"The Endeavour Eruption: An Exploration of Tahiti"
by: Benjamin Thomas, Ayanda Francis, Brian Caffrey, Clark Shelton, Chris Tynan, and Stephanie Horton

Introduction

In 1768, Captain James Cook along with Joseph Banks, Daniel Solander, Sydney Parkinson and other crew members set out on a royally commissioned voyage to chart the Transit of Venus in the Pacific. They reached the island from where they were to document Venus in 1769; the island was called “Otahiti” by the natives. Though they stayed only three months on the island and did not achieve their original goal to the accurate degree they were intending, it was certainly one of the most influential and important events on the Endeavour and even the history of British romantic science. On the isle, they met and befriended the natives and in doing so learned about the differences between the two cultures, both physiologically and culturally. For example, the most popular and controversial aspect of the Tahitian culture to the British people was the uninhibited sexuality of these native people, and the crews’ willingness to take part in the customs. In “Southern passions mix with northern art: Miscegenation the Endeavour Voyage Bridget Orr states that “the mass of satirical and sentimental verse that registered
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A portrait of the most notable Endeavor passengers

the reception of the voyage material was devoted largely to reconscriptions of miscegenation” .

The Endeavour voyagers also discovered and cataloged many different species of plants in addition to charting astronomical phenomenon. They expected only to chart the movement of Venus across the sky but instead made discoveries in botany, physiology, and astronomy that affected the British romantic scientific and literary communities (Orr 212-231)




Physiology of the People


Tahiti became the gem of the Endeavour Voyage not simply for its astronomical benefits or unique and rare plants but primarily for its people. The crew of the Endeavour Voyage had great interaction with the Tahitian people which in turn inspired a nation (Banks “The Endeavour Voyage”). The Tahitian people offered new physiological and anthropological grounds for the English people. Joseph Banks was distracted from his other ventures while interacting with the Oceanians such as Tupaia and Mai. His notes and friendships contributed to the great intrigue the Tahitians created (Vanessa Smith 139-160). The intrigue even went as far to inspire plays such as “Omai, or, a Trip round the World,” by John O’Keefe. From their appearance to their customs, the islanders were like nothing ever seen before. Vanessa Smith from the Department of English at the University of Sydney spoke of them as “cultural informants.” The cultural influence of the Tahitians played a part in overshadowing the breadth of scientific contributions they provided. Their sexuality
William_Lawrence.jpg
William Lawrence
garnered far more attention than their physicality. At the time, anthropology and physiology were relatively young sciences. It took some time for the significance in these sciences from the Tahitians to become evident. They appeared in Sir William Lawrence’s “Lectures on Physiology, Zoology, and the Natural History of Man” almost five decades later. Lawrence comments on the tattoos of the Tahitians, their skin color, complexion, and facial expressions. These are the impacts that are hard to measure from the direct accounts of the Endeavour Voyage. England had a preconception of Asian Homo sapiens, but the islands in the pacific opened the door to how humans could evolve in remote locations to be entirely unique (Lawrence 281-282). Anthropologically speaking, the Tahitians were the perfect case study, completely secluded. It was exceedingly easy for scientists afterward to isolate concepts like inheritance, sexual selection, and inbreeding(Lawrence 532). It is somewhat ironic that these concepts are so closely related to botany, a science Tahiti contributed so much too. The portraits of Omai, a Tahitian that came back with the Endeavour voyage, often depict him in a Greek fashion with a white robe. The characteristics of the Tahitians were best studied through the notes of the ship members. Once the mainland got hold of the Tahitian interest, pop culture took over. Scholars struggle with the relationship among Banks, Cook, and the Tahitians. Recent writings take too much of the voyage aftermath into effect instead of the actual voyage notes (Smith 155). The Tahitians had a custom called Taio. It was a mode of bond friendship created when individuals would exchange names and promise a future of goods, service, and sexual partner exchanges. The sexual partner exchange is the notable one here. Certain groups in Tahiti procreated with other groups sometimes for generations producing interesting inheritance traits that were studied by anthropologists at the time (Smith 159). These exchanges tied in to Lawrence’s on zoology; that humans should choose mates based on certain traits in a manner similar to breeding cattle for the best results. One of the reasons ideas such as these did not sprout from the Endeavour Voyage sooner was because they were so controversial at the time. Religion still focused on a more conservative sense of what makes a human human.






