On white men first seeing eastern Australia

By | Category: Travel destinations

On April 19th,  250 years ago, the crew of the ship Endeavour which was captained by Captain James Cook first sighted the eastern coast of Australia. For the next four months he sailed along the eastern seaboard from what is now called Victoria up to the far north of Queensland at Cape York,

Sydney Harbour as far removed from how it was in 1770, and 1788 when Capt Arthur Philip chose it as the first white settlement location

It was today – 29th of April 1770 – that Cook and his mariners landed at what he subsequently called Botany Bay.

Despite the coronavirus outbreak you might have expected that there would be some celebrations on such a significant anniversary but all seems muted in Australia and it isn’t just due to the virus. Part of it is due to the effect of these visitors on the indigenous peoples. How is it recorded in their verbal history amongst a people where traditions are handed down by word-of-mouth?

I was in Australia in 1970 on the 200th anniversary of Cook’s arrival and again in 1988 when the First Fleet arrived. Both occasions were big events drawing visitors from around the world. In 1988, Sydney Harbour was a panorama of tall ships, Cunard Queens, naval vessels and small ships so that this, one of the world’s biggest harbours, looked a little small when chockabloc with ships and boats.

Although the Australian government announced a series of events taking place this year, some have been hit by the outbreak. Some were ever only online.

One section of the year’s events was the repatriation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders material that had disappeared overseas.

What could have been one of the big tourist events of the year will be yet another consigned to “what might have been” as even Australians will be unable to visit local events yet alone national ones.

Another big event, Vivid Sydney, a tourist attraction that enticed millions, has been cancelled as had many of that most traditional of Australian events, Anzac parades, which were due to be held four days ago.

Like many countries that had planned to hold big events and had spent many months, and in some cases, years planning them have seen all go by the wayside.

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