The Public Domain Review

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Extracts from the Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks (1769)

Friday 5 April 2013 at 16:02

Appointed as the expedition’s official botanist, a 25 year old Joseph Banks travelled on Captain Cook’s first great voyage to the South Pacific in 1768. After landing on the island of Tahiti, Banks was soon to become an invaluable member of the crew by virtue of the friendly relations he struck up with the islanders; a mutual trust he built up through his openness, natural curiosity and fascination with their customs and way of life. In his willingness to learn their language, eat their food, sleep in their huts, record their customs and partake in their rituals, Banks was pioneering a new kind of science – that of ethnology. As the weeks progressed his botanical observations increasingly gave way to a study of the people (“studies” that were not always at arm’s length!). His experiences in his three month stay on the island are recorded in his Endeavour Journal. The journal is unique in character, not merely in terms of its content but also, as the writer Richard Holmes comments, “for their racy style, appalling spelling and non-existent punctuation”. Below are a few choice extracts, highlighted by Richard Holmes in his (highly recommnded) The Age of Wonder – a book [...]