Captain Cook lands in Australia

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Captain Cook lands in Australia

The 29th of April 1770 AD

Having mapped the coastlines of the two islands of New Zealand in six months of careful exploration, Captain Cook took the Endeavour westwards. Part of Cook’s success can be attributed to the fact that he looked after his crew well on the long voyages they undertook, taking great care in provisioning and re-provisioning his ships, but on this first great voyage the death toll was horrendous, more than forty per cent of those who left England with him not returning. Famously this led to his recognising the need for fresh food in the diet of those on board when he undertook his later voyages.

On April 19 1770 the Endeavour sighted land again, at what is now called Point Hicks. They were the first Europeans known to have reached the eastern seaboard of Australia. Three days after sighting land he saw people on the seashore, noting what he supposed to be their dark skins, though as the ship was some distance offshore he was unsure if the colour was due to clothing rather than skin colour.

The vessel then moved down the coast from what became known as Queensland to the region Cook named South Wales. Cook added the word ‘New’ to the name for clarity later.

On April 29 the Endeavour put a party ashore. Cook named the place Stingray Harbour at first, impressed by the sea-life he observed, though after the botanists on board, Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, had collected a cornucopia of new plants and seeds he changed the appellation to Botany Bay.

After further exploration of the northern coast, and a hair raising episode when the ship ran aground and was seriously damaged on a part of the Barrier Reef – had they sunk the crew would have been marooned in a land no other Europeans were aware of, probably for life – the Endeavour sailed through the Torres Straits before landing at Possession Island, where he claimed all the lands he had just mapped as the possessions of the British crown.

When Cook arrived back in England, via the Cape of Good Hope and St Helena, his fame was assured, though Banks with his incredible new specimens, and not least because of his aristocratic connections, was more lauded in the press than the one-time farm-boy Cook.

internal link Captain Cook Memorial Museum

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On this day:
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