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JULY 1768

The point of presenting this Letter of Instruction to Captain Cook, is to emphasize the fact, that this Great Southern Continent of Australia was well known to the Crown, long before Cooks journey of Discovery. I have highlighted points of interest in Yellow

The copy is taken from the original in the National Library - Canberra, Australia

To: Lieut. Cook Commanding His Majesties Bark. Endeavour

By: The Commission for executing the Office of Lord High Admiral of Great Britain


Wheras we have, in Obedience to the Kings Commands, caused His Majesties Bark the Endeavour, whereof you are Commander, to be fitted out in a proper manner for receiving such Persons as the Royal Society should think fit to appoint to observe the Passage of the Planet Venus over the Disk of the Sun on the 3rd of June 1769, and for conveying them to such a place to the Southward of the Equinocitial Line as should be judged proper for observing that Phenomenon; & whereas the Council of the Royal Society have acquainted us that they have appointed Mr. Chas. Green, together with yourself to be their Observers of the said Phenomenon, I have desired that the Observation may be made at Port Royal Harbour in King Georges Island lately discovered by Captain Wallis in His Majesties Ship the Dolphin, the place thereof being not only better ascertained than any other within the Limits proper for the Observation, but also better situated, & in every other respect the most advantageous; You are hereby required & directed to receive the said Mr. Chas. Green with his Serviced Instruments and Baggage, onboard the said Bark, & proceed in her according to the following Instructions -

You are to make the best of your way to Plym. Sound, where we have ordered the Crew of the Bark to be paid 2 months wages in advance.

When they have received the same you are to put to Sea with the first opportunity of Wind and Weather and make the best of your way to the Island of Madeira and there take on board such a Quantity of Wine as you can conveniently stow for the use of the Barks company. Having so done you are to put to sea, and proceed round Cape Horn to Port Royal Harbour in King Georges Island afroes situated in 17 degrees 30' of S. Latitude & 150 degrees of Longitude W. of the Meridian of the Royal Observatory at Greenwich.

We recomment it to you to stand well to the Southwest in your passage round the Cape, in order to make a good Westing; taking care however to fall into the Parallel of King Georges Island at least 120 Lgt. to the Eastward of it and using your best endeavours to arrive there at least a month or 6 weeks before the 3rd of June next, that Mr. Green & you may have leisure to adjust & try your Instruments, before the observation. And for your Guidance in entering the Port Royal Harbour, as well as for your more general information of the Figure & extent of the Island itself; You will herewith receive copies of such Surveys, Plans & Views of the Island & Harbour as were taken by Captain Wallis & the Officers of the Dolphin when she was there - You are to endeavour by all proper means to cultivate a friendship with the Natives, presenting them such Trifles as may be acceptable to them, exchanging with them for Provisions (of which there is great plenty) such of the Merchandise you have been directed to Provide, as they may value, & shewing them every kind of Civility & regard. But as Captain Wallis has represented the Island to be very populous & the Natives (as well there as at the other Islands which he visited) to be rather treacherous than otherwise. You are to be Cautious not to let yourself be surprised by them, but to be Constantly on your guard against any accident. You are at all opportunities, when the Service upon which you are employed will admit of it, to make such further Surveys & Plans & take such Views of the Island, its Harbours & Bays, as you conceive may be useful to Navigation or necessary to give us a jmore Perfect Idea & description that we have hitherto received of it. But whereas the Council of the Royal Society, although they have named King Georges Island yet, to provide against any accident which may prevent the observers from being landed there, have transmitted to us a Table of Limits drawn up by the Astonomer Royal, within which some other place that will be annexed a Copy of the said Table of Limits, & in case you shall not be able to effect a landing on King Georges Island, require and direct you to search for some other place within those Limits, where the observation may be made, & to make to there accordingly.

When the service is performed, you are to put to Sea without loss of Time & carry into execution the ADDITIONAL INSTRUCTIONS contained in the enclosed Sealed Packet.

But in case of your inability to carry these (our) instructions to you into Execution you are to be careful to leave them, as also the Additional Instructions above mentioned with the next Officer in Seniority, who is hereby required & directed to execute them in the best manner he can. Given under our Hands the 30th July 1768.

Whereas the making Discoveries of Countries hitherto unknown, & the Attaining a Knowledge of distant parts, which though formerly discovered have yet been but imperfectly explored, will redound greatly to the Honour of this Nation as a Maritime Power, as well as to the Dignity of the Crown of Great Britain, & may tend greatly to the advancement of the Trade & Navigation thereof; & whereas there is reason to imagine that a Continent or Land of great extent may be found to the Southward of the Track lately made by Captain Wallis in His Majesties ship the Dolphin (of which you will herewith receive a Copy) or of the Track of any former Navigators in Pursuit of the like kind. You are therefore in pursuance of His Majesties Pleasure hereby required & directed to put to Sea with the Bark you Command so soon as the Observation of the Transit of the Planet Venus shall be finished & observe the following Instructions. You are to proceed to the Southward in order to make discovery of the Continent above mentioned until you arrive in the Latitude of 40 degrees, unless you sooner fall in with it. But not having discovered it or any distant sign of it in that Run you are to proceed in search of it to the Westward between the Latitude before mentioned & the Latitude of 35 degrees until you discover it, or fall in with the Eastern side of the Land discovered by Tasman & now called New Zealand.

If you discover the Continent above mentioned either in your Run to the Southward or to the Westward as above directed, you are to emply yourself diligently in exploring as great an Extent of the Coast as you can, carefully observing the true situation thereof both in Latitude and Longitude the variation of the Needle; bearings of Head Lands Height direction & Course of the Tides & Currents, Depths & surroundings of the Sea, Shoals, Rocks etc. Also surveying & making charts & taking views of such Bays, Harbours & parts of the Coast as may be useful to Navigation. You afre also carefully to observe the Nature of the Soil & the products thereof; the Beasts & Fowls that inhabit or frequent it, the Fishes that are to be found in the Rivers or upon the Coast and in what plenty & in case you find any Mines, Minerals, or valuable Stones you are to bring home Specimens of each as also such Specimens of the Seeds of the Trees & Fruits & Grains as you may be able to collect, & Transmit them to our Secretary that we may cause proper examination & experiments to be made of them.

You are likewise to observe the Genius, Temper, Disposition & Number of the Natives, if there be any & endeavour by all proper means to cultivate a Friendship & Alliance with them, making them presents of such Trifles as they may Value inviting them to Traffick, & Showing them every kind of Civility & Regard; taking Care however not to suffer yourself to be surprised by them, but to be always upon your guard against any Accidents.

You are also with the Consent of the Natives to take possession of Convenient Situations in the Country in the Name of the King of Great Britain or: if you find the Country uninhabited take possession for his Majesty by setting up Proper Marks & Inscriptions, as first discoverers & Possessors.

But if you shall fail of discovering the Continent before mentioned, You will upon falling in with New Zealand, carefully observe the Latitude and Longitude in which that Land is situated & explore as much of the Coast as the Condition of the Bark, and health of her Crew, & the state of your Provisions will admit of having always great Attention to reserve as much of the latter as will enable you to reach some known Port where you may procure a Sufficiency to carry you to England either round the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn as from Circumstances you may judge the Most Eligible way of returning home.

You will also observe with accuracy the situation of such Islands as you may discover in the course of your voyage that have not hitherto been discovered by any Europeans & take Possession for His Majesty & make Surveys & Draughts of such of them as may appear to be of consequence, without suffering yourself, however to be thereby diverted from the Object which you are always to have in view, the Discovery of the SOUTHERN CONTINENT so often Mentioned.....

You are to send by all proper Conveyance to the Secretary of the Royal Society copies of the Observations you shall have made of the Transit of Venus; and you are at the same time to send to our Secretary for our information, accounts of your Proceedings, & copies of the Surveys & discoverings you shall have made; & upon your arrival in England you are immediately to repair to this Office in order to lay before us a full account of your Proceedings in the whole Course of your Voyage; taking care before you leave the Vessel to demand from the Officers & Petty Officers the Log Books & Journals they may have kept, & to seal them up for our inspection & enjoyning them, and the whole Crew not to divulge where they have been until they shall have Permission to do so -

Given under our hands the 30th of July 1768

By Command of their Lordships


E. Hawke

Piercy Brett Spencer

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