This book, the second I've read in this fabulous Who Explored Australia? series helps to fill in some of the gaps.
James Cook was the second of eight children born to his Scottish farm labourer father, James Cook, and his mother, Grace Pace. Four of his siblings were to die before they were five years old. Young James only had 4 years of schooling, from 8 to 12 years, which was paid for by his father's employer. James was believed to be an average student, but to have been quite talented at mathematics.
|I walked past the cottage recently in Melbourne,
but didn't go in.
He left school initially to work on the farm, before leaving as a teenager to work in a grocery shop, and then beoming a sailor. Working mainly in the North Sea, he quickly rose to become a ships captain. James Cook joined the British Navy in the lead up to the Seven Years War with France. Most of his naval service was in North America, where he developed a great skill charting unfamiliar waters.
In 1768 Cook was tasked with leading an expedition to Tahiti to observe the Transit of Venus due on 3 June 1769, and to search for the Great Southern Land. 94 people were on board The Endeavour, and the book includes an interesting two pages on the provisions that she took on board for the journey. 800 pounds of suet! Who would know what to do with that these days? Or where to get it from?
After spending three months in Hawaii, The Endeavour then went in search of the Great Southern Land. Several months later, on 7 October 1769 she sighted New Zealand. After six months spent charting the coast of New Zealand (the significance of Cook Strait never really dawned on me before, d'oh!), James Cook set off to find New Holland. The first sighting of Australian land came on 17 April 1770 at Point Hicks in what is now Eastern Victoria.
|Captain Cook Memorial, Canberra
Showing Cook Strait and the three routes he took on his 3 Pacific voyages.
After travelling up the East Coast, James Cook anchored the Endeavour in what was to become Botany Bay, south of Sydney Harbour. Interesting to read that he first named it Sting Ray Harbour, and then Botanist Bay, before it became Botany Bay. By August the Endeavour reached Possession Island off Cape York where Captain Cook claimed the Eastern Coast of Australia for Britain in the name of King George III.
There is an interesting page on Joseph Banks who was a mere 23 years old when he was selected by the Royal Society to travel with James Cook to the South Pacific- a journey that was to ensure his ongoing fame.
It's rather amazing to note that there were three botanists aboard the Endeavour! Dr Daniel Solander and Herman Sporing certainly don't have the enduring fame in Australia that Joseph Banks does. Banks' name lives on in place names and multiple plants- most notably the Banksias of course.
|A Banksia in Blue Mountains National Park
Check out my first post on this series Who Explored Australia? Blaxland, Lawson, Wentworth, Evans and Strzelecki.