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PAPEÉTE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Feb. 28) - A replica of the H.M.S. Endeavour that brought Lieutenant James Cook to Tahiti for the first time on April 13, 1769 arrived in Tahiti’s historic Matavai Bay on Sunday nearly 236 years later.

"Look. A pirate ship," a group of Tahitian children shouted excitedly at 7:30 a.m. as they spotted the three-masted vessel with most of its white sails flying arriving in the same historic bay that Cook did. Only this time, the H.M Bark Endeavour and its crew were arriving from the Marquesas Islands on a voyage that began in England last November and will end at home in Australian around mid-April.

"When Captain Cook arrived at this precise place, the welcome that the population gave him had to resemble the extraordinary welcome that we received today," said Chris Blake, the present captain of the Endeavour, as he walked along the black sand beach next to Venus Point three-and-a-half hours after anchoring the ship in the adjacent Matavai Bay.

In 1769, Cook was given an enthusiastic welcome from the Tahitians when he arrived seven weeks before the transit of Venus across the sun on June 3, an event that would not be witnessed again until 1874.

On Sunday, the Tahiti Manava Visitor’s Bureau and the Mahina Cultural Association organized some traditional, though modern-day, festivities for the return of the Endeavour.

The replica of the famous ship is not intended to remake the history of Cook, but, instead, aims to show various peoples along its homebound route what ship navigation was like at the time of the great European discoverers, Blake said.

‘I admit that of all our ports of call, it’s Tahiti that has given us the most beautiful welcome."

The Endeavour replica left Whitehaven, England, on November 8, recreating some of Cook’s voyages on a route taking it to Madeira, Antigua, Panama Canal, Galapagos, Fatu Hiva in the Marquesas Islands and Tahiti. The ship will anchor in Papeete Harbor on Monday and be open to the public for visits before it leaves Friday for a visit to Opunohu Bay in Tahiti’s sister island of Moorea. The replica will set sail Sunday at sunset for Gisbourne/Anoara Bay, New Zealand, and then to Sydney, arriving more than three years after it left Fremantle for Cape Horn and Whitby. The ship will then go on exhibition at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney.

"Aboard the Endeavour, which is a real floating museum, you can find an original version of James Cook’s ship," said Heather Campbell, one of those in charge of the H.M. Endeavour Foundation.

Construction work began on the replica in January 1988, but the ship was not launched until December 9, 1993. She was commissioned on April 16, 1994 following rigging and sea trials. The replica of the Endeavor participated in Australia’s Bicentennial Celebration in Sydney before beginning a trip to England, via Brest, France, to participate in an historic gathering of great sailing ships.

The main objective in building the Endeavour replica "was to achieve historical authenticity--a replica as close to exact as possible," according to the Newport Nautical Museum Internet website. Cook’s Endeavour had been surveyed several times, so there was detained information still available at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. "The vessel was built to the same specifications as the original Endeavour… Where differences exist, these are to meet modern safety standards and/or ensure that the vessel will have as long a life afloat as possible."

One difference involves crew quarters. Although "crew sleep in hammocks slung from the deck head of the lower deck sleeping flat, as Cook’s crew did," there’s less crowding today because the working crew totals only 52 people, compared with "upwards of 90 people" who sailed with Cook.

Among those aboard at the time of Cook’s expedition were 84 officers and seamen and eight civilians. One of the most important civilians in terms of the reason for the voyage was astronomer Charles Green, an assistant at the Greenwich Observatory who supervised the observation of Venus. Other prominent civilians accompanying Cook were Joseph Banks, a young botanist who later became president of the British Royal Society; Dr. Daniel Solander, an eminent Swedish botanist and zoologist; and Sydney Parkinson, a naturalist painter.

Cook’s historic voyage to Tahiti occurred two years after Captain Samuel Wallis became the first European to discover Tahiti in 1767 when he anchored the H.M.S. Dolphin in Matavai Bay. However, 10 months after Wallis’ discovery, French Admiral Louis Antoine de Bougainville, arrived in Tahiti and claimed the island for France in April 1768.

March 1, 2005

Tahitipresse: www.tahitipresse.pf

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