‘We want to share the story — good and bad’

SAILING AWAY: HMB Endeavour replica volunteer guide Debbie Gibson — from Fremantle, Australia — was showing off the educational aspects of the ship at Gisborne’s inner harbour yesterday. Picture by Paul Rickard

An Australian woman’s 30-year connection to the replica HMB Endeavour has seen her follow the ship around Australia and New Zealand, to promote the educational nature of the ship.

Now retired, the 59-year-old former teacher from Fremantle Debbie Gibson has one big ambition left, to sail once again on the ship. The only problem is, she gets seasick.

“I have done some small voyages, nothing of the magnitude of Sydney to New Zealand,” she said.

“I don’t do well at sea but I’ve done voyages out of Western Australia and the trips we do in Sydney Harbour, but I leave the big sailing to the professionals and the people who don’t get so seasick, like me.

“It’s a very expensive journey, its nearly $300 a day to do a voyage — maybe next year. It will be my last hurrah. Next year, 2020, I will be 60 during our Cook 250anniversary, where I will follow Endeavour from Botany Bay to Cooktown then around the West coast to Geraldton, Fremantle, Bunbury, Albany, Esperance, and that will be my swansong because I’m retired and I want to do something to finish off with.”

Her connection to the replica started at the ship’s birth in Fremantle, Australia, in 1988.

“I’m an educator and a historian, and when I was teaching I went down every month to photograph the build of the vessel — so I’ve got all the photographic memorabilia of the ship being built.

“That was right from when the keel was laid, until launch day, when it sailed off to England in October of 1996. It set off to the UK and we had our head boy and head girl at the helm, taking it up the coast from Fremantle.”

Since then, she had remained involved with the ship and still volunteered as a guide for port-based tours around Australia.

“I’ve been a guide for nearly 20 years.”

Her love of the ship is twofold — around its historical accuracy, and what the replica voyages represent to those who sail on her.

She admires the history of the ship itself, “being built from the ground up to be as authentic as a replica ship can be to the original plan”.

“The authenticity to the original is, I think, the best in the world for that era of vessel.

“In Australia there are people who love to hate history, and then there are people like myself who love history.

“She’s a ship of reconciliation that brings the story to the people and we want to share the story — both good and bad.

“We’re not hiding from the truth.

“To me, the vessel lives and breathes and we have to be thankful we have this vessel in history and are able to use it as we do.

“So, for me it’s more about the ship and what it creates for people. It creates opportunities, it creates this idea that people do come together from around the world to experience how it was in the 18th century to sail.

“I spoke to a gentleman today, he had sailed from Tauranga, he says it’s one of the hardest things he’s ever done. It’s no easy deal being at sea on a ship that rocks and rolls and doesn’t have all the luxuries of today.

“I really, really appreciate the craftsmanship that went into creating the vessel. It took six years, a lot of money and a lot of blood, sweat and toil. The fact it got off the ground at all and out of the boat shed is a miracle in itself.

“We just want the world to appreciate the ship for what she is.”

An Australian woman’s 30-year connection to the replica HMB Endeavour has seen her follow the ship around Australia and New Zealand, to promote the educational nature of the ship.

Now retired, the 59-year-old former teacher from Fremantle Debbie Gibson has one big ambition left, to sail once again on the ship. The only problem is, she gets seasick.

“I have done some small voyages, nothing of the magnitude of Sydney to New Zealand,” she said.

“I don’t do well at sea but I’ve done voyages out of Western Australia and the trips we do in Sydney Harbour, but I leave the big sailing to the professionals and the people who don’t get so seasick, like me.

“It’s a very expensive journey, its nearly $300 a day to do a voyage — maybe next year. It will be my last hurrah. Next year, 2020, I will be 60 during our Cook 250anniversary, where I will follow Endeavour from Botany Bay to Cooktown then around the West coast to Geraldton, Fremantle, Bunbury, Albany, Esperance, and that will be my swansong because I’m retired and I want to do something to finish off with.”

Her connection to the replica started at the ship’s birth in Fremantle, Australia, in 1988.

“I’m an educator and a historian, and when I was teaching I went down every month to photograph the build of the vessel — so I’ve got all the photographic memorabilia of the ship being built.

“That was right from when the keel was laid, until launch day, when it sailed off to England in October of 1996. It set off to the UK and we had our head boy and head girl at the helm, taking it up the coast from Fremantle.”

Since then, she had remained involved with the ship and still volunteered as a guide for port-based tours around Australia.

“I’ve been a guide for nearly 20 years.”

Her love of the ship is twofold — around its historical accuracy, and what the replica voyages represent to those who sail on her.

She admires the history of the ship itself, “being built from the ground up to be as authentic as a replica ship can be to the original plan”.

