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Region: South America, Pacific Islands, Australia, New Zealand

First Voyage of Captain James Cook, map

Principal Collectors:

Sir Joseph Banks

Sir Joseph Banks
1743 - 1820

Naturalist on Cook's First Voyage (1768 - 1771)

Joseph Banks privately funded the natural history division of Cook's First Voyage on the Endeavour. He provided himself and his fellow naturalist, Daniel Solander, with excellent equipment and several draftsmen, including Sydney Parkinson, to draw the specimens collected. From 1768 to 1771, Banks and Solander, though primarily botanists, collected both plant and animal specimens on the voyage, creating detailed descriptions of the species they encountered, and directing the work of the draftsmen. In addition, Banks often acted as the liaison between the expedition members and native peoples due to his ability to maintain respectful diplomatic relations. Throughout the expedition, Banks kept a journal in which he recorded descriptions of cultures, places, and specimens encountered on the voyage.

Banks enjoyed considerable fame in England upon his return from the Endeavour expedition. He made arrangements to have his discoveries published, and commissioned the engraving of over 700 botanical illustrations for the publication, the Florilegium, but the final work was not completed until 1988.

Other Accomplishments:

-Accompanied the HMS Niger to Newfoundland and Labrador to collect botanical and zoological specimens (1766)
- Fellow of the Royal Society (1766)
-President of the Royal Society (1778 - 1820)
-Knighted Sir Joseph, a Baronet (1781)

[Photo courtesy of National Portrait Gallery, London]

Sir Joseph Banks
James Cook

James Cook
1728 - 1779

Captain on Cook's First Voyage (1768 - 1771)

In 1768, James Cook was commissioned as a lieutenant, a rare event for a non-commissioned officer, and was placed in command of the Endeavour expedition. On this voyage, from 1768 to 1771, Cook was an excellent commander, maintaining good relations among the crew, interacting respectfully with native peoples he encountered, and preventing any deaths from scurvy. Upon return to England, however, he received little public attention, especially compared to botanists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, who became scientific celebrities.

Other Accomplishments:

-Charted the Saint Lawrence River in the Pembroke during the Seven Years War, often under the threat of enemy fire (1758-1759)
-Surveyed the coast of Newfoundland (1763 - 1767)
-Led his Second Voyage (1772-1775), in the Resolution and Adventure
-Made a Fellow of the Royal Society (1775)
-Led his Third Voyage (1776-1780), in the Resolution

[Photo courtesy of National Maritime Museum, United Kingdom]

James Cook
Sydney Parkinson

Sydney Parkinson
~1745 - 1771

Natural History Artist on Cook's First Voyage (1768 - 1771)

Sydney Parkinson was one of several artists on Cook's First Voyage who drew illustrations of the expedition's encounters. Naturalists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander directed that the natural history specimens they collected - particularly the plants - be drawn by Parkinson. Many of his botanical drawings were made into plates after the expedition returned to England, although Banks never published them. He also kept a journal of the expedition's travels, as well as vocabularies of the various languages encountered. Parkinson died on the expedition, during the journey between Java and the Cape of Good Hope.

Other Accomplishments:

-Flower paintings exhibited at the Free Society in London (1765 - 1766)
-Painted Banks' collections from Newfoundland and Labrador (1767)

[Photo courtesy of Natural History Museum, United Kingdom]

Sydney Parkinson
Daniel Solander

Daniel Solander
1733 - 1782

Naturalist on Cook's First Voyage (1768 - 1771)

In 1768, Daniel Solander eagerly accepted an invitation to join Joseph Banks on the Endeavour expedition under Captain James Cook as a fellow naturalist. Solander worked alongside Banks on the expedition, collecting, organizing, and describing specimens, as well as directing the work of the draftsmen. When they returned to England, Banks and Solander both became moderately famous. Banks made arrangements to have illustration plates made of many botanical findings, but neither ever published their discoveries, and the plates were never completed.

Other Accomplishments:

-Studied under Carl Linnaeus at Uppsala University, Sweden (1750-1759)
-Catalogued and inventoried both British Museum and private natural history collections (1763-1768)
-Accompanied a natural history expedition to Iceland with Joseph Banks (1772)
-Fellow of the Royal Society (1773)
-Received D.C.L. degree at Oxford University (1771)

[Photo courtesy of Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation]

Daniel Solander

First Voyage of Captain James Cook

(1768 - 1771)

James Cook’s first voyage circumnavigated the globe in the ship Endeavour, giving the botanists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander the opportunity to collect plants from previously unexplored habitats. Although the Endeavour voyage was officially a journey to Tahiti to observe the 1769 transit of Venus across the sun, it also had a more clandestine mission from the Royal Society to explore the South Pacific in the name of England. The two botanists on the expedition returned with a collection of plant specimens including an estimated 100 new families and 1,000 new species of plants, many of which are currently housed in the U. S. National Herbarium.

