Journals of Captain Cook Go Online

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Members of the project say they chose the word "companion" to describe the approach because they want the online resource to serve as a "trusted guide" for users, providing not only basic information but also critical reflections on the original writings and other major works of the period.

"Our goal is to bring together, virtually, this wealth of cultural heritage," said team member Paul Turnbull of James Cook University and Australian National University.

The complete text of the holograph manuscript of Cook's Endeavour Journal will be available, along with the full text of the journal kept by Joseph Banks during the voyage and the text of all three volumes of John Hawkesworth's Account of the Voyages Undertaken…in the Southern Hemisphere (1773).

Other resources will include important manuscripts, books, and pamphlets relevant to the great voyages of the period. William Falconer's Universal Dictionary of the Marine (1780 edition), for example, gives readers a comprehensive guide to terms from "aback" to "yawl."

Dozens of other sources expound on topics such as the essential discipline of flogging, the function of an azimuth compass, and the transit of Venus (an eclipse-like occurrence observed during the voyage, when Venus passes between Earth and the sun).

Cross-Cultural Encounters

Such background information is just the beginning, according to Turnbull and his team. The online records will also include more than 1,000 digital images and maps from museum collections. Eventually, the team plans to add digital images of the many cultural artifacts acquired by Cook and others during their voyages.

These artifacts, especially when paired with digital videos and enhanced by the expertise of scholars, will help convey the experiences of indigenous peoples as they encountered the Europeans and witnessed the voyages, the team members say. "It extends history beyond the official record by looking at cross-cultural encounters from different perspectives," said Agnew.

The Endeavour, christened the Earl of Pembroke, was a ship of the North Sea coal trade with ample storage space and quite shallow draught—a factor that may have saved the expedition when the ship ran aground on Endeavour Reef.

Cook sailed the ship with more than 90 people aboard, including scientists, sailors, and, as on every ship of the Royal Navy, a contingent of Marines.

They had frequent encounters with local inhabitants of the South Seas—a range of interactions from trade and music-making to violence and sex. And as the mystery of the previously uncharted territory vanished during the voyages, the exotic life proved irresistible at times.

On Monday, July 10, 1769, Cook somberly noted in his journal the absence of two crew members: "The 2 Marines not returning this morning I began to enquire after them & was inform'd by some of the Natives that they were gone to the Mountains & that they had got each of them a Wife & would not return."

Eventually, the wayward troops were rounded up and returned to the Endeavour.

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