Endeavour leaving Whitby Harbour, by Thomas Luny, c. 1790
CH 2: Great Britain
In 1716, English astronomer Edmond Halley predicted that a transit of Venus in 1769 could help determine the distance between the earth and the sun. In 1768, the Royal Society of London and British Admiralty – realizing that the transit could assist navigation by helping to determine an observer’s longitude – decided to send a voyage to the South Pacific to witness it. As a proven navigator and surveyor who commanded his own vessel while charting the shores of Newfoundland from 1763 to 1767, James Cook had the skills but not yet the rank to lead the expedition.
In 2018 the National Maritime Museum will open its new ‘Endeavour Galleries’, allowing the Museum to take a lead role in Cook 250 – the commemoration of Lieutenant James Cook’s 1768 departure down the River Thames in HM Bark ‘Endeavour’ on the first of his three voyages of exploration to the Pacific.