Botanical art and illustrations from HMS Endeavour

The Natural History Museum holds all of the surviving botanical artwork from Captain James Cook's first Pacific voyage. The Endeavour voyage (1768-1771) greatly expanded Western scientific knowledge of the South Pacific. The scale of discoveries recorded by the natural history illustrators on board set a precedent for including artists on future voyages.

Explore original botanical drawings and engravings prepared by Sydney Parkinson aboard the Endeavour, as well as those completed after his death by artists back in England under the patronage of Sir Joseph Banks.

Explore by location

Endeavour reached the southeast tip of Australia (then New Holland) and sailed north along the eastern coast from April to October 1770. Many fruitful land excursions were made, including the site of Botany Bay, so-named for the abundance of new plants collected there. Sydney Parkinson drew more than 400 sketches of plants while the ship was in Australian waters.

On 13 November 1768 HMS Endeavour arrived at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. An icy reception from the Portuguese viceroy didn't prevent the collection of specimens under cover of night.

On the return journey to England, the Endeavour pulled into Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia) on the island of Java for supplies. Ship-borne illness acquired there claimed the lives of thirty crew members including Sydney Parkinson.

HMS Endeavour arrived in Madeira, off the northwest coast of Africa, on 12 September 1768 to take on fresh supplies before crossing the Atlantic. Joseph Banks and his party immediately set to work listing 230 plant species, 25 of which were new to Western science.

Cook and his crew first encountered the eastern coast of New Zealand on 7 October 1769. They surveyed the north and south islands and remained in the region until March 1770.

Endeavour arrived at Matavai Bay, Tahiti, in April 1769 and remained in the region until July. Tahiti had only been plotted on Western maps the year before.

In January 1769 members of Joseph Bank party went ashore at Tierra del Fuego, at the southernmost tip of South America, to collect botanical specimens, suffering two casualties in the bitter cold. Endeavour then rounded Cape Horn and sailed into the Pacific Ocean.

Explore by artist

Scottish natural history artist Sydney Parkinson (1745-1771) was employed by Joseph Banks to illustrate many specimens gathered during the voyage of HMS Endeavour. Of Parkinson's 925 plant illustrations, 676 were unfinished.

Frederick Polydore Nodder (1751-1800) was an English natural history artist who illustrated both plants and animals. He produced 271 finished watercolours for Banks's Florilegium in addition to some of the copper plate engravings. He later became botanical artist to Queen Charlotte.

Brothers John and James Frederick Miller were artists contracted by Joseph Banks to prepare illustrations for Florilegium. They also accompanied Joseph Banks to Iceland in 1772.

John Cleveley the Younger (1747-1786) was Banks's draughtsman on his journey to the Hebrides, Orkney and Iceland, prior to working on the Endeavour illustrations.

Explore by engraver

As principal engraver, Daniel Mackenzie (active 1775-1800) produced over 250 of the 738 copper plates that were eventually printed in Banks's Florilegium.

Gabriel Smith (1724-1783) was one of Banks's most productive engravers, having created 118 copper plates.

Gerald Sibelius (1734-1785) was a Dutch artist and one of the longest-serving engravers for Banks's project, producing a total of 195 copper plates.