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Samuel Enderby (1756–1829)

by K. M. Dallas

This article was published:

Samuel Enderby (1756-1829), was the son of Samuel Enderby (1719-1797) and his wife Mary, née Buxton, a daughter of Enderby's partner at St Paul's Wharf, London. The family had been tanners at Bermondsey, and were granted forfeited estates at Lismore, County Waterford, Ireland, which were sold in 1660; they then carried on the 'oil and Russia trade' which included the New England colonies. In 1773 Enderby's ships were chartered for the tea cargoes that were dumped into Boston Harbour and in the same year they began the Southern Fishery for sperm whales, with ships based on London and with American captains and harpooners. By 1785 seventeen ships were thus engaged, all commanded by Loyalists; by 1790 Enderby estimated the total to be sixty-eight. From 1786 Samuel Enderby as principal owner and merchant appeared frequently with Alexander Champion and John St Barbe before the Committee of the Privy Council for Trade and Plantations as spokesmen for the Southern Fishery. Their most pressing requests were for 'an unlimited right of fishing in all seas'; this required pressure from the government on the East India Co. to assent to successive modifications of the geographical limits that it imposed, to issue licences and to relax other restrictions. By 1801 this freedom was virtually complete, and only the China seas were still closed to them.

In 1789 Enderby sent the Emilia into the Pacific via Cape Horn on a whaling voyage, and in 1791 helped to arrange for whalers to carry convicts to Port Jackson in the Third Fleet. Among these was his own ship Britannia, which became the first ship to take sperm whales on the Australian coast; though hampered by bad weather the master reported that 'if a voyage can be got upon this coast, it will make it shorter than going to Peru'. In 1792, in conjunction with the Admiralty, Enderby sent the Rattler, under Lieutenant James Colnett, R.N., to survey whaling grounds in the south-eastern Pacific; on the voyage, which lasted from January 1793 to November 1794, the Galapagos Islands were surveyed. After this, Enderby's ships Speedy, Britannia and Ocean constantly sailed from Port Jackson whaling. In 1797 he urged the sending of an expedition from Port Jackson against Spanish ports in Chile and Peru, but British attacks there were made from other quarters. The same year he tried, but with no success, to persuade the government to use whalers regularly to take out convicts; but in 1800, with Alexander Champion, he successfully petitioned that the whalers should be allowed to take stores for the colony to compete with American merchants. He sent cargoes 'well adapted for the inhabitants' in the Greenwich, which reached Sydney in May 1801, and then in the Britannia; unfortunately by that time increasing supplies of goods had reduced the profits to be gained in this way. He was a personal friend of Governor Philip Gidley King, who was able to help his whaling and trading activities.

Later Enderby's ships were prominent in extending the fishery farther into the Pacific. They went to New Zealand and Polynesian islands; in 1806 Captain Bristow in the Ocean discovered the Auckland Islands; in 1819 they penetrated Japanese waters. Subsequently they led the way to the Mozambique and Seychelles grounds and into the far southern ocean, after Enderby had urged the annexation of New Zealand in 1820 to control the whalers and traders on its coasts.

Enderby married Mary Goodwyn; their daughter Elizabeth was the mother of Gordon of Khartoum. After his death in 1829 their son, Charles, F.R.S., carried on the firm. In 1831 in their brig Tula, Captain John Biscoe sighted the Antarctic continent and named Enderby Land.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of New South Wales, vols 4-7
  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 2-7
  • J. Colnett, Voyages to the South Atlantic and Round Cape Horn into the Pacific Ocean (Lond, 1798)
  • J. Horsburgh, India Directory, 4th ed (Lond, 1836)
  • E. A. Stackpole, The Sea-Hunters (Philadelphia, 1953)
  • W. J. Dakin, Whalemen Adventurers (Syd, 1963)
  • manuscript catalogue under Enderby and whaling (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Board of Trade papers, vols 1-2 (National Archives of the United Kingdom)
  • Chatham papers 30/8 (National Archives of the United Kingdom).

Citation details

K. M. Dallas, 'Enderby, Samuel (1756–1829)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 17 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]




1829 (aged ~ 73)

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