This Day in History: 1768-08-26

The first of Cook’s voyages of discovery departed from Plymouth on this day. The main purpose of the voyage, initially instigated by the Royal Society, was to observe the 1769 transit of Venus across the sun to enable the measurement of the distance from the Earth to the Sun; the Admiralty elected to combine the scientific voyage with a confidential mission to search the south Pacific for signs of the postulated continent Terra Australis Incognita (unknown southern land). The voyage aboard HMS Endeavour would result in the first arrival of Europeans on Australian soil at the place now known as Botany Bay. Cook returned to England on 12th July 1771 with a unique collection of Australian fauna and flora collected by naturalists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander.