Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Captain Cook Lands at Botany Bay

We have met Captain James Cook here at the Guide before, when I told the story of his somewhat grisly Hawaiian end. Today we welcome the Captain back to the salon to commemorate his first landing at what came to be known as Botany Bay.


James Cook by Nathaniel Dance-Holland, 1776
James Cook by Nathaniel Dance-Holland, 1776

In 1770, though Cook's rank was that of lieutenant, he served as captain of HMS Endeavour, engaged in a mission to charter the coastline of southern Australia and observe the transit of Venus. It was whilst undertaking these important tasks that Cook identified a place of safe anchorage in a natural bay located between what is now Cape Banks and Point Solander. With Cook keen to go ashore and discover more about this new territory, it was decided that the Endeavour would drop anchor so members of her crew could investigate further. 



Botany Bay by Charles Gore, 1789
Botany Bay by Charles Gore, 1789

The area was inhabited by the Gweagal, a tribe of Indigenous Australians. As the ship drew near, a few Gweagal warriors gathered on the rocks to watch its approach whilst the majority took shelter further inland. In fact there was to be no further action that day as the crew waited overnight and on 29th April 1770, a party from the ship went ashore. The contact between the Gweagal and the Europeans was understandably tense. When the local people remonstrated with the landing party, shots were fired by the British but there was no escalation in conflict.

In fact, in the eight days that the British were on land, the Gweagal did their best to avoid their visitors. Though the men from the Endeavour attempted to make contact their efforts were in vain. Instead the local people went about their daily routines, all the while keeping a close eye on their visitors.


The crew of the Endeavour come ashore; from Australia: the first hundred years, by Andrew Garran, 1886
The crew of the Endeavour come ashore; from Australia: the first hundred years, by Andrew Garran, 1886

As the Endeavour lay at anchor, the crew coined the name Stingrays Harbour, to reflect the large number of that fish in the bay. However, as Cook wrote in his own journal, so verdant were the flora of the region and so many specimens were available to the ship's botanists that he renamed the area Botanist's Bay, later amending this to Botany Bay.

Eventually the Endeavour resumed its iconic voyage; four months later, Cook claimed his newly-chartered coastline as British territory and set sail for home.


Landing of Captain Cook at Botany Bay, 1770 by E. Phillips Fox, 1902
Landing of Captain Cook at Botany Bay, 1770 by E. Phillips Fox, 1902

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