this vessel came colony chaplain Rev. Richard Johnson. Left Sydney on 12 October 1788 to take 21 male and 11 female convicts to Norfolk Island. On 19 November 1788, left in company with Fishburn, both storeships delayed for want of a storehouse to hold their cargo (says Gillen who lists some crew). Home via Cape Horn. Also stayed at Falklands as crew had scurvy. (Gillen says she was 331 tons.) Later she was possibly put on Liverpool-Jamaica run, disappears from records.
References various: Bateson, Gillen, Founders of Australia.

Friendship, convict transport, 274 tons. Owned by George Moorson with Thomas, George and John Hopper of Scarborough. Capt. Thos. Walton. Master, Francis Walton. Ship scuttled on way home 14 July 1788 in Straits of Macassar in company with Alexander as crew bad with scurvy, resulting in a legal battle by owners, so annoying the contractor, William Richards. The case put to Treasury for reimbursement dragged on for several years (see contents of a later file here). Took prisoners aboard at Plymouth. Carrying some prisoners from the Mercury mutiny including John Best.

Charlotte. Convict transport, 375 tons, probably owned by William Matthews. Capt. Thomas Gilbert (not to be confused with Capt. John Gilbert of the Second Fleet, first appointed to the Neptune, with whom John Macarthur duelled before Gilbert was replaced by Capt. Donald Trail).). Out of government employ by 25 March, 1788. Departed 13 May 1787, from Portsmouth, part of First Fleet. Charlotte was later sold to Bond and Co., Walbrook merchants, and put to the London-Jamaica run, according to Bateson.
1 December, 1788: Alexander Duncan at Canton, a correspondent of Sir Joseph Banks, as was Alexander's brother, mentioned to Banks one Capt. Gilbert of a Botany Bay ship, a stuffed "kon-goroo" aboard which weighed 70 lbs. Alex Duncan was surgeon to the EICo factory, sought Banks' favours, which later were granted. (Dawson, Banks Letters, p. 281)

Scarborough. Convict transport, 430 tons, owned by Hoppers of Scarborough. Captain John Marshall. (The Hopper Islands were named for them.) Had an EICo charter for China tea. This ship was later placed in the Second Fleet for different contractors.
Shipowners Hoppers are listed in Treasury Board Papers petitioners with others letting ships to the Transport Board, T1/695, Reel 3553. They were the only shipowners letting vessels to NSW who were familiar as shipowners with the Transport Board, a fact probably meaning they already knew William Richards. Capt. William Richards, son of the First Fleet contractor, later commanded the convict transports Prince Regent, I, (3) in 1827 Roslin Castle, in 1833-34-35 to NSW.
(Bateson, The Convict Ships, pp. 347ff. See also Connah, Rowland and Oppenheimer, Captain Richard's House at Winterbourne - A Study In Historical Archaeology. Dept. of Prehistory and Archaeology, University of New England. 1978. Ch. 5.
Hoppers of Scarborough whose name was commemorated in the Hopper Islands named by Marshall. Made a second trip to Sydney with the second fleet, contractor being Calvert. (Capt. Marshall also named another island after Constantine John Phipps.)

Storeship Fishburn, 378 tons, owned by Leightons. Capt. Robert Brown, storeship, 378 tons. Acting mate, Keltie, sometime RN. First mate is [Archibald?] Armstrong. Discharged from government employ on 18 November, 1788, being delayed whilst cellars were built ashore for Fishburn's cargo of three years' supply of rum. Thence England via Cape Horn and Rio de Janeiro for England in company with Golden Grove, until losing sight of her on 11 April 1789 at Falklands for recovery of sick members. She arrived home to be discharged from HM service at Deptford on 25 May 1789.

Storeship Borrowdale owners, Leightons, 275 tons, departing 13 May 1787 as part of First Fleet. Contracted by William Richards Jnr. Crew of around 20. Capt. Hobson Reed (also perhaps known as Readihon Hobson?). Second mate was one William Richards (it is not known if he was a relative of Richards the fleet contractor). Departed Sydney 14 July, 1788 for England via Cape Horn and Rio as one of the ships in government employ for the round trip, under the direction of Lt John Shortland, agent for the Transport Department. Crew so bad with scurvy that by mid-October, Capt. took her into Rio de Janeiro.

Storeship Golden Grove, Capt. William Sharp. Storeship, 375 tons, owners unknown. First mate Simms, later on William and Ann of the Third Fleet. Departing England 13 May 1787. . On this vessel came colonly chaplain Rev. Richard Johnson. Left Sydney on 12 October 1788 to take 21 male and 11 female convicts to Norfolk Island. On 19 Nov. 1788, left in company with Fishburn, both storeships delayed for want of a storehouse to hold their cargo (says Gillen who lists some crew). Home via Cape Horn. Also stayed at Falklands as crew had scurvy. (Gillen says she was 331 tons.) Later she was possibly put on Liverpool-Jamaica run, later disappears from records.
References various: Bateson, Gillen, Founders of Australia.

Note: 26 March, 1789: Francis Masson at Cape Town sends Banks 422 species of seeds and or bulbs, per Alexander transport from NSW. (Carter, Banks, 1988. Noted from pp. 560ff, Appendix XIA)

1788: Across decades, revisionist have been afoot about the first British governor of Australia, Arthur Phillip. Many writers have seen him a small man doing an inadequate job, some kind of failure. A newly-arising view (January 2002) is that he was "a man of considerable intellect, widely read, a son of the European Enlightement, a gentleman proud to dine in his home with Sydney's most powerful Aboriginal warriors and a dedicated adherent to the rule of law", and also "organisationally brillant" with commanding the First Fleet (all from former NSW premier, Bob Carr). Professor in Australian History at University of New England, Alan Atkinson, rather demurs. Town planning was not one of Phillip's strengths, and the governor was "a highly imaginative authoritarian", he said. (Reported 26 January 2002, Australia Day)

Even by December 1788, decisions on "Botany Bay" were still fluid. Nepean had an idea that Nova Scotia might be settled as an alternative to NSW, that matters were flexible, that destinations could be changed. On 1 December, the Recorder of London had a long conference with Lord Sydney. The Times reported that the "The season is over for sending them [convicts] to Quebec or Nova Scotia, but assurances have been given that two ships, properly fitted up, shall be ready [within months] to carry convicts to America." There was an idea to send some men to Newfoundland in the fleet for the next season.
David L. Mackay, A Place of Exile: The European Settlement of New South Wales. Melbourne, Oxford University Press, 1985., p. 58. Ged Martin, 'The Alternatives to Botany Bay', pp. 152-168 in Ged Martin, (Ed.), The Founding of Australia: The Argument about Australia's Origins. Sydney, Hale and Iremonger, 1978.


Community Reviews

A brief survey of this book revealed that my sister and I had given it to our father for his birthday in 1994. It is a curious book that sails at a fair clip through Captain Cook&aposs life. We&aposd seen some kind of exhibit about Cook in Whitby once when we were on holiday. Cook joined the royal navy in his late twenties after some years on colliers bring coal from north-east England to places in want of it. In the navy he participated in the conquest of Canada during which he was taught the rudiments A brief survey of this book revealed that my sister and I had given it to our father for his birthday in 1994. It is a curious book that sails at a fair clip through Captain Cook's life. We'd seen some kind of exhibit about Cook in Whitby once when we were on holiday. Cook joined the royal navy in his late twenties after some years on colliers bring coal from north-east England to places in want of it. In the navy he participated in the conquest of Canada during which he was taught the rudiments of surveying- one of the curiosities of the time was that training seems to have been effectively by means of apprenticeship and an officer's skills derived from those he had served with. Cook, although just a warrant officer at the time had sufficiently demonstrated his skill as surveying to be appointed to lead a two ship expedition to observe the transit of Venus from Tahiti. They took with them Joseph Banks with two Swedes (gentlemen of that northern nation well acquainted with the principles of Carl Linnaeus rather than the vegetables), two painters, and sealed instructions.

On this voyage they observed the transit of Venus, surveyed the coast of New Zealand, ran aground on the great barrier reef and lost about a third of the crew to disease in Dutch Batavia(view spoiler) [ too my surprise the Dutch were also prone to scurvy - so apparently they were no sauerkraut eaters either (hide spoiler)] , this was a great success as typically half the crew might be lost to scurvy. Cook was committed to the health of his crew, insisting that they eat sauerkraut and wash their clothes when ever there was enough fresh water - so he could not help but notice that many of the crew after Tahiti had contracted venereal disease , brought to the island in Cook's opinion by the dastardly Spanish - except they hadn't, it was Yaws disease - in any case the afflicted men were treated with arsenic injections.

Cook was promoted and put in charge of a second expedition to find the hypothetical great southern continent consisting of theResolution and the Adventure away from Cook's watchful eye on-board the Adventure the crew skipped eating their sauerkraut and suffered from scurvy instead, given independent command the Adventure skedaddled for home and got back to Britain a year before Cook who instead discovered South Georgia on his way back from Easter Island.

Generally among European states there was a tension between producing accurate charts and state security, part of Cook's work was correcting possibly deliberately inaccurate foreign maps, the Dutch even left some islands off their charts to discourage unwelcome visitors. There was some sense to this from a colonial point of view as Cook was trying to muscle the French out of Tahiti, while the Spanish had turned up there between his 2nd and 3rd voyages with a couple of priests and a cow or two to claim the island for his Majesty Charles III.

In Britain, Cook contemplated retirement but instead volunteered to lead an expedition to uncover the then mythical north-west passage, only now thanks to global warming emerging from the ice. George III, a kindly monarch, had been troubled by reports of the warfare on Tahiti, feeling that if the people were occupied with animal husbandry instead that they would be too busy to fight each other. Cook was commissioned to carry breeding pairs of livestock to the islanders(view spoiler) [ as a rule they took goats in any case to provide milk for the officers (hide spoiler)] . The beasts drink a lot and require forage and many die when they were allowed ashore at Cape colony. So when Cook starts to give out these well travelled animals to the people of Tonga he tries to impress upon them how inordinately expensive they are. The remaining livestock he gifted to the Tahitians and then sailing north he happened across Hawaii, where upon returning to the island from the north-west coat of Canada he was killed on the beach.

There's a good wind in the sails that carries Hough's narrative briskly along, but he never gets us close to Cook, who remains firmly in his cabin. This is slightly curious since in his introduction Hough makes claims for the distinctiveness of Cook particularly in his attitudes to the Polynesians (still, whatever Cook's own attitudes, locals were fired upon and sometimes killed though not always upon Cook's orders), and since not only are Cook's own journals in print but it is clear from Hough's text that there are enough accounts written by other participants on these voyages that he can point out when Officers omitted some occurrence from the official log. So the book strikes me more as an account of Cook's voyages than as a biography.

Many of the crew had picked up a bit of Tahitian language and much to my surprise (and perhaps theirs too) this was understood in New Zealand and Hawaii.

This being the 18th century the crew eat anything (apart from sauerkraut and Walrus steaks) that moves when ever they make landfall they also trade ship's stores, in particular nails, for sex where and whenever they come across women (view spoiler) [Sodomy was punishable by death under the articles of war, however Hough says, without offering evidence, that Cook turned a blind eye to instances of it (hide spoiler)] . They trade Tahitian cloth to the Maoris for food, and Cook plants European vegetables whenever he gets the opportunity. One Taihitian was taken to Britain and then brought back on the third voyage, he also acquired a pair of Maori boys as servants.

Hough says that Cook's particular bad temper on his third voyage was caused, not just by reaching the age of fifty, but from having picked up a parasite on his second voyage which consumed his B vitamins leaving him depressed and ill tempered. This reminded me of the parasite one can apparently pick up from cats that once it has affected the brain leaves the sufferer inclined to take risks and to die in car accidents.

Hough is also of the opinion that the Hawaiians literally regarded Cook as a god and so were particularly annoyed when he returned, there is though apparently some debate over this. Hough presents European contact with Polynesians only from one perspective so they are all thieves, though Maori are in addition martial and inclined to eat people. Still a reader might feel that getting to know about these isolated societies might be a highlight of a book about Cook.

Cook left a widow in a modest two up, two down house on Mile End road- long since demolished, who outlived all their sons (who all ended up in the navy). I was left curious about the fate of the animals - did they thrive or were they eaten? . more