Captain James Cook and his voyage of discovery | Part 2

Captain James Cook. Photo SMH
Captain James Cook. Photo SMH

This month happens to the 247th anniversary of Captain James Cook’s voyage up the East Coast of Australia in 1770. The following is the second in a three-part series about Captain Cook and his voyage of discovery, written by Bill Baker of Potato Point:

Part 2: Cook spots and names Mt Dromedary

Cook and the Bark (or Barque) Endeavour in 1770 after leaving Tahiti following the Transit of Venus.

The voyage had other wider strategic aims according to all my sources, contemporary writers and historians. Britain was ambitious, like other European nations, and you could say the same about the world today in 2017.

So following an extended stay in Tahiti, the Endeavour headed south in search of the great southern land. Cook and crew would go on and circumnavigate New Zealand and eventually trace the east coast of Australia. Whilst in the “land of the great white cloud”, Cook was based in the beautiful northwest corner of the South Island at Golden Beach.

They sailed towards New Holland, departing New Zealand on March 31, 1770 (Parkin, 2006). On the way they were becalmed for nine days from the 9th to the 17th April according to Cook's log, which is detailed in a great book by Ray Parkin, HM BARK Endeavour, published by MUP in 2006, and loaned to me by a keen Narooma sailor, golfer and colleague, Paul Ingamells. The wind then picked up and blew from the south west  and logically they headed generally north.

On the 18th April 1770 Cook wrote “...last night we saw a Port Egmont Hen and this morning two more, a Pintado bird, several Albatrosses and black shearwaters. The first of these birds are certain signs of the nearness of land, indeed we cannot be far from it by our longitude we are a league to the westward of the East side of Van Diemen Land”, according to Tasman's first discovery of it. (Parkin, op cit, p.157)

At 6am on the April 19, 1770, Cook saw land extending from the “...NE to West at a distance of 5 or 6 leagues having 80 fathom water and a fine sandy bottom”. The southern most point of land in sight he named Point Hicks, because Lieutenant Hicks sighted same.

Readers need to appreciate that a League was approximately 3 miles or 5 Kms, and a fathom 6 feet or 1.82 metres.

By noon he had logged Ram Head and noted a “small island (Gabo today) close to a point on the main bore west distant 2 leagues. The point I have named Cape Howe (ibid, p.158)”.

It seems highly likely, according to Parkin, that by noon on the 20th the ship had passed without remarking, Green Cape at the north end of Disaster Bay, then Twofold Bay, and that their noon position was just north of present day Merimbula.

In sight to the north was the peak of Mt Dromedary. Cook's log, (Parkin, p.163)" ..winds southerly a gentle breeze and clear weather with which we coasted along shore to the northward.

In the PM we saw a smoak (Cook’s spelling) of fire in several places a certain sign that the country is inhabited. At 6 (p.164) o'clock we were abreast of a pretty high mountain laying near the shore which on account of its figure I called Mt. Dromedary. The shore underfoot of this mountain forms a point which I have called Cape Dromedary".

There is a lot more to this story and in my third and final chapter on this amazing voyage of discovery I will summarise some of Cooks travels all the way to Cape York where on August 22, 1770 he proclaimed the east coast of Australia for King George III giving the English crown exclusive rights to negotiate future settlement sites as a treaty with the Indigenous people (NLA, Australia in Maps, p.51). I will also seek to clarify why he missed Montague Island. Food for thought.

See you next time and regards, Bill Baker


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