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James Cook and Australia

Apr 29, 2020

250 years ago today this monumental achievement occurred:

Many folks will not know this – including plenty of Australians – but exactly 250 years ago today the British explorer James Cook landed at Botany Bay, resulting in the birth of modern Australia. He had earlier circumnavigated New Zealand before sailing up the east coast of Australia. He had left England on a small vessel called the Endeavour in 1768, and landed in present day Sydney on Sunday April 29, 1770.

A good part of the reason why so few will know about this today is because of the secular left and its black armband view of history. This is the notion that there is nothing to celebrate about Australia’s discovery and founding because white Europeans are only always evil, and they have done only great harm wherever they have gone. Exploitation, invasion, racism, sexism and imperialism are the terms they use to describe our founding and development.

Western civilisation has got to go, don’t you know, according to this mob, and there is nothing in our past worth celebrating or promoting. They prefer the pure and unadulterated primitive societies that of course could do no wrong. Never mind that this revisionist history is simply fake news.

Indeed, back in 1992 Robert Edgerton wrote an important volume entitled Sick Societies: Challenging the Myth of Primitive Harmony (Free Press). He demonstrated conclusively that plenty of these early societies were hardly utopias of sweetness and light.

But these hate-Australia-first folks prefer to keep attacking the land they live in, and refer to Australia Day as “Invasion Day” and the like. Oh dear. But I have dealt with that silliness elsewhere: billmuehlenberg.com/2017/01/26/australia-day-invasion-day/

So let me ignore the naysayers and the critics, and look briefly at just what transpired a quarter of a millennium ago. There are various ways to do this. Plenty of books and articles exist describing the amazing voyage of Captain Cook. Let me quickly mention a few.

For those interested in the Christian roots to all this, one book is Southland of the Holy Spirit by Elizabeth Rogers Kotlowski and Graham McLennan (Christian History Research Institute, 1994). While long ago out of print, you can find the full text of it online here: www.chr.org.au/books/southloand-of-holy-spirit/

Let me draw a bit from the chapter on Cook:

Cook’s next major assignment was in the Pacific. For several centuries, the Europeans had been speculating about a southern continent. The British feared the French might find it first, so while ostensibly putting together an astronomical expedition to an unknown destination in the Pacific to observe a transit of Venus on 3 June 1769, the Lords of the Admiralty secretly instructed Cook to find a new continent. Cook made three voyages to the Pacific between 1768 and his premature death in 1779. It was on his first voyage that he discovered the east coast of Australia. His ship, the Endeavour, sailed from Plymouth on 26 August 1768, without any fanfare or saying of prayers….

In 1770, Lieutenant (later Captain) James Cook landed at Botany Bay’s Inscription Point. He and his Endeavour crew stayed in the area for eight days and had a dramatic impact on Australian history. Located near Silver Beach on the Kurnell Peninsula headland, Cook’s landing place is a popular Sydney attraction. Now heritage-listed, this reserve interprets the story of the meeting of European and Aboriginal cultures.

Visit Kamay Botany Bay National Park to discover Captain Cook’s landing place yourself. The best way to get there is along the Burrawang walk that features a soundscape of Aboriginal children’s laughter. As you pass over the dune you’ll see views of the bay where the Endeavour was first sighted. A small plaque marks the location where Captain Cook landed.

As to his religious views, they write:

The entry Cook wrote in his diary [when landing at Botany Bay] sharpens the contrast between him and his predecessors, whether from Roman Catholic or Protestant Christendom. For where Magellan’s and Quiros’ men had taken the sacrament, and Tasman had beseeched God Almighty to vouchsafe His blessing on his work, Cook recorded the facts: ‘At 2 p.m. got under sail and put to sea.’

Cook was an Anglican. His son, Hugh, was to enter the Anglican ministry, but died prematurely. Several writers on Cook referred to him as a Christian. Cook was a good man: above reproach in his morals; moderate in all things; compassionate and conciliatory in his treatment of the natives; always concerned about the welfare of his men; a man of great courage and determination; cool and just in judgement; controlled in speech even when angry. He would not allow profanity on board (which even professing Christians tolerate these days). He required his men to wear clean clothes on Sunday, and, on occasions he conducted divine service for his crew. This would suggest that he certainly would have been sympathetic, not indifferent or hostile, to the faith. 

Cook’s wife gave him a Prayer Book, which he probably read in order to name a number of places discovered on significant days, such as the Whitsundays, Trinity Bay, Christmas Island, and Pentecost Islands.

Consider one more portion of their account:

After Cook continued to sail up the east coast, an incident occurred that almost terminated the voyage and their lives. There was a danger lurking beneath the waters of which Cook was unaware. It was the Great Barrier Reef. On Trinity Sunday, 10 June, the Endeavour struck a reef and stuck fast. After much work, the crew managed to free her and steered the damaged ship towards a river-mouth, where the banks were suited to laying the vessel ashore for repairs. That was 16 June. It was not until 4 August that Cook was ready to leave, but it was not long before the Endeavour was headed for the reef again. Without any wind and the seas being too deep to cast anchor, the ship was slowly but surely driven by the force of the tides towards certain destruction. Cook knew the Endeavour would smash and sink in a moment when it struck that perpendicular wall. The men manned the boats and tried to tow her away; it was useless. They were eighty yards away when “suddenly, a little breath of air moved, blew for a few minutes, faded, the merest cat’s-paw”. It was enough to carry them towards a narrow opening in the reef, but there was still no wind. How much longer could the Endeavour endure? Another narrow opening was seen in the reef and Cook pulled the head of the ship around. At last a light breeze sprang up, and with the tide being in their favour, hurried the vessel through this “Providential Channel” as Cook named it, as he anchored in safe waters.

It had been “the narrowest escape we ever had and had it not been for the immediate help of Providence we must inevitably have perished”, said Richard Pickersgill, the master’s mate Cook, in his entry for 16 August 1770, after describing their desperate situation, wrote, “It pleased God at this very juncture to send us a light air of wind, which, with the help of our boats, carried us about half a cable’s length from the present danger”. www.chr.org.au/books/southloand-of-holy-spirit/page6.html

I strongly encourage you to explore the Christian History Research site. Graham McLennan has done a superlative job of bringing together in one place masses of detailed and fascinating information on the Christian history of Australia: “Resources can be used online and many can be downloaded for educational use and personal research. Included on the site you will find interactive applications, books, documents, maps, video and audio and more.” www.chr.org.au/

Another excellent volume to utilise here is a brand-new book by renowned Australian historian Geoffrey Blainey called Captain Cook’s Epic Voyage (Penguin, 2020). Actually it is a revision of an earlier work of his, the 2009 Sea of Dangers. But in some 300 pages he tells the incredible tale of Cook’s voyage from the UK to down under.

He says this in the preface to the revised edition: “…his discovery and its consequences are now questioned by Aboriginal leaders and by some historians. In Sydney his statue was recently vandalised. The great navigator is branded as an invader and destroyer. This book concludes with praise of Cook in the light of this controversy and also calls for recognition of the Aboriginal discoverers of Australia tens of thousands of years ago.

And here are some of his final words:

Understandably, modern Aboriginal leaders will continue to blame Captain Cook for ending their long period of relative isolation from the outside world.

And yet most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who are alive today have gained from the arrival of Western civilisation and its material benefits, though in the short term – perhaps for three or four generations – the majority suffered, and suffering for many continues to this day. The Torres Strait Islanders did not suffer in the same way. They actually celebrated the coming of the Europeans and their Christian message – they called it not an unwelcome invasion but the Coming of the Light….

Captain James Cook himself remains a hero. One of the most remarkable voyagers in the long history of the seas, he deserves far more praise than blame. Contrary to the common belief, he admired the Aborigines and facets of their traditional way of life. Above all he grasped this continent and began unknowingly the work of knitting it again to the outside world. On the whole the outside world has gained because of his epic voyage. The settlers who arrived after him eventually made this land so productive that it is capable, almost annually, of feeding tens of millions of people in foreign lands as well as those in Australia. Here flourishes a democratic society which offers freedom in a world where freedom is not- and never was – the right of most people.

Exactly. I for one – even as an American import – will rightly celebrate what this great man did. May there be many more like him.

[1665 words]

22 Responses to James Cook and Australia

  • Great article Bill. Look forward to reading more about Cook, and he was instrumental also in exploring Canada’s Pacific coast. The other explorer of Canada was Champlain who was responsible for starting the peaceable grounds for relating to natives here in lower Canada (Maritimes, Quebec and Ontario). Blessings

  • Very interesting read, Bill. A great shame we don’t celebrate Cook’s achievements anymore.

  • We have the same liberal nuts in the States. Ranting on about how this was as Native utopia prior to the white man no war, pestilence or anything. Just one big happy family. The first American hippies. Apparently the concept of hatred was brought by us too. We are so evil. “All the world knew was peace until the white man arrived.” – Head of the union of globalist donkeys

  • It’s sad that students aren’t being told about Cook and his heroic achievements anymore. We studied it regularly in Primary School.

  • Don’t forget Captain Cook’s contribution to medical science – not a man lost to scurvy, because of Vitamin C in the lemons he took on board, the “limeys”! 🙂

  • Bill, have you read “Red Over Black” by Geoff McDonald? Very interesting.
    Red Over Black is the chilling and almost unbelievable story of the Marxist manipulation of the Aboriginal ‘land rights’ movement, told by a man who learned of Communist strategy while in the Communist Party.

    Ever since leaving school at 14, Geoff McDonald has been involved in industrial and political affairs. While painting Aboriginal murals on the secret Communist training school at Minto, NSW, he first heard of the long-range Communist strategy for the establishment of an Aboriginal republic under Communist control.

    While representing the Royal Australian Nursing Federation as an Industrial Officer in the early 1970’s, Geoff made a number of visits to Aboriginal reserves in Central and Northern Australia and saw Marxist operators and their dupes hard at work advancing Communist strategy. This gave Geoff a deep respect for the genuine Aboriginal people, whom he sees as being treated as black cannon fodder by the Marxist revolutionaries

  • “All the world knew was peace until the white man arrived.”

    Not with God they didn’t Paul. Bet those who ended up in heaven appreciated the arrival of the Gospel

  • Well Bill, it had to happen, I agree completely with everything you say in this article. The indigenous Australians should consider themselves lucky that it was Cook who discovered Australia, if it had been the Spanish or Germans or Chinese etc. they’d have probably been wiped out entirely?

  • Thank you Bill for the great article on Captain Cook who was from Yorkshire in England like myself.He deserve some praise for what he did because it was a difficult task he was charged with.

    I have always thought it extremely naive of the political left to think that such a large continent as Australia would remain undiscovered and unsettled for evermore. Some country was bound to settle it at some point in history and the aboriginal tribes at the time did not have the numbers, were not united or equipped to deal with the ”invasion” as they like to call it. Therefore it was better for it to be settled by a civilised Christian country like Britain.

    I think where things took a definite turn for the worst with the aborigines was after Darwin’s theory of evolution broke on society in 1856. It was well represented in Australia and Christian societies were largely helpless in the face of it Darwinism was the excuse some needed to disregard aboriginal welfare and human rights,not that Darwin intended that to happen I hasten to add.It cannot be over estimated the effect that Darwin’s theory had on the majority of Christian societies.

    Unfortunately the detrimental effect of Darwin’s theory on aboriginals has always been conveniently ignored by the secular left media.I don’t think many aboriginals pay attention to it either but they should since their forebears were categorised under the department of flora and fauna which to me speaks for itself. It means that they weren’t viewed as equal human beings the same as the non aboriginal population.

    The Christian missions both Protestant and Catholic did their best and acted as a buffer between aboriginals and society but have since been accused of paternalism.Bishop Salvado of New Norcia in WA even hoped to educate them to the level where they could be leaders in society but he was given little encouragement by the polititians of the day.

    Even before Darwin’s theory broke on society Bishop Salvado mentions the moral degradation of the first Europeans in Australia many of them male convicts who ”rushed headlong into evil courses”. Therefore the treatment of the aboriginal population was hardly going to get any better after Darwin’s theory broke upon society. It encouraged the attitude “They [the natives] are going to die out anyway so they don’t matter” but God does not make rubbish and they have survived but unfortunately many of them are influenced by the secular left.

    The left also churned out the historical myth about most convicts being transported for stealing a loaf of bread and made it fashionable to have a convict ancestor. I remember one premier of WA proudly promoting this myth and speaking about her convict ancestor. Many were hardened criminals there is no doubt about that. England’s jails were bursting at the seams and transportation to the colonies became an attractive option for the authorities.

  • Adrian did you notice who I “attributed” that too??? it wasn’t a “quote” from me or something I believe.

  • Sorry Paul bad writing on my part. Yes I saw where it came from. I was trying to agree with you that the statement was wrong.

    (Hope I did that better)

  • ok I understand now.

  • Sure hope that Buckingham palace will take note of your public recognition and praise for Captain Cooks landing today 250 years ago.
    This event does not seemed to have been acknowledged by any Australian news media. How can such a significant Australian historic milestone be overlooked by the journalistic busy bodies of today?
    Can you imagine Christopher Columbus being ignored by the US media on such a important date? As always you were on the ball Bill.
    Bill Heggers

  • I have always adored the giant Captain Cook statue on the main road out of Cairns, so glad they left him there after demolishing the hotel originally built of the same name. As a kid (40yrs ago) we’d drive past him on our way to mum’s work and to school. He used to be mud coloured but they painted and spruced him up.
    When this disastrous lockdown lifts you are all welcome to come and have a look before some leftie decides he needs to be pulled down and removed (that’s a protest I would attend).
    We also used to travel to Cooktown each year to watch the Captain Cook reenactment but I think the revisionists have ruined that too now.

  • The cringe about Cook has been strongly imposed in recent years.
    I believe that there were once grand plans for a major celebratory voyage in the New Endeavour which were shelved.
    I also not that the “Captain Cook Takeaway Food” shop on the corner of Captain Cook Drive near Silver Beach no longer sports that name.
    Alan Jones and crew were today (Wed) bemoaning the ignorance of our youth about the Cook Voyage.

  • Can I draw your readers’ attention to my book “One People, One Destiny: A Christian History of Australia.” This gives a full account of Captain Cook’s voyages from a Christian perspective (along with all the rest of Australia’s history). It is suitable for readers of all ages.

  • And now you have the Victorian deputy chief medical officer comparing Captain Cook with the Wuhan virus. She is obviously too stupid (as has been commented