Colliers are cargo ships specifically designed to carry coal. Colliers, such as the ships used by Captain James Cook, are of very sturdy design. They are often “cat-built,” or wide and strong, with a flat bottom, and a shallow draft. The shallow draft allows the crew to pull very close to shore, and even onto the shore for repair work. Colliers provide a very large amount of space for storage, which allowed explorers such as Cook to carry on board the necessary supplies for long voyages.
Why did Cook choose to sail in ships originally designed to haul coal? Aside from having so much experience with them in his early training as a merchant sailor, Cook knew colliers had several advantages for the type of voyage he and the Admiralty had in mind. The Endeavour, the ship used on the first voyage, was of a very sturdy, cat-built (wide and strong, with a flat bottom) design, and had a shallow draft. The shallow draft allowed the crew to pull very close to shore, and even on the shore for repair work. Colliers had a tremendous amount of space for storage, which allowed Cook to carry on board the necessary supplies for his incredibly long voyages.
The Endeavour also had the advantage of a new and improved system of rigging. This allowed the crew to consist of only 94 men, including 11 scientists. This was one of the reasons Cook’s crew was able to make so many scientific observations in addition to those of the geographical and cartographical nature.