Hms endeavour

Without Joseph Banks, Cook’s first voyage might have been a failure

When the wealthy young Joseph Banks announced that he intended joining Captain Cook’s expedition to Tahiti to observe the Transit of Venus, friends asked why he didn’t instead do the Grand Tour. ‘Every blockhead does that,’ Banks replied. ‘My Grand Tour shall be one round the whole globe.’ It was a wise decision, and his voyage on HMS Endeavour would be the making of him. He returned with an extraordinary haul of natural history specimens and would thereafter more or less fall into important roles on the strength of his experiences, whether it was as the unofficial director of Kew, which he would make into the world’s most important botanical