The Australian USA connection

The connection between Australia and the United States goes back a long way; much further than the great majority of Australians  and dare I say not much more than a handful of Americans, yes I dare, know. Indeed it goes back to before they were the United States, just a couple of handfuls plus two big toes and a little one, known affectionately as the 13 American Colonies. 

When Lieutenant James Cook set sail aboard his ship ‘HMB Endeavour’ in August of 1768 there were two Americans as part of the ship’s company (in the Royal Navy it is the ships company or complement, never crew). 800px-Endeavour%2C_Thomas_Luny_1768[1] The third in command a Lt. John Gore was born in the British Colony of Virginia about 1730 and a Midshipman James Maria Matra who was born in New York in 1746. 

A third American joined the ships company when the vessel put in to the Madeira Islands, his name was John Thurman and not much else is known about him. He was shanghaiied from an American vessel after one of Cooks men had died in an accident whilst the ship was berthing. This poor bloke didn’t have much luck, not only was he shanghaiied he never completed the voyage.He died on the voyage back to England shortly after leaving Batavia on the 3rd February 1771 age 22 years.

Gore joined the Royal Navy in 1755 as a midshipman, remember in 1755 the colonies were still British and had no navy of their own (merchant marine excepted) so any colonial who wanted to join the navy and see the world had to sign up with the RN. Lt Gore had already circumnavigated the world twice before and his experience of the Pacific was invaluable to Cook.

He did not sail with Cook on Cooks second voyage but answered Cooks call and joined him aboard the HMS Resolution as second in command on his third and fatal voyage.  After Cook died Charles Clerke the captain of the HMS Discovery took over command of the Resolution and the expedition, but when he died shortly thereafter Gore took over command of the entire expedition and took the ships safely back to England, arriving in 1780. 

He was completely unaware that his place of birth had declared their independence. He stayed on in the RN promoted to Captain and died in 1790.

The midshipman Matra also remained  British became a lifelong friend of (Sir)Joseph Banks. On  his return to England in 1771 he wrote a plan to colonise Botany Bay. He joined the diplomatic service and was Consul of Tangier. The Sydney suburb of Matraville on Botany Bay is named for him. He died in Tangier in 1806. Endeavour

The picture is of a painting by Thoma Luny (1759-1837) and depicts the ship “Earl of  Pembroke” a Whitby collier departing Whitby Harbour 1768 bound for London (Deptford) where it was refitted for it’s voyage of discovery and renamed and commissioned as  HMB Endeavour. Not HMS Endeavour as at the time there was a frigate HMS Endeavour. (The file is courtesy Wikimedia Commons).

The photograph is of the replica moored at the north wharf at  the Australian National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour, Sydney NSW and which I took whilst on duty at the Museum.


6 thoughts on “The Australian USA connection

  1. Love this post, Bryan! Happy New Year.


    1. Thank you Vic.
      The US/Australian relationship is a favourite subject of mine. I’m a volunteer guide at the Australian National Maritime Museum and I specialize in the Endeavour and the United States Gallery. I haven’t been able to work there for some months now since the stroke but I’m hopeful of being able to get back into it in the near future.
      I thought I’d do a few more posts on this subject in the meantime.


  2. Brian,
    do you know anything about the Australians who took part in the American Civil War and the Americans who were at the Eureka Stockade? There were also a fair number of Australians working on the Californian goldfields.


    1. No Neill I’m afraid I don’t but you have given me a new line to follow.
      In respect of the Americans at Ballarat (Ballarrat I think they used to spell it) I think the “Colt Revolver” in the Museums US Gallery was recovered from the site of the battle. I shall look into this and see what I can discover. I might get an interesting post for a change, out of it 😉


    2. Neill, I’ve been looking into this and I find that there were several Australians, native born as well as immigrants and Americans who had moved here looking for gold. I’ll try and do a proper essay on the subject in the future


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