What might have been on Captain Cook’s shopping list for his voyage to Australia?

This enquiry is suitable for students aged 5-7, you can download a free, printable PDF version here.

This enquiry assumes children have already been introduced to Captain Cook and his voyages to Pacific lands. Portraits of him can be found in the National Portrait Gallery’s collection and the National Maritime Museum’s collection to help with this. The HMS Bark Endeavour and Kongorou notes in this resource include some useful information.

Show students images of Australia, and where Britain and Australia are on a map. Talk about:

  • What it’s like in Australia
  • What the weather is like there
  • How long it would take to sail there (remember Captain Cook did not really know how long it would take to get there – each of his voyages of exploration took around two-three years).
  • What might you need to take with you on a long voyage to the other side of the world? Talk about food, clothes, equipment for finding the way and recording all of the amazing things they might see. Remember there were no fridges or freezers, no cameras, no GPS! And the ship was VERY small for the amount of people and stuff it needed to carry.

Project the image of Captain Cook’s ship Endeavour onto the whiteboard. Each child in turn spots something different about the ship or a different item or person that would have been on board – e.g. a sail, a map, a barrel. Older children could add adjectives or further detail to their observations – a white sail, a heavy barrel. Can everyone in the group spot something different?

Try turning it into a game. Choose six children. The first child looks carefully at the image and says “I looked at the Endeavour and I saw…” they then give an example. The next child does the same, choosing a different item and adding it to the example from the first child: “I looked at the Endeavour and I saw…a sail and a map”. The remaining children take their turns, each choosing a different item and adding it to the list, in order, until the final child who must recite the five previous choices in the right order and then add their own.

Challenge older children to introduce detail to their choices, encouraging them to look more carefully and making the list more difficult to remember: “a white sail, a man carrying a heavy sack.”

  • How many can they include before a detail in the list is forgotten?
  • Will you let the rest of the class help them remember..?

Their observations can be used to make a class poem.

Children can make a class, group or individual shopping list of all the things Captain Cook might have taken with him to Australia. Group them under headings such as: Food, Equipment, Sleeping. Talk about their choices: why might they need sacks of grain? What might be in the barrels?

Children could research life on board further and make a menu for the crew.

Useful links

National Maritime Museum

Australia Museum