The Endeavour is the famous ship that discovered Australia under Captain James Cook. This book tells the story of the ship, rather than that voyage. Cook’s voyage was not the Endeavour’s first. It began life in 1764 as a private ship named the Earl of Pembroke, and was purchased by the British Royal Navy in 1768.
Cook’s voyage is the meat of book. Moore tells the story well, though his purple prose sometimes borders on the ridiculous. As long as the reader doesn’t take Moore too seriously as a prose stylist, he is an excellent narrative historian. The Australian voyage has its ups and downs, and the ship’s near-destruction on the Great Barrier Reef is especially gripping. Moore also gives ample time to describing what Maori life was like around the time Cook put in his appearance, and how strange it was for both cultures when they met for the first time. Primary source descriptions of the wildlife they encountered and how Cook’s crew dealt with them are another strength of the book.
Cook’s journey was not the end of the Endeavour. After returning to England, the ship made voyages under less famous crews to the Falkland Islands. It also, surprisingly, saw action in the Revolutionary War on the British side. By this time Endeavour was an old ship, and not exactly a desirable assignment. Even after undergoing extensive repairs and another name change, to the Lord Sandwich, it was still no prize It was still able to sail across the Atlantic, but ended up being intentionally scuttled off the Rhode Island coast in an unsuccessful attempt to blockade the Americans. Its wreckage is still in a cluster somewhere near Newport harbor.