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Australia history

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History
INTRUDERS ARRIVE
By sunrise the storm had passed. Zachary Hicks was keeping sleepy watch
on the British ship Endeavour when suddenly he was wide awake. He summoned his captain, James Cook, who climbed into the brisk morning air to
a miraculous sight. Ahead of them lay an uncharted country of wooded hills
and gentle valleys. It was 19 April 1770. In the coming days Cook began to
draw the first European map of Australia’s eastern coast. He was mapping
the end of Aboriginal supremacy.
Two weeks later Cook led a party of men onto a narrow beach. As they
waded ashore, two Aboriginal men stepped onto the sand, and challenged
the intruders with spears. Cook drove the men off with musket fire. For
the rest of that week, the Aborigines and the intruders watched each other
warily.
Cook’s ship Endeavour was a floating annexe of London’s leading scientific
organisation, the Royal Society. The ship’s gentlemen passengers included
technical artists, scientists, an astronomer and a wealthy botanist named
Joseph Banks. As Banks and his colleagues strode about the Aborigines’
territory, they were delighted by the mass of new plants they collected. (The
showy banksia flowers, which look like red, white or golden bottlebrushes,
are named after Banks.)
The local Aborigines called the place Kurnell, but Cook gave it a foreign
name: he called it ‘Botany Bay’. The fertile eastern coastline of Australia is
now festooned with Cook’s place names – including Point Hicks, Hervey
Bay (after an English admiral), Endeavour River and Point Solander (after
one of the Endeavour’s scientists).
When the Endeavour reached the northern tip of Cape York, blue ocean
opened up to the west. Cook and his men could smell the sea-route home.
And on a small, hilly island (‘Possession Island’), Cook raised the Union
Jack. Amid volleys of gunfire, he claimed the eastern half of the continent
for King George III.
Cook’s intention was not to steal land from the Aborigines. In fact he
rather idealised them: ‘They are far more happier than we Europeans’,
he wrote. ‘They think themselves provided with all the necessaries of Life
and that they have no superfluities.’ At most, his patriotic ceremony was
intended to contain the territorial ambitions of the French, and of the Dutch,
who had visited and mapped much of the western and southern coast over
the previous two centuries. Indeed, Cook knew the western half of Australia
as ‘New Holland’.

CONV...
lonelyplanet.com
INTRUDERS ARRIVE
By sunrise the storm had passed. Zachary Hicks was keeping sleepy watch
on the British ship Endeavour when suddenly he was wide awake. He sum-
moned his captain, James Cook, who climbed into the brisk morning air to
a miraculous sight. Ahead of them lay an uncharted country of wooded hills
and gentle valleys. It was 19 April 1770. In the coming days Cook began to
draw the first European map of Australia’s eastern coast. He was mapping
the end of Aboriginal supremacy.
Two weeks later Cook led a party of men onto a narrow beach. As they
waded ashore, two Aboriginal men stepped onto the sand, and challenged
the intruders with spears. Cook drove the men off with musket fire. For
the rest of that week, the Aborigines and the intruders watched each other
warily.
Cook’s ship Endeavour was a floating annexe of London’s leading scientific
organisation, the Royal Society. The ship’s gentlemen passengers included
technical artists, scientists, an astronomer and a wealthy botanist named
Joseph Banks. As Banks and his colleagues strode about the Aborigines’
territory, they were delighted by the mass of new plants they collected. (The
showy banksia flowers, which look like red, white or golden bottlebrushes,
are named after Banks.)
The local Aborigines called the place Kurnell, but Cook gave it a foreign
name: he called it ‘ Botany Bay’. The fertile eastern coastline of Australia is
now festooned with Cook’s place names – including Point Hicks, Hervey
Bay (after an English admiral), Endeavour River and Point Solander (after
one of the Endeavour’s scientists).
When the Endeavour reached the northern tip of Cape York, blue ocean
opened up to the west. Cook and his men could smell the sea-route home.
And on a small, hilly island (‘Possession Island’), Cook raised the Union
Jack. Amid volleys of gunfire, he claimed the eastern half of the continent
for King George III.
Cook’s intention was not to steal land from the Aborigines. In fact he
rather idealised them: ‘They are far more happier than we Europeans’,
he wrote. ‘They think themselves provided with all the necessaries of Life
and that they have no superfluities.’ At most, his patriotic ceremony was
intended to contain the territorial ambitions of the French, and of the Dutch,
who had visited and mapped much of the western and southern coast over
the previous two centuries. Indeed, Cook knew the western half of Australia
as ‘ New Holland’.
CONVICT BEGINNINGS
Eighteen years after Cook’s arrival, in 1788, the English were back to stay
with a fleet of 11 ships, packed with supplies including weapons, tools, build-
ing materials and livestock. The ships also contained 751 ragtag convicts,
and around 250 soldiers, officials and their wives. This motley ‘ First Fleet’
was under the command of a humane and diligent naval captain, Arthur
Phillip. As his orders dictated, Phillip dropped anchor at Botany Bay. But
the paradise that had so delighted Joseph Banks filled Phillip with dismay.
The country was marshy, there was little healthy water, and the anchor-
age was exposed to wind and storm. So Phillip left his floating prison and
embarked in a small boat to search for a better location. Just a short way
up the coast his heart leapt as he sailed into the finest harbour in the world.
History
Michael Cathcart teaches
history at the Australian
Centre, University of
Melbourne. He is well-
known as a broadcaster
on ABC Radio National
and presented the ABC
TV series Rewind.
Tasmania’s Aborigines
were separated from the
mainland when sea levels
rose after the last Ice Age.
In remote parts of
Australia, many older
Aborigines still speak
their traditional
languages rather than
English.
© Lonely Planet Publications
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