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Captain Cook - The Polynesian Tupaia Joins the Endeavour Voyage

Video clip synopsis – Cook takes on board an additional passenger, Polynesian priest and fellow navigator Tupaia. Tupaia shares his remarkable navigational skills, convinced that the notion of a great land mass is a European fantasy.
Year of production - 2007
Duration - 3min 17sec
Tags - audiences, British Empire, Captain Cook, civics and citizenship, culture, DIY Doco, documentary genre, exploration, historical representations, identity, imperialism, indigenous cultures, language, leadership, maps, media, media text, Pacific region, representations, social class, South Sea Islanders, Tahiti, television documentaries, values, see all tags


Captain Cook - The Polynesian Tupaia Joins the Endeavour Voyage

How to Download the Video Clip

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download clip icon Premium MP4 cooktupa_pr.mp4 (24.2MB).

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About the Video Clip


The Polynesian Tupaia Joins the Endeavour Voyage is an excerpt from Taking Command, the second episode of the 4 x one-hour series Captain Cook – Obsession and Discovery, produced in 2007.

Captain James Cook FRS RN (October 27, 1728 – February 14, 1779) was an English explorer, navigator and cartographer. Cook made three epic voyages around the world.

In this excerpt we continue with James Cook’s first voyage to find the Great Southern Continent following his unsuccessful attempt in Tahiti in April 1769 to accurately measure the transit of Venus across the Sun. This dramatised version of Cook setting sail on his secret admiralty mission in October 1769 to discover and explore the Great Southern Continent, reveals important insights into the difference between Cook’s attitude and the traditional attitudes of the British to other races and cultures of that time.

On board the Endeavour is Tupaia, a Polynesian priest that Joseph Banks has insisted accompany them on the voyage. Banks, who along with the rest of the crew had enjoyed the generous hospitality of the Tahitians, saw Tupaia as a curiosity, “a pet” to be displayed once he returned to Britain who would enhance Bank’s aristocratic status as an adventurer. Cook, however valued Tupaia for his specialist knowledge of the Pacific and his maps covering 2200 km of this ocean along with his ability to interpret and translate the languages of the region.

Captain Cook – Obsession and Discovery is a Film Australia National Interest Program. A Cook Films, Ferns Productions, South Pacific Pictures and December Films production. Produced with the assistance of New Zealand On Air, the Canadian Television Fund and Film Victoria, in association with History Television, ZDF in co-operation with ARTE and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. An Australia – Canada Co-production.

Curriculum Focus


Students will learn:

  • how documentaries use drama to entertain and inform
  • how figures and events from history are represented in documentaries
  • to critically anyalse the codes and conventions of contemporary documentaries
  • to critically analyse the clip’s representation of 18thC values
  • to produce a dramatic documentary text about James Cook

Curriculum links
National: The Statements of Learning for English- Year 9
Reading, viewing and interpreting information and argument texts

  • Students read and view texts that entertain, move, parody, investigate,
    analyse, argue and persuade. These texts explore personal, social, cultural
    and political issues of significance to the students’ own lives.
  • Students understand that readers and viewers may need to develop knowledge
    about particular events, issues and contexts to interpret texts.


  • When students write information or argument texts, they make appropriate selections of information from a few sources and attempt to synthesise and organise these in a logical way.
  • Students write imaginative texts in print and electronic mediums that contain personal, social and cultural ideas and issues related to their own lives and communities and their views of their expanding world.

This resource is also relevant to Media Studies- Documentaries, Australian History, Civics and Citzenship, Geography and Visual Arts.

These outcomes relate generally to English curricula across Australia. Teachers and students should consult their state’s curriculum and learning programs.

Go to The National Curriculum Statements for English

Background Information


“I had ambition not only to go farther than any man had been before, but as far as it was possible for a man to go.” James Cook

In the series, best selling British author Vanessa Collingridge, a Geographer and Cook expert tells the story of the explorer James Cook. The series traces him from his origins as son of an English farm labourer, at the very bottom of Britain’s class-bound 18th Century society, through his rise as the best cartographer of the 18th Century, to his incredible voyages of discovery which resulted in Cook describing more of the globe than any other man.

The series relives what it was like to navigate uncharted and unknown waters in search of a legendary 'Great Southern Continent’ and then a North West passage through the Arctic ice; as well as to be among the first Europeans to visit exotic Pacific islands like Tahiti. The harshness and danger of life on the sea is depicted graphically as well as the rigid social structure of the time. The series includes direct descendants of the indigenous peoples of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Hawaii who Cook met 240 years ago and the men of the Endeavour, Resolution, Adventure and Discovery, particularly the famous gentleman botanist Joseph Banks and the young William Bligh.

All of Cook’s major achievements are dramatised and analysed including his discovery of Hawaii, sailing the uncharted coast of New Zealand, proving it isn’t part of the ‘Great Southern Continent’ and the landing at Botany Bay as he claimed Australia for king and country, to death on a beach on the far side of the world.

A hero to some, a villain to others, Cook is depicted from different points of view: as an historic figure of the great stature to the British Royal Navy of the 18th Century and contemporary western culture, and as an exploiter of the Indigenous peoples he came across.

Classroom Activities



  • How does the clip present Cook and his values in regards to Indigenous peoples- consider the dramatic interpretation by the actor (gestures, expressions etc), the narration and production conventions (framing, music, setting etc).
  • Was Joseph Banks’ view of Tupaia typical of the British upper class of the 18thC? How is Banks represented in contrast to Cook in this clip?
  • Critically analyse the way in which this clip uses dramatic recreation to entertain and inform. How effective are dramatic recreations in contemporary documentaries?

Create a text

  • Write a short scene to be performed as theatre or filmed on video from Bank’s point of view of the journey. Consider his status on board as a paying member of the crew, a gentleman botanist and his congenial relationship with Cook.
    Research the text conventions of drama scripts and film scripts before commencing work.

Further Resources


For teachers notes and further information go to the Film Australia Captain Cook – Obsession and Discovery showcase.

Go to Endeavour-Captain Cook’s Journal 1968–71 to read from Captain Cook’s handwritten journals.

Go to Project Guttenberg of Australia for extracts online from the journals of Australian explorers.

Go to Screen Education and Metro Magazine for excellent articles and study guides for studying Australian documentaries and how to produce media.

For complete script to screen tutorials on the production of storyboards and video go to The Australian Children’s Television Foundation, Live Action Kit