On June 3, 1769, as the sailing ship Endeavour lay at anchor off Tahiti, James Cook and his crew gathered on shore to witness an unusual event that had brought them halfway around the globe: the transit of Venus across the Sun.
This year, set out on the same historic date with TravelQuest and discover why the South Pacific is the ideal place to view a truly rare astronomical phenomenon. On our eight-day adventure in Tahiti and Moorea, we explore the spectacular atolls of French Polynesia while ensuring you get a superb view of the June 5 transit – a spectacle we won’t see again for another 105 years.
An Astronomical Milestone
When the Endeavour sailed from England in 1768 under the command of Lt. Cook (he wouldn’t receive his captain’s rank for another seven years), it was at the behest of the Royal Society, whose scientist members were eager to obtain detailed data on the Venus transit. Cook carried with him telescopes that had been specially designed to allow more precise time measurements as the planet moved like a black disk across the blazing Sun.
Cook’s expedition inspired many similar journeys undertaken during the next century, as astronomers sought the best vantage points for studying celestial phenomena. The most significant such events were the transits of Venus in 1874 and, following a long-observed pattern, again in 1882. With precise timings of these passages, astronomers were able to calculate the Earth’s distance from the Sun with greater precision than ever before.
Discovering French Polynesia
By the time Cook reached Tahiti in April 1769, he’d been sailing westward for eight months, navigating vast expanses of ocean to reach an island that’s just 20 miles across. He followed another English explorer who’d discovered Tahiti two years earlier. But the real discoverers of Tahiti – largest in a chain of 118 islands that now comprise French Polynesia – were the intrepid sailors who arrived in small boats from southeast Asia more than 3,000 years ago.
On Tahiti and nearby Moorea, we invite you to immerse yourself in natural beauty while enjoying all the amenities of intimate tropical resorts. Swim on secluded beaches, try snorkeling and diving, explore inland on foot and by four-wheel-drive – and join excursions to reefs and atolls, where our expert guides explain what makes each corner of this paradise unique. And of course no visit to Tahiti is complete without a traditional tama’ara’a feast and dance celebration.
Our Last Chance in This Lifetime
In June 2004, when Venus crossed the face of the Sun for the first time in 122 years, TravelQuest guests journeyed into the heart of Italy to get the best views. Now we have a remarkable second chance to experience the Venus transit in our lifetimes. Join us for an unforgettable experience that only our grandchildren or great-grandchildren will be able to replicate – in December 2117!