Endeavour Wreck 1795

Endeavour Wreck 1795

ENDEAVOUR, ship: The loss of this vessel in Facile Harbour, Dusky Sound, in October, 1795 the first recorded instance of a shipwreck on the New Zealand coast-is closely associated with two other “firsts” in the history of the Dominion-the first, albeit temporary, settlement and the first attempt at shipbuilding.

On October 24, 1792, the ship Britannia, under the command of Captain W. Raven, and having on board as fourth officer Mr. R. Murry, sailed from Sydney under charter to proceed to the Cape of Good Hope. Permission had been granted by the charterers for the vessel to call at Dusky Sound, South Island, New Zealand, which was reached on November 7, 1792, and here a party, under the charge of the second officer, Mr. Leith, was landed to collect sealskins for the China market. The Britannia continued on her voyage on December 2, 1792, and arrived back at Dusky Sound on September 28, 1793. During their stay of nearly 11 months at Dusky Sound, the first settlement by Europeans in New Zealand, the Britannia’s sealing party had not only erected a house and a wharf, but had almost completed a vessel of between 60 and 70 tons, which is claimed to have been not only the first vessel built in New Zealand, but the first vessel built of native timbers in Australasia.

Events leading up to the subsequent loss of the Endeavour had commenced more than two years previously, when Captain William Wright Bampton, of the ship Shah Hormuzear, entered into a contract with Lieutenant-Governor Grose, of New South Wales, to supply cattle and grain from India. The Shah Hormuzear sailed from Sydney on April 21, 1793, but as the result of delays from various causes, did not reach Bombay until February 1, 1794. In his Historical Records of New Zealand, from which details of the loss of the Endeavour are taken, the Hon. R. McNab states that the first vessel despatched by Captain Bampton in fulfilment of his contract, the Neptune, was lost soon after her departure from Bombay. No other vessel suitable for the carriage of cattle over a great distance was available until in May, 1794, when the ship Endeavour arrived, and was purchased by Captain Bampton. Extensive delays then followed, caused by the necessity of having to dock and refit the Endeavour, await the right season for bringing the cattle from Surat, and to land them for two months in order to accustom them to a change of fodder before sailing. At last, on March 17, 1795, the Endeavour sailed with 132 head of cattle and new season’s grain from Surat on board, and arrived at Sydney on May 31, 1795.

Her cargo landed, the Endeavour, accompanied by the brig Fancy, commanded by Captain E. T. Dell, and evidently owned by Captain Bampton, sailed from Port Jackson on September 19, 1795. Details of this, her last voyage, are gleaned from the journal of her fourth officer, Mr. R. Murry, formerly of the ship Britannia, copied by Mr. McNab from the original in the Essex Institute, Salem, U.S.A. Soon after sailing 40 men and women were found to have stowed away on board. On October 4 the ship encountered a heavy gale, which continued during the next day. The pounding of the heavy and confused sea opened her seams and the water rose so rapidly that the pumps had to be kept going continuously for two days. Several days later the Endeavour arrived at Dusky Sound, and Murry records that on October 12 he accompanied Captain Bampton and Dell to Luncheon Cove to inspect the vessel built by the Britannia’s sealing party, and found her sound and well seasoned, though some of the planks had shrunk and cracked. From October 14 to 19 the crew were employed in heaving out ballast, and taking yards, masts, anchors and guns ashore, two of the latter being lost when the raft carrying them capsized. On Sunday, October 20, the masters, officers and carpenters of both vessels, and two passengers, carried out a survey of the Endeavour, and the decayed state of her timbers was only too evident. Her stem was entirely decayed, and other parts, such as timbers, plank, and lining, were in so bad a condition that the surveyors thought it a miracle that the vessel had held together in the bad weather experienced. A week later, on October 27, the ship struck against a rock, which caused her to settle considerably, and on November 6 it was found that the starboard cable was completely cut through by chafing against the rocks. The other cable was slipped, and the ship was hauled on shore for the purpose of seeing if it was possible to get her high enough to repair her, as it was spring tide. Whether any attempts were made to repair the ship is not known, but she was finally abandoned. . The arrival of the Fancy brought the population of Dusky Sound up to 244. As it comprised seamen and convicts, with an almost entire absence ‘of women, the settlement was not exactly an orderly one. What justice there was was of a rough and ready nature, and owing to the scarcity of food, thieving and murder were on the same footing as regards punishment.

