Captain James Cook arrived in Botany Bay 250 years ago.
Captain James Cook arrived in Botany Bay 250 years ago.

Cook arrival anniversary muted by more than COVID-19

IT IS not just the COVID-19 pandemic that has led to muted celebrations of the 250th anniversary of the "discovery" of Australia by Captain James Cook in April 1770.

Lieutenant James Cook was in command of the bark HMS Endeavour, when it first sighted Australia on April 19.

The landfall was named Point Hicks after Lieutenant Zachary Hicks, who was the first to shout "land ho" when he picked out land on the horizon.

Nine days later Cook landed at Kurnell - now in the electorate of Cook, represented by Prime Minister Scott Morrison - and claimed the country for England.

The government committed more than $48 million to mark the anniversary, but most of the events, including the circumnavigation of Australia by a replica of the Endeavour, have been called off, due to bushfires and coronavirus.

As with the celebration of Australia Day, Cook's arrival - he was 60,000 years or more too late to call it a "discovery" - has received a mixed reception.

For many Aboriginal people the arrival of Cook signalled the beginning of the theft of their lands.

And for the community at large the gloss has worn off the glory of colonial expansion.

The voyage along Eastern Australia had its quirks.

Cook was a renowned map maker, but the co-ordinates he recorded for the location of his first landfall in Australia were wrong.

They mark a spot several kilometres out to sea. Debate has raged whether a cloud bank put Cook off or he decided to deliberately misrepresent the location.

More recently speculation has arisen he deliberately gave false co-ordinates to mislead the French - who were colonial rivals of England - about the existence of Bass Strait.

Cook also actually landed at Kurnell on April 28, but made the entry recording the landing in his journal on April 29, which has been celebrated as the anniversary of the landing ever since.

Cook sailed by the "mighty Clarence" without noticing it. But it was night time, so he has an excuse.

It's a common misconception Cook was part of the First Fleet, which arrived in Australia in 1788. Cook had been dead for nine years by that time, killed in Hawaii during his third voyage to the Pacific.

More recently the Endeavour replica was said to be repeating Cook's "circumnavigation of Australia".

The first person to do that was Matthew Flinders, who was born four years after Cook first arrived in Australia,

Flinders, also a noted cartographer, circumnavigated Australia in 1802-03 in Investigator.

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