“The authenticity to the original is, I think, the best in the world for that era of vessel.

“In Australia there are people who love to hate history, and then there are people like myself who love history.

“She’s a ship of reconciliation that brings the story to the people and we want to share the story — both good and bad.

“We’re not hiding from the truth.

“To me, the vessel lives and breathes and we have to be thankful we have this vessel in history and are able to use it as we do.

“So, for me it’s more about the ship and what it creates for people. It creates opportunities, it creates this idea that people do come together from around the world to experience how it was in the 18th century to sail.

“I spoke to a gentleman today, he had sailed from Tauranga, he says it’s one of the hardest things he’s ever done. It’s no easy deal being at sea on a ship that rocks and rolls and doesn’t have all the luxuries of today.

“I really, really appreciate the craftsmanship that went into creating the vessel. It took six years, a lot of money and a lot of blood, sweat and toil. The fact it got off the ground at all and out of the boat shed is a miracle in itself.

“We just want the world to appreciate the ship for what she is.”

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Lulu, Busselton - 12 days ago
Good on you Deb, you keep going girl and pluck up the courage to cross the oceans under sail. After a while, the seasickness will disappear and you will be cured for life :-)

Leah Bradford, BC Canada - 12 days ago
We are very proud of you Debbie. Keep sharing the remarkable history of the Endeavour to keep it alive.

Leah and Ray in Canada

Elly Spillekom, Fremantle - 12 days ago
Great story Debby. Yes history needs to be told over and over again so we can learn from it. What is happening now with the discussion about the Endeavour Replica visiting NZ, it was the same when the Dutch VOC replica De Duyfken (also built in Fremantle WA) sailed to The Netherlands for the 400-year VOC anniversary. In the Netherlands there were discussions and protests against the VOC history. Well, in the early days of exploring, the seafaring nations from Europe were not nice. They wanted to divide the world for themselves and were only interested in trade. They killed so many people along their voyages and occupied countries. To this day, indigenous groups around the world still have problems with this legacy. So that is why history has to be told , good and bad.

Loretta Sullivan, Queensland - 12 days ago
Well said Debbie.
We at Cooktown in Far North Queensland Australia are looking forward to this beautiful ship visiting us at the Endeavour River in 2020, where Cook and his crew spent 48 days here repairing her after she hit the Great Barrier Reef in 1770.
Go to the Cooktown Expo 2020 for more information on our three-week festival. These events are supported by Guugu Yimithirr and Kuku Yalanji Traditional Owners and other Indigenous communities throughout Cape York Peninsula.

Fran Taylor, Perth - 12 days ago
Good on you Deb. Bite the bullet and book on for the Fremantle-Albany sail in 2021. It might be your last chance. The seasickness will pass in a couple of days; PROMISE. In my 30 years of sailing on square rig ships, especially Endeavour, I've seen so many people come good after a couple of days of misery, and they all say it was worth it!

Colleen Buck, Perth - 12 days ago
Well done Deb Gibson, great article of your passion for this beautiful replica. Your volunteering as a tour guide is amazing too! You need to get some sea bands for your sea sickness! I hate boats for that too but now I have my sea bands I can go on any ship, boat or dingy with rough seas - and no problems.

Valerie Preston, Perth - 10 days ago
Well done Deb, the story warts and all is good for us all.

Dorothy Morrison, Scarborough, North Yorkshire - 10 days ago
Fantastic "swansong!!" Debs... well maybe not quite...still a bit to go!!...What....no mention of Canada following Endeavour?!
Across the Capilano Bridge, up Grouse Mountain, through Stanley Park, then on a reservation of the First Nation, carving on a totem pole, joining up with the Edith Cavell School in Vancouver and booking a limo for the students to travel in.....What Adventures!!
...I am from SCARBOROUGH, ..no...not W.A...North Yorkshire, England!!
I met up with Debbie quite by chance when she followed Endeavour to Whitby, N.. Y. ..She brought a group of children over to dance on the decks in costume, THEN LATER, and needed a historian to take the children on a tour of Scarborough Castle...That was the best thing I have ever volunteered for...'cos when I went round Endeavour I was smitten!!
Because of Debbie I became a Guide and Shipkeeper every time Endeavour came to Whitby, and was sad to see her leave our shores...but...I was lucky to become a volunteer on The Grand Turk - another square rigger, and crewed on her for about 10 years til she was sold. Then I volunteered on The Lord Nelson, a ship for disabled and able-bodied "Buddies"... ALL BECAUSE OF MY FRIEND...DEBBIE GIBSON.....SHE IS AN INSPIRATION TO EVERYONE SHE MEETS!!
GOOD ON YER DEBS!!
AS WE SAY IN YORKSHIRE..."SHE'S A GOOD 'UN!!"

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