For his third voyage Cook once again advised the Admiralty of the
suitability of Whitby ships for the type of exploration being undertaken
and chose the Resolution for the second time.
The support vessel was the Discovery built by G. & N.
Langborn for Mr. William Herbert from whom she was bought by the
Admiralty. She was 299 tons, the smallest of Cooks ships. Her
dimensions were: lower deck 91.5", extreme breadth 27.5", depth of hold
11.5", height between decks 5.7" to 6.1". She cost £2,415 including
alterations. Her complement was 70: 3 officers, 55 crew, 11 marines and
Lt. Charles Clerke, who had accompanied Cook on the two previous
voyages was appointed to command the Discovery. He had become a
very perceptive observer, a devoted officer with a keen sense of duty.
At the time of sailing, England was at war with the American
colonies. Benjamin Franklin assisted with the special dispatch issued by
the Continental Congress to permit a free and unmolested voyage on the
high seas for Cooks ships. France followed suit.
The Resolution sailed from the Nore on 25 June 1776 and from
Plymouth on 12 July. She left without the Discovery as Clerke
was temporarily in a debtors prison because of debts of his brother.
The Resolution anchored in Table Bay on 18 October and the
Discovery arrived there on 10 November. At the end of the month
sail was set for the Marion, Crozet and Kerguelen Islands. The latter
was reached on Christmas Day 1776, and so Christmas Harbour was named.
Mindful of being parted from Adventure on his second voyage,
Cook set a rendezvous with the Discovery at Furneauxs
Adventure Bay in Van Diemens Land and then Ships Cove in Queen
Charlotte Sound, New Zealand.
The two ships arrived at Adventure Bay on 26 January 1777 for a brief
visit and, just as Cook missed Sydney Harbour, so he again missed one of
the worlds great harbours, nearby Storm Bay and the present site of
Hobart on the Derwent River.
On 12 February Cook had once again skirted Cape Farewell and Stephens
Island to reach his old anchorage in Ships Cove. The ships were
repaired, the men rested, and grasses and food collected.
The next call was at Tonga, the Friendly Islands, where the Captains
spent 2½ months. Cook met Fijians on Tongatapu from whom he acquired a
store of Fijian red feathers, a very highly prized possession. (The 1971
$1 stamp depicting the "Collared Lory", a red parrot, was the main
source of supply.) While he knew of the Fiji Island group, Cook did not
go there, merely passing close to the outskirts and the island of Vatoa,
as he wished to venture in the opposite direction to Tahiti.
The passage to Tahiti took four weeks and many islands were visited.
Cook realised that he must now come to grips with the main purpose of
his voyage. After a short stay he headed for New Albion, the Canadian
coast and an attempt to find the Northwest Passage. A barren atoll was
sighted on 23 December 1777, which Cook named Christmas Island when he
landed on Christmas Day. On 2 January the ships headed north to one of
Cooks most important discoveries, the Hawaiian Islands on 20 January.
In February 1778 Cook was seeking the west winds to take him to New
Albion, and on 7 March the great continent came into sight. Following
the Oregon coast Cook travelled north to what is now Nootka Sound, and
was greatly impressed with the timber, the high quality furs and the
George Vancouver, aged 19, was a midshipman on the Discovery.
He was to return in later years to explore the coastline and have his
name laid on prosperity with Vancouver Island and the City of Vancouver.
The two ships continued north along the coast to Alaska, Bering
Straits, and the Arctic Ocean. Discovery had proved to be a
very able companion ship to the Resolution. Cook was high in
praise of her as she was faster and better able to claw off a lee shore
than his own ship. After many weeks in the Arctic Ocean the rigging of
the two ships was shattered by gales and their hulls were leaking badly
from encounters with the ice. Rather than spend a dreary winter of
inactivity at Kamchatka, Cook chose to return to the Sandwich Islands
(Hawaii). His fate was decided as he could have chosen Nootka Sound,
where there was an abundance of timber and a fine anchorage.
History had spoken and, after Cooks tragic death at Kealakakua Bay,
Captain Clerke took command and Lt. Gore was appointed to take charge of
the Discovery. Another attempt was made to find the Northwest
Passage, which also failed, and the ships sailed to Petropavlosk where,
just offshore, Clerke died of tuberculosis which he had. picked up in
the debtors prison. He was 38 years old. Lt. Gore took command of the
expedition and Lt. King succeeded Gore in the Discovery. Lt.
Gore sent a letter and copies of Cooks reports to the Admiralty
overland through Siberia and Russia by dogsled, horseback and coastal
ship across the North Sea. They arrived 6 months before the two ships.
It was a fitting conclusion to this famous voyage when the ships came
home via Ireland, the Orkneys and down the old collier run from
Yorkshire to the Thames to anchor in the Nore on 4 October 1780.
Not much is known of the Discovery in her immediate years
and it is a tragedy that the last of Cooks great ships was left to rot
on the mud at Deptford, the scene of so much honour.
For the sake of these Whitby built ships, ENDEAVOUR,
RESOLUTION, ADVENTURE, DISCOVERY, along with the greatest seaman and navigator this
world has known in Captain James Cook, Whitby folk and the Society of
James Cook will never forget its proud history.