Aided by some of the transported convicts, four of whom were carpenters, the men completed the vessel which had been started two years before by the Britannia’s sealing gang and left on the stocks. She was launched in quick time, rigged as a schooner, and named Providence. There was now accommodation aboard ship for 154 persons-90 aboard the new schooner and 64 on the Fancy. The Endeavour’s longboat was in the process of being converted into a deep-sea craft in January, 1796, when trouble between officers and men rose to fever pitch, and the two larger ships left on January 7 and arrived at Norfolk Island 12 days later. They arrived in a very distressed state, being weak from hunger, and Captain Bampton applied to Lieutenant-Governor King for sufficient stores and provisions to complete the voyage to India.

The conversion of the longboat was speedily completed by the use of fittings from the Endeavour. She was at first named Resource, which was later changed to Assistance. It was a very well found little vessel of nearly 60 tons burden which arrived in Sydney in March, 1796, with 55 persons on board. Meanwhile the other two vessels had put in at Norfolk Island for stores, and had reported some 30 stowaways at Dusky Sound. The 35 people actually there had subsisted on such seals, fish and birds as they could catch, until, in May, 1797, they were picked up by the American whaling scow Mercury, at the request of Governor Hunter, of New South Wales.

Captain Fairchild, of the New Zealand Government steamer Hinemoa, who visited the wreck in 1878, said the Endeavour was in a little nook, or pocket, so small that it was impossible for her to sail in. She must have been hauled in by ropes made fast to trees. She was 180 feet long and about 32 feet beam. Her outside plank was five inches thick, all East India teak. The Endeavour was sheathed with pure copper, and all the bolts used in building her were of pure copper also. Captain Fairchild stated that the ship was built of about one-third of English oak and two-thirds teak. Her stern was in 20 feet of water, and her bow in five feet only. In the early days whalers had cut the vessel away for firewood. They had chopped the Endeavour down to the water’s edge, the vessel only showing a little above the water at low water spring tides. (In a letter to his friend, Captain Waterhouse, written on board his ship, the Venus, at Sydney, on January 5, 1803, Captain George Bass wrote: “In my letter from Sandwich Island in May last I told you we had been at Dusky Bay, in New Zealand-at least I thought so. I shall go to Dusky Bay again this voyage for the purpose of picking up two anchors and breaking the iron fastenings of an old Indiaman that lies derelict there, with the intention of selling the former to the Spaniards, and of working up the other to purchase pork in the Islands. Of the little iron we took out last voyage, converted by our smith into axes, we made a good thing. Now we shall be prepared for breaking her up.” Again, from the Venus, at Port Jackson, on February 2, 1803, Bass wrote : “From this place I go to New Zealand to pick up something more from the wreck of the old Endeavour in Dusky Bay.”) Continuing his description, Captain Fairchild said she was quite clear of the ocean swell, in a perfectly snug harbour, and must have been taken there on purpose to be condemned. The ship had greenstone and chalk for ballast, amongst which were some little bits of bamboo. She was a good model, and, he considered, a fast sailer, and must have been between 700 and 800 tons register.

The captain removed one of her rudder traces. It was composition, and weighed 200 pounds. It had the words “Saville, London,” on it. There were also some pieces of cast-iron amongst the ballast. Her upper decks were all gone, and nearly all her ‘tween decks were chopped away. The wood was quite sound, and had not been eaten by worms, as might have been expected. There is a good deal of fresh water where she lies, which keeps away the sea worms. Captain Fairchild brought back some pieces of timber from the Endeavour.

In his book, Murihiku, Dr. R. McNab states: “No less an authority on New Zealand coastal matters than the late Captain Fairchild, master of the Government steamer Hinemoa, held the view that the Endeavour was Cook’s vessel. In September, 1895, he spent some time investigating the wreck and taking measurements of it coming finally to the conclusion she was a vessel of 128 feet keel and not 180 feet, as he had previously estimated. Owing to this changed size of the vessel he made up his, mind that she was the Endeavour of Cook.”

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