Cook Expedition members. Photo courtesy of National Library of Australia
Cook Expeditons members.
Joseph Banks, who would later become Sir Joseph Banks and president of the Royal Society, was a wealthy young scientist. He invited his close friend Daniel Solander, a Swedish student of Linnaeus working in the natural history collections of the British Museum, to join him on the Endeavour expedition. Together they acted as the naturalists on the voyage, commanding several servants and artists, including Sydney Parkinson, and outfitted with an excellent array of scientific equipment.

After setting out from London, the expedition stopped briefly at Madeira, a small Portuguese island in the Atlantic Ocean, and then continued on to Rio de Janiero, on the eastern coast of Brazil. Here, the expedition encountered one of its first major setbacks when the Portuguese governor Dom Antonio Rolim de Moura Tavare refused to allow anyone from the Endeavour to come on land except to acquire necessities. This restriction, however, didn’t stop the two determined botanists. Banks and Solander risked being arrested as spies or smugglers in order to sneak onshore to collect specimens around the city. Despite this difficulty, the expedition traveled on to Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America, where they collected a large number of specimens despite bitterly cold weather that killed two members of the crew. In April of 1769, the expedition reached Tahiti, where they stayed until July. During this time, Banks and Solander collected over 250 plant species, including the orchids Liparis revoluta and Oberonia equitans (also known as Oberonia disticha) and the flowering plant Ophiorrhiza solandri, in the first extensive botanical study in Polynesia.

After viewing the transit of Venus on June 3, 1769, the expedition began mapping, exploring, and collecting specimens in the relatively unknown regions of New Zealand and the eastern coast of Australia (then called New Holland). Plants collected included the large orchid Dendrobium cunninghamii, also known as Winika cunninghamii, native to the western shore of New Zealand, as well as white-honeysuckle (Banksia integrifolia), native to the east coast of Australia. The Endeavour stopped for nine days at a bay on the coast of Australia, where, according to Banks, the expedition’s plant collection became “so immensely large that it was necessary that some extraordinary care should be taken of them least they should spoil.” The botanists were so successful that Cook decided to name the place Botany Bay in honor of their extensive discoveries.

The Endeavour continued its voyage mapping the eastern coast of Australia, narrowly avoiding shipwreck on the Great Barrier Reef, until it re-entered known waters near New Guinea in late August, 1770. During the last part of the voyage, the Endeavour stopped at the disease-ridden city of Batavia in Java and at the Cape of Good Hope in Africa, returning to England in July, 1771. Overall, the expedition was very successful, with little strife among the crew and no deaths from scurvy. Although neither Banks nor Solander published their botanical findings, the two naturalists returned to England with a vast wealth of new discoveries.

Adams, Brian. The Flowering of the Pacific. Sydney: William Collins Pty, 1986.

Allen, Oliver E. The Pacific Navigators. Canada: Time-Life Books, 1980.

Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) database, (for information on plant species Dendrobium cunninghamii; accessed June 15, 2010).

Ebes, Hank. The Florilegium of Captain Cook’s First Voyage to Australia: 1768-1771. Melbourne: Ebes Douwma Antique Prints and Maps, 1988.

Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) database, (for information on plant species Oberonia disticha and Dendrobium cunninghamii; accessed June 15, 2010).

Merrill, Elmer Drew. The Botany of Cook’s Voyages and its Unexpected Significance in Relation to Anthropology, Biogeography and History. Waltham, Massachusetts: Chronica Botanica Co., 1954.

O’Brian, Patrick. Joseph Banks: A Life. Boston: David R. Gardine, Publisher, 1993.

Rauchenberg, Roy A. “Daniel Carl Solander: Naturalist on the ‘Endeavour’,” Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, New Series, 58, no. 8 (1968): 1-66. (May 26, 2010).

National Library of Australia. “South Seas: Voyaging and Cross-Cultural Encounters in the Pacific.” South Seas, n.d. Contains maps and text of expedition journals by James Cook and Joseph Banks.

USDA PLANTS database. United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. National Plant Data Center. (for information on plant species Banksia integrifolia; accessed June 15, 2010).

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