Piece of kentledge from the HMB ENDEAVOUR, discarded by Captain Cook when the vessel struck the Great Barrier Reef on 10 June, 1770 and found, encased in coral, on the ocean floor off Queensland in 1969.
(Kentledge weights, often scrap or pig iron, were used as permanent ballast on ships to provide stability).
SignificanceWhen the ENDEAVOUR became stuck on the Great Barrier Reef, it was not initially clear that the vessel could be saved. Considering the substantial damage sustained, even if they could free ENDEAVOUR, where and how could repairs be carried out?
What a different Cook story would have told if the ENDEVOUR ended the journey there. This piece of kentledge represents the action of a desperate crew to save their vessel and the significant repairs that took place over the following weeks at the mouth of the Endeavour River.
HistorySpace and weight were always important issues for Cook as he attempted to strike a compromise between the necessity of carrying sufficient supplies for long voyages and maintaining the good sailing qualities of his ships. On the HMB ENDEAVOUR voyage Cook reduced the amount of iron ballast carried in the bottom of the ship, arguing that the weight of stores more than compensated for the reduction. As the stores diminished during the voyage, the HMB ENDEAVOUR’s stability was maintained by bringing aboard stone ballast.
On 10 June 1770 during Captain James Cook's first journey to the Pacific aboard HMB ENDEAVOUR, the ship ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef. In order to lighten the vessel the crew threw stores, ballast and cannons overboard. In total, approximately 48 ton of material was discarded and HMB ENDEAVOUR was eventually kedged off the reef by the use of five anchors, one of which became stuck in the coral and was abandoned.
The vessel was then taken to the mouth of a nearby river where for seven weeks repairs were carried out and the ENDEAVOUR made sea worthy again. This river is now known as Endeavour River and became the location where extended contact was made with the Indigenous Australians of the region, the Guugu Yimithirr, and the Europeans were able to spend time studying the local flora and fauna.
In 1969 an American expedition sponsored by the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences recovered the cannon and a number of other artefacts. An Australian team recovered the ship's anchor in 1971.