Wednesday, 23. April 2008
The Endeavour Botanical Illustrations
'Ipomoea indica' - click the picture for a larger view
James Cook's historic voyage of 1768-1771 on the HMS Endeavour was the first to be organized specifically for scientific exploration. The Royal Society of London commissioned the journey to the South Pacific to observe the eclipse of the sun by Venus and to take measurements that would permit advances in ocean navigation. During the journey, the naturalists on board would also collect more than 30,000 samples and describe more than 1,400 species new to science.
The Endeavour sailed for South America in August 1768, rounding Cape Horn and heading into the uncharted Pacific. The team took the eclipse measurements, mapped the coasts of New Zealand and Australia and sailed home via southern Africa, sighting England more than 1,000 days after setting sail. Their expedition produced major discoveries in geography, natural history and medicine, and artist Sydney Parkinson's sketches were eventually published in 21 large bound volumes.
The Botany Library at London's Natural History Museum holds all the surviving botanical art, and this well-produced site presents most of it. An engaging introductory essay recounts the story of the Endeavour's voyage, and the collection of artwork can be searched or browsed by country. Each drawing is labeled as to species and family and can be viewed at nearly full size:
The Endeavour Botanical Illustrations.
See more images from Cook's first voyage in this picture library.
Find out more about the history of Captain Cook and exploration at the BBC History site.