In May 1768 Captain James Cook was given command of the Endeavour, and instructed to observe to visit Tahiti and observe the Transit of Venus, due to take place the following year. He set sail, with a party of scientists and artists led by the botanist Joseph Banks, from Plymouth in August 1768, sailing first to Brazil and then around Cape Horn to Tahiti. Here he opened sealed orders disclosing his second mission: to discover and claim Terra Australis. What would distinguish Cook from his Dutch predecessors was his rigour; he meticulously mapped the coastline of New Zealand before making landfall at Botany Bay in Australia. Joseph Banks collected a wealth of specimens of fauna and flora, and contact was made with the aboriginal inhabitants. Proceeding up Australia’s eastern coast, he claimed the new continent for Britain. His return voyage took him through the Torres Strait to Batavia, where many of his crew were struck down by malaria and dysentery, and back – via the Cape of Good Hope – to Britain.
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