Artwork in Focus - William Ellis, View of Adventure Bay, Van Diemen's Land, New Holland, 1777

Updated: Dec 20, 2020



In this article, I'd like discuss the painting I've used as the primary image on this website. It was painted in 1777 on Captain James Cook's final voyage. It shows both the Resolution and Discovery anchored in the bay, set within the Adventure Bay landscape.

On 26 January, on the first stage of his third voyage to the Pacific, Cook anchored in Adventure Bay, Van Dieman's Land (now Tasmania).


John Webber, Captain James Cook RN, 1782, National Portrait Gallery
John Webber, Captain James Cook RN, 1782, National Portrait Gallery

Cook’s voyages aimed to extend British knowledge and imperial and economic potential. They had the combined objectives of undertaking the astronomical observation of the Transit of Venus, visiting unknown lands and people to determine whether there was potential lands for acquisition, collecting botanical and zoological specimens for scientific observation, and searching for the mythical southern continent Terra Australis Incognita (great unknown land of the South).








As with many British journeys, a objective, particularly from the late 1800s, was also to chart and record observations, not only of the lands they discovered or visited, but also of flora, fauna, and any communities they met.


These were generally recorded by officers trained in mapmaking, any professional artists on board, and/or amateur artists amongst the crew or passengers.


Adventure Bay, Tasmania



On 26 January 1777, on the first stage of his final voyage to the Pacific, Cook anchored in Adventure Bay, Van Dieman's Land (now Tasmania).



Although he had been aiming for New Zealand's Cook Strait, Cook anchored at Adventure Bay because HMS Resolution's fore-topmast and main top-gallant had been damaged in a gale and needed repairs. See notes below from Cook's and others' journals. (i)





Adventure Bay had been named by Captain Tobias Furneaux, who commanded the HMB Adventure on Cook's second voyage (1772-75). Furneaux was the first British navigator to put into the bay after becoming temporarily separated from Cook during their eastward Indian Ocean passage. He is also attributed with drawing the first Tasmanian landscape: a sketch of the south side of Adventure Bay, Bruny Island in 1773 (although drawings of Tasmania by Europeans began with the charts and coastal profiles of Abel Tasman's 1642 journal) (ii).

Captain Tobias Furneaux, Plan of Adventure Bay on Van Diemens Land. View of the South Side of Adventure Bay, C1785, Engraver: Alexander Hogg, Copper engraving