The 1768-1771 voyage of the HMS 'Endeavour' under the command of Captain James Cook was one of the most important scientific exploration journeys of all time with a continuing legacy for Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific region. After observing the transit of Venus from a temporary observatory at Tahiti in 1769, Cook sailed to explore the "land the the Southward of the South Seas" as he wrote in the ship's log on 28 August 1769. Over the next 12 months the Endeavour explored and charted the coasts of New Zealand and Eastern Australia. Endeavour had originally been built as a coal carrier at Whitby as the 'Earl of Pembroke', a 'square-stern bark' of 368 tons. The good sea-going qualities and larger cargo capacity made this type of vessel a better choice for the long voyage than a naval ship. 'Bark' refers to the shape of the hull and should not be confused wth a barque which describes a ship's rigging arrangement.

This model of HM. Bark Endeavour was the first ship model built by the Australian artist and author Norman Lindsay (1879-1969) who was a keen builder of ship models for most of his life. He built this first model after spending most of his spare time over some three months in the ship model gallery of the Science Museum in London in 1910. He sketched many of the sailing ship models and gained access to the workshop where he spoke to the craftsmen and "asked one of them what he would charge me for making the bare hull of an eighteenth century model...he said he could not do it for less than 60 was clear that if I wanted a ship model I would have to do it myself". After consulting a number of textbooks and drawings in London, Lindsay returned to Australia and built a model of the Endeavour. It was later purchased by the National Gallery of Victoria for £100 using funds from the Felton bequest and was loaned to the Museum in 1926 and subsequently purchased. Lindsay was very keen to show that the Endeavour was a fully rigged ship not a bark which has a different rigging arrangement (fore and aft) on the mizzen mast. He wrote an article for the 1 April 1913 edition of 'The Lone Hand' magazine explaining his theory in detail although he acknowledged it would only be of interest to 'quidnuncs' who enjoyed arcane matters. The debate about the accuracy of this model continued for many years with the journalist and later novelist George Johnston writing an article about the model in The Argus newspaper on 4 November 1933. Lindsay continued to defend his model against its many critics until his death in 1969.

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