Botany in Tahiti


During the Romantic Period, botany was viewed as a very prominent science. This science was technical, and the name of each newly discovered plant was based on the Linnaean taxonomical system. Although the main point of the Endeavor Voyage to Tahiti was to observe the transit of Venus across the Sun, Joseph Banks and Sydney Parkinson took quite a keen interest in the plant life on Tahiti. Banks took a new route with the Linnaean system by even creating his own genus. The genus he created after himself was called Banksia (Gilbert 55). Preparing for the journey across the world, Banks needed an artist to capture the image of his newly discovered plants. That artist was Sydney Parkinson. Parkinson had great responsibilities on the voyage. He captured nearly a thousand of Banks’
Banksia_serrata.jpg
Banksia serrata

discoveries and even more of his own in drawings before his death in 1771 (Parkinson). These drawings and Banks’ botanical line engravings were later put into a collection
called Banks’ Florilegium. Tahiti was such an unknown area that within the first two weeks Banks was discovering countless plant specimens. Over the course of the Endeavour Voyage, Banks had gathered over thirty thousand plants specimens, 1400 of which were the first specimens of their kind (Chown 62). Banks’ botany paved the way to his own legacy. In Sydney, Australia, there are suburbs that have been named after him, such as Bankstown, Banksia, and Banksmeadow (“Canberra’s” 1). Although botany seemed to be just a normal science, people began to view Banks’ discoveries as “the aggrandizement of the power and commerce of Great Britain” (Franklin 122). In Banks’ journal, he did not seem interested in botany for the money but he was there for the advancement in human knowledge. There is no record of Banks thinking about the wealth the new specimens could produce, but his whole journal speaks of the beauty of what he had found. Because of Banks and many other botanists, botany became a prime scientific study at the time. The demand for exotic specimens was heightened by the government expeditions that introduced a new range of species and established the foundations for national herbaria and museum collections. Botany played a large role in discovery voyages, especially in the Endeavour Voyage. During the voyage, Banks gave botany a new life with his many new discoveries while Parkinson illustrated the beauty of what was discovered.









Transit of Venus


The official purpose of the Endeavor voyage was to track the transit of Venus. On June 3rd, 1769, Venus was to pass between the Earth and the Sun, creating the image of a black disk travelling across the face of the Sun. J. C. Beaglehole explains the reason and the science behind the transit in The Life of Captain James Cook. The time taken by such a ‘transit of Venus’ depends on the rate of which the line joining the observer’s eye to Venus sweeps across the face of the sun. If the earth were not rotating, this line would move at the same speed for all observers, but because it does rotate, the observer’s end of the line moves at a speed determined by his position on the earth and by the apparent size of the earth as seen from Venus. The different times taken for the transit, as measured by different observers, can with much calculation yield the parallax and hence the total distance from earth to Venus and earth to sun (100). Because of this, the Royal Society decided to observe the transit from three different locations. The first two locations chosen were the Arctic tip of Norway and Hudson Bay in Canada, and the third was suggested to be somewhere in the South Pacific. When Tahiti was discovered by Samuel Wallis in 1767, he suggested that it would be the perfect location since the latitude and longitude were already established. As for a captain, James Cook was chosen for his navigational and astronomical skills. He had even observed a previous transit for the Royal Society (Beaglehole). On April 13th, 1769, the Endeavor Voyage landed at Matavia Bay in Tahiti (Hawkesworth 81). The site in Matavia Bay where they landed was conveniently the perfect point to observe the transit. It provided shelter from the wind, was close to the ship, and was far from any
Transit_of_Venus.jpg
Original Transit of Venus sketches from voyage
habitation by the natives (Beaglehole 172). Five days after landing, the construction began for "a small fort for [their] defence, and… for making [their] astronomical observation” (Hawkesworth 89). With help from the local Tahitians, they were able to complete the “Fort Venus” in one day. On June 3rd, Captain James Cook, astronomer Charles Green, and naturalist Daniel Solander "got up, and had the satisfaction to see the sun rise, without a cloud” (Hawkesworth 139). They each set up their telescopes and were going to tabulate the transit individually to ensure the best data. They were to mark the times of the transit at four different points: when Venus first makes contact with the sun, when Venus is completely in front of the sun but still is in contact with the outer edge of the sun, when Venus has contact with the other edge of the sun but still completely in front of the sun, and when Venus has made the final contact with the sun. The whole process took approximately six hours (Hawkesworth 141). When the Royal Society received the results from Cook, they were displeased because Cook, Solander, and Green “all saw an atmosphere or dusky cloud round the body of the planet, which very much disturbed the times of contact, especially of the internal ones; and [they] differed from each other in [their] accounts of the times of the contacts much more than might have been expected” (Hawkesworth 140). However, the Royal Society later found out that the observers at the other two locations had the same problems. This problem, called the “Black Drop Effect,” still exists today. Even though there were inconsistencies with their data, the value that the Royal Society obtained from the transit for the distance between the Earth and the Sun was 93,726,900 miles. The value that is used today is 92,955,888 miles which is only a 0.83% difference from the Tahiti estimate (Teets 347). This is surprisingly accurate, taking into account the technology of the time period. Upon his return from the voyage, “Cook was praised by both the Admiralty and the scientific establishment and was promoted to Commander” (Rice 147). However, Cook’s fame was to be surpassed by that of Banks and Solander.






