The Joy of Museums

Finding Meaning in Art & History

Cannon from the Endeavour

National Museum of Australia - Joy of Museums - Cannon from the Endeavour

This “Cannon from the Endeavour” was jettisoned in 1770, by Captain James Cook and the crew of the HM Bark Endeavour when the Endeavour struck the Great Barrier Reef. The Endeavour under the command of Cook was sailing north along the east coast of Australia when at 11 pm at night it ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef and started taking in significant amounts of water. Desperate to lighten the ship and avoid further damage, the crew threw 48 tonnes of material over the side, including six cannons

The Endeavour became the first British ship to reach the east coast of Australia when Cook went ashore at what is now known as Botany Bay. He then sailed north along the Australian coast, where he narrowly avoided disaster after running aground on the Great Barrier Reef. He then beached the Endeavour on the shore for seven weeks to allow for temporary repairs to her hull. She then limped into port in Batavia, now named Jakarta, in the Dutch East Indies for more substantial repairs. The crew were all sworn to secrecy about the lands they had visited. She resumed her westward home journey and reached Dover, England, after nearly three years at sea.

HM Bark Endeavour Replica. Sydney

HM Bark Endeavour Replica in Sydney Harbour

Searches for the lost cannons of the Endeavour started in 1886. Rewards were offered but after many failed attempts, it was not until 1969 when a research team using a magnetometer, locate the cannons. The recovery of the six cannons occurred one year before the 200th anniversary of Cook’s charting of the east coast of Australia. Conservation work on the cannons was undertaken by the Australian National Maritime Museum.

The six Cannons can be seen at the following Museums:

  • Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney
  • National Museum of Australia, Canberra.
  • James Cook Museum,  Cooktown ( together with bower anchor)
  • National Maritime Museum, London
  • The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia
  • Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wellington.

Endeavour at Endeavour River, engraving c. 1786

Endeavour beached at Endeavour River for repairs, after her grounding on the Great Barrier Reef in 1770. By Johann Fritzsch, published 1786.

Captain James Cook’s voyages of discovery laid the groundwork for Britain’s expanded colonial empire and the establishment of settlements in Australia and New Zealand. HM Bark Endeavour, also known as HMS Endeavour was the British Royal Navy research vessel that Lieutenant James Cook commanded on his first voyage of discovery, to Australia and New Zealand, from 1769 to 1771. The recovered cannons are witness to this amazing history and adventure. Endeavour’s Pacific voyage is commemorated in the use of her image on the reverse of the New Zealand fifty-cent coin and in the naming of the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1989.

Other historical objects from the National Museum of Australia, featured in “Joy of Museums” include the following are some highlights:

Essential Facts:

  • Title:                        Cannon from the Endeavour
  • Material:                 Cast iron cannon, replica wooden carriage, metal fittings
  • Type:                        Four-pounder gun
  • Carried by:              HM Bark Endeavour from 1768 until it was jettisoned in 1770.
  • Recovery Site:         Great Barrier Reef
  • Date Recovered:     1969
  • Dimensions:            L: 1,845 mm; W:790mm; H: 960 mm; D: 325mm
  • Weight:                    600kg
  • Museum:                  National Museum of Australia

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“The more you know, the less you need.” -Australian Aboriginal saying

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Photo Credit: By GordonMakryllos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 2)By Hpeterswald (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 3) By Sydney Parkinson[1] Engraving by Martin Rennoldson (1764 – 1793), London engraver[2] [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons