Expedition Stories

Smithsonian Institution Libraries

These exercises and lesson plans are designed to accompany and enrich the study and discussion of the June 2004 Transit of Venus.


Cook's visit to Tahiti



Students write reports or role play stories based on the Transit of Venus expeditions.

Grade Level:



  • Use the internet and other sources to research and read about expeditions that were formed and carried out to observe the Transit of Venus during the 18th and 19th centuries
  • Present information on some of the events that took place during these expeditions
  • Work cooperatively with other students in making presentations

Subject Area or Standard:

Science, Creative Writing, History, and Geography

Materials Needed:

  • Books, articles and web sites containing information about the 1761, 1769, 1874 and 1882 expeditions to observe the Transits of Venus.
  • Maps
  • Presentation materials (poster board, markers, costumes, etc.)


Historical accounts
The transits of 1761 and 1769
The 1882 transit
Drawings of the Transit of Venus by Captain James Cook and Charles Green
The 1874 Expedition
The Voyage of the Endeavor, 1769
The 1769 Baja California Observations of the Transit of Venus


Books and web sites
Maps and globes

Chasing Venus
Smithsonian Institution Libraries Exhibition, March 2004 to January 2005, Smithsonian Institution Libraries Gallery, National Museum of American History, Washington, DC

Chasing Venus
Smithsonian Institution Libraries Online Exhibition, March 2004 to January 2005, http://www.sil.si.edu/exhibitions/Chasing-Venus.htm

Cape of Good Hope: Mason and Dixon
St Helena: Maskelyne (1761)
Rodrigues Island: Pingre
Tobolsk, Siberia: Chappe
St. John's, Newfoundland: Winthrop
Tahiti: Cook
Pondicherry, India: Le Gentil
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico: Chappe
North Cape, Norway: Bayley
Haiti: Pingre
Hudson Bay, Canada: Dymond
Vladivostok: US and Russia
Japan: US and France
China: US, Germany and France
Kerguelen Island, US, Britain and Germany
Tasmania: US
New Zealand: US and Britain
Chatham Island: US
Mauritius: Britain and Germany
Iran: Germany and Russia
Eqypt: Britain, Russia
Hawaii: Britain
Rodrigues Island: Britain
St. Paul's Island: France
Campbell Island: France
Calcutta, India: Italy
Tashkent: Russia
Reunion Island: Netherlands
South Africa: US and Britain
Santa Cruz, Argentina: US
Santiago, Chile: US
Algeria: France
South Georgia: Germany


1. Assign one of the listed expeditions to teams or partners for research using the internet and any other sources.
2. Teams or partners research the various expeditions that were mounted in order to view the 18th Century and 19th Century Transits. If possible visit the Smithsonian Institution Libraries "Chasing Venus" Exhibit in Washington, DC or online.

3. Teams or partners prepare a presentation on their expedition for rest of class. May take the form of report, skit, posters, or display.
4. Hold special Transit of Venus Expeditions Fair (based on History Fair concept).


Reports and presentations can be scaled to suit the needs of the class and school.

One team might present an overall view tracing and annotating the various expeditions on a map of the world.

Research and report on the modern expeditions proposed for the 2004 Transit.