16 February 2024

Riverina Rewind: Did you see the tall ship sailing Lake Albert in 1970?

| Chris Roe
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The one-fifth scale model of James Cook's Endeavour

The one-fifth scale model of James Cook’s Endeavour that was built in 1969 by New Zealander Ralph Sewell. Photo: State Library of Queensland.

Do you remember a tall ship carving its way through the waters of Wagga’s Lake Albert half a century ago?

It may be hard to believe, but it’s true, as recalled recently by Dell Bungay on the Lost Wagga community Facebook page.

The ship in question was a one-fifth scale model of James Cook’s Endeavour that was built in New Zealand and visited Australia in 1970.

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Dell’s post attracted plenty of interest and recollections from locals who recalled seeing the little ship on Lake Albert as it toured Australia and New Zealand to mark the bicentenary of Cook’s historic 1770 voyage.

Bron Roberts recalled heading to the lake with her school to see the miniature vessel.

“We all marvelled at how Captain Cook and his crew could sail around the world in something so small because no one told us it was a 1/5 scale replica,” she wrote.

The replica sits at just under 7 metres in length compared to Cook’s HMS Endeavour at 29.77 m – which is of course still a tiny ship to travel the world in!

Boat builder Ralph Sewell

Boat builder Ralph Sewell, pictured with the replica Endeavour II under construction at his home in Castor Bay. Photo: Rex Rattenbury.

The Endeavour II was constructed in New Zealand in 1969 by celebrated Auckland boat and organ builder, Ralph Sewell.

Keen to commemorate Cook’s first visit to New Zealand 200 years earlier, he acquired a set of plans from the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London.

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Working at his home in Castor Bay, the vessel took Sewell 12 weeks to complete and a tour of the antipodes was sponsored by South British Insurance.

A trailer was used to transport the replica as it travelled extensively throughout New Zealand and Australia and it was sailed in harbours and lakes wherever possible.

The Endeavour II

The Endeavour II remains on display in the Russell Museum in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands. Photo: Russell Museum.

There are some surviving photos of its arrival in Sydney Harbour in the Fairfax Photo Library.

It was presented to the Russell Museum in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands in 1970 and is housed in a purpose-built gallery.

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