Conclusion


The findings and results of the Endeavor Voyage went far beyond the small island of Tahiti. The botany discoveries made by Banks and Parkinson on the island are well known today, and their journals are still kept in museums and libraries to be used for research around the world. Observing the transit of Venus, while being the official reason for the voyage, made it possible for the Royal Society to calculate the distance between the Earth and the Sun, an achievement that was extremely beneficial to the entire European scientific community. This portion of the voyage, lead by the talented Captain Cook helped to set the stage for countless future astronomical discoveries. Lastly, there was the anthropological impact of the voyage. Banks and the other crew members interacted intensely with the natives and wrote about the encounters in their journals. The information in these journals is still being studied and researched today, but the way that the rest of the world viewed the native people of the south pacific in late 1700s changed forever. Overall, the impact of the Endeavor Voyage on science in the Romantic Era was substantial because of the immense amount of information discovered and how it is still being used by researchers today.



Visuals


timeline.jpg
Timeline

This timeline (click to interact) shows the state of the major sciences in the time leading up
to the Endeavour Voyage. All of these sciences were strongly impacted and subsequently elevated by the Endeavour Voyage. The voyage shot Banks to the top of English science and played a crucial role in helping him seal the presidency of the Royal Society, which influenced all sciences. The Romantic Era changed the
face of science.


Wordle

WordleN2.jpg
This is a wordle of our topic. It is an excellent representation of the areas the voyage most influenced. Banks is the largest word for a reason; he had his hand in all the sciences of the voyage. Banks capitalized on his success and rode it to the top of the Royal Society where he oversaw all the scientific ventures of England. This wordle is also a representation of the breadth of the Endeavour Voyage. Not only did it produce dynamos such as Joseph Banks but it made mini impacts on a wide variety of people and places.




Further Reading


Keywords: Tahiti, Science, Exploration

Tahiti

O’Keefe, John. OMAI, or, a Trip round the World. London: T. Cadell, 1785. Print.

OMAI, or, a Trip Round the World is a play written by John O’Keefe. In this play, which took its inspiration from the Endeavour voyage, Omai, the Tahitian prince, is set to marry Londina (the daughter of Britannia). He and Londina are pursued by a rival, however, and to escape him, he takes Londina on a journey through Hawaii, the Tonga and other islands . At the end of the play, he is greeted by a procession from the islands that cook discovered.



Omai. ”A Historic Epistle from Omai to the queen of Otahite.” 1775.


In this poem, Omai is represented as depicting life in England in an unfavorable light as compared to the simple pleasures of Tahiti. The poem begins with a description of how radiant Omai was in Tahiti and ends by saying that the people around her now (in England) are not as thankful as they should be.

“Theatrical Intelligence.” The New London Magazine. Dec. 22, 1785: 380-381.

“Theatrical Intelligence” goes on to explain how on December 22nd, 1785, Omai, or, a Trip round the World was performed for the first time at the Covenant Garden. The Pantomime was about a hero who resembled the character of Odysseus and the article gave it an overall good review. It also informs that on December 29th, the construction of the Royalty Theatre began with Mr. John Palmer laying the first brick. The article goes on to include a list of all the different people associated with the construction.

Fullagar, Kate. “Savages that are Among Us.” The Eighteenth Century. 49.3 (2008): 211-231. Web. <http://muse.jhu.edu.www.library.gatech.edu:2048/journals/the_eighteenth_century/v049/49.3.fullagar.html>


This article compares and contrasts the visits of Omai and a new visitor named Bennelong. It talks about the difference between staying with a very high esteemed patron like Joseph Banks with staying with Arthur Phillip. It discusses the sort of impact that Omai and Bennelong had on the people they met. It goes on the talk about the culture that visitors such as these would have experienced in London at the time, as well as the impact this culture had on these visitors.

Smith, Vanessa. “Banks, Tupia, and Mai.” Parergon. 26.2 (2009): 139-160. Web. April 2011. <http://muse.jhu.edu.www.library.gatech.edu:2048/journals/parergon/v026/26.2.smith01.html>

The relationship between Joseph Banks and Tupaia and Mai, provides an excellent case for dissecting the role of friendship in multicultural scientific exchange. Tupaia was a Raiatean priest who participated in the Endeavor voyage through the
Society Islands, New Zealand, and Australia. Mai was brought to London with Tobias Furneaux for three years before returning to Tahiti. It has been the tendency of scholarship to place emphasis on the cynicism in these relationships. However, it has been shown that some attachment and identification came into Banks’s description of these friendships and in the Oceanians willingness to perform as cultural informants.

Science

Abernathy, John. Surgical Observations on the Constitutional Origin and Treatment of Local Diseases. 4th ed. London: 1817. Print.

Paying particular attention to diseases may help to discern their causes. These writings are published more for the cases than for the conclusions because the actual case is most likely more interesting to the reader than the actual observations, which cannot be thoroughly portrayed, of the observer. This writing comes in useful when trying to diagnose the symptoms of someone suffering from a disease because it pays particular attention to the causes and cases of others.


Banks, Joseph. Collection of Letters of Sir Joseph Banks: Soho Square [london]. , 1783. Print.

This is a collection of letters by Sir Joseph Banks. The first is to E.A.J. Anniston thanking him for his gift to the Royal Society. A second letter is to Reverend Dr. Glasser regarding the liberation of Mr. Osbourne. The next letter is to Joh
Symmons, thanking him for his gift of “the monstrous Calculus.” The fourth letter is to an unidentified person about the pricing of jewelry. After that is a letter to Sam Lysons to discuss the post-mortem affairs of Philip Marmion and H. Hilery. The final letter in the collection is one of introduction for Dawson Turner.

Lawrence, Sir William. Lectures on physiology, zoology, and the natural history of man. London: J. Callow, 1819. Print.

The human skin appears in an astonishing number of shades. It is discussed whether this shade depends on one’s climate or inherited blood. Even within the same tribe, people may report many different findings in the hues of their skin tone. Those with white skin are outwardly more trust worthy because their blushing gives them away. It is curious how other skin tones do not show this emotion on the face, but it makes one wearier to trust them. However, the Tahitians are an exception to this. Their skin is an Indian color, but is clear and shows blushing.

Department of the Environment, Land and Planning. Canberra's Suburb and Street Names: Origins and Meanings. Canberra: 1992. Print.

Canberra's Suburb and Street Names: Origins and Meanings explains how important individuals, geography, and history are represented in the Australian capital. There are many references to the Endeavour voyage in the names such as a suburb named Banks, another suburb named Cook, Endeavour Street, Solander Road, Botany Street, and Banskia Street.

Griffin-Short, Rita. "The Ancient Mariner and the transit of Venus." Endeavour. 27.4 (2003): 175-179. Print.

Griffin's work talks about the achievements of a man named William Wales. Wales was an astronomer, scholar, mathematician, meteorologist, and teacher during the Romantic period. However, Griffin talks about how he was overshadowed but the likes of Joseph Banks and Samuel Coleridge. Wales was sent by the Royal Society to Hudson Bay to track the transit of Venus, just like Cook and his voyage to Tahiti.

Exploration

Cook, James. Captain Cook's journal during his first voyage round the world. London: Elliot Stock, 1893. Print.

This excerpt from Captain Cook’s journal initially focuses on the first discovery of Tahiti and goes into great detail on its location and early mapping. Everything from the shoreline to the landscape is discussed. The shore is noted as good for bringing in ships, and advisements are made about the best anchoring locations and prime spots for ships to water.
It is noted that fruit trees are the only source of wood and must be purchased from natives. Later, the main items of produce and animals are listed.

Mortimer, Favell L. The Night of Toil; Or, a Familiar Account of the Labours of the First Missionaries in the South Sea Islands. London: J. Hatchard and Son etc., 1838. Print.

This book is about the history of the missions to the South Seas. The book begins with the ship Duff departing England and heading to Tahiti to understand more about the people and nature there. The book goes chronologically for thirty years and ends with the mission trip led by Nott in 1836.

Parkinson, Sydney. Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas, in his Majesty’s Ship, The Endeavour. London: Stanfield Parkinson, 1773. South Seas Voyaging Accounts. Web. March 2011. <http://southseas.nla.gov.au/journals/parkinson/contents.html>

Sydney Parkinson’s Journal of a Voyage to the South Seas is an account of the Endeavour crew’s first experiences in Tahiti. Many things from their greeting by the natives to the beginnings of trade are discussed. Also, the observation of the transit of Venus is recorded, and a table of its progress is given. A brief mention of violence or upset is given when a large amount of nails were stolen by crew members. This was an issue because iron was a huge trading item for the Endeavor members. Finally, the native’s songs are discussed and analyzed.

Chown, Marcus. “The British Discovery of Australia.” New Scientist. 21 Jan. 1988: 62. Print.

This article is describing the exhibit that London’s National History Museum put together. It showcases several pioneering voyages in the South Pacific, including the Endeavour’s travels. It includes several pieces of artwork from the voyages, done by the royally commissioned artist Sydney Parkinson as well as pieces from amateur artists.

Fogg, G.E., C.B.E., and F.R.S. “The Royal Society and the South Seas.” The Royal Society. 55.1 (2001): 81-103. Web. April 26, 2011. < http://rsnr.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/55/1/81.full.pdf>

The Royal Society has almost always had a certain interest in the oceans of the Sothern Hemisphere. A particular expedition by the Endeavour with its captain, James Cook, and Joseph Banks was launched by the Royal Society. This voyage fostered many discoveries and advancements in astronomy, oceanography, biology, exploration, and politics. It started the tradition of promoting large expeditions by the Royal Society. This particular article limits itself to the contributions of the Royal Society and its members in oceanography, biogeography, and the creation of coral reefs.




Bibliography



PRIMARY SOURCES
Abernathy, John. Surgical Observations on the Constitutional Origin and Treatment of Local Diseases. 4th ed. London: 1817. Print.

Banks, Joseph. Collection of Letters of Sir Joseph Banks: Soho Square [london]. , 1783. Print.

Banks, Joseph. The Endeavour Journal of Sir Joseph Banks. Vol. I. London, 1773. Print.

Cook, James. Captain Cook's journal during his first voyage round the world.London: Elliot Stock, 1893. Print.

Hawkesworth, John. Account of the Voyages...in the Southern Hemisphere. Vol. II-III. London, 1773. Print.

Lawrence, Sir William. Lectures on physiology, zoology, and the natural history of man. London: J. Callow, 1819. Print.

Mortimer, Favell L. The Night of Toil; Or, a Familiar Account of the Labours of the First Missionaries in the South Sea Islands. London: J. Hatchard and Son etc., 1838. Print.

O’Keefe, John. OMAI, or, a Trip round the World. London: T. Cadell, 1785. Print.

Omai. ”A Historic Epistle from Omai to the queen of Otahite.” 1775.


SECONDARY SOURCES

Beaglehole, J.C. The Life of Captain James Cook. Standford: Stanford University Press, 1974. Print.

Chown, Marcus. “The British Discovery of Australia.” New Scientist. 21 Jan. 1988: 62. Print.

Department of the Environment, Land and Planning. Canberra's Suburb and Street Names: Origins and Meanings. Canberra: 1992. Print.

Fogg, G.E., C.B.E., and F.R.S. “The Royal Society and the South Seas.” The Royal Society. 55.1 (2001): 81-103. Web. April 26, 2011. <http://rsnr.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/55/1/81.full.pdf>

Franklin, Michael J. Romantic Representation of British India. New York: Routledge, 2006. 119-129. Print.

Fullagar, Kate. “Savages that are Among Us.” The Eighteenth Century. 49.3 (2008): 211-231. Web. <http://muse.jhu.edu.www.library.gatech.edu:2048/journals/the_eighteenth_century/v049/49.3.fullagar.html >

Gilbert, L.A. "Banks, Sir Joseph (1743 - 1820).” Australian Dictionary of Biography. 1.1 (1996): 52–55. Print.

Griffin-Short, Rita. "The Ancient Mariner and the transit of Venus." Endeavour. 27.4 (2003): 175-179. Print.

Orr, Bridgett. “Southern passions mix with northern art.” Eighteenth-Century Life. 18.1 (1994): 212-231. Print.

Rice, Tony. Voyages of Discovery. 1st. New York: Clarkson N. Potter/Publishers, 1999. 142-169. Print.

Rigby, Nigel, Pieter van der Merwe, and Glyn Williams. Pioneers of the Pacific. London: National Maritime Musem, 2005. Print.

Smith, Vanessa. “Banks, Tupia, and Mai.” Parergon. 26.2 (2009): 139-160. Web. April 2011. <http://muse.jhu.edu.www.library.gatech.edu:2048/journals/parergon/v026/26.2.smith01.html>

Teets, Donald A. "Transits of Venus and the Astronomical Unit." Mathematics Magazine. Dec 2003: 347. Print.