On 25th August 1768, Captain James Cook set sail on board the
adapted North Sea Collier, HMB Endeavour, from Plymouth. This was the
first of his three voyages to the Pacific, and the aim of the expedition
was to reach Tahiti in order to observe a transit of Venus across the
sun on June 3rd 1769 and to search for the Great Southern Continent.
HMB Endeavour was twice as long as Tintin; it carried a crew of 94
people, and provisions for 18 months. The passage across the Bay of
Biscay was very stormy and some of the deck cargo, including many hens,
were washed overboard. First port of call was Madeira where Cook took
on board 3000 gallons of Madeira wine.
250 years and 2 days later, Tintin set off from Salcombe, 20 miles east
of Plymouth, also bound for Tahiti via Madeira. We had a beautifully
calm crossing of the Bay of Biscay and no deck cargo was lost overboard.
Cook's route took him around Cape Horn. We had an easier time via the
After leaving Tahiti in July, Cook spent some time exploring the
other Society Islands. He spent time here at Raiatea, which is thought
to have been the religious, cultural and political centre of the
Polynesian islands. Marae Taputapuatea (a marae is a sacred site
where human sacrifices were sometimes made) is one of the most sacred
places in Polynesia, and it is said that canoes left to colonise the
Pacific from here.
Tupaia was a navigator priest from Raiatea who joined Captain Cook and helped the expedition
with translation and diplomacy, as well as navigation. His memory is
being celebrated in Polynesia this year, especially here on Raiatea.
At the regatta we met Tahi, the helm of the green sailing canoe team
(he's in the photo of the sailing canoe in our regatta blog). It was
fascinating to talk to him. He is a direct descendant of
Tupaia, and a traditional navigator and Polynesian cultural expert.
In the past he has worked with the British Museum and the Maritime
Musuem in Greenwich on restoration of Polynesian canoes. The
importance to Polynesians in maintaining their cultural identity with
traditions (particularly in dance, drumming, tatoos and canoeing) has
been evident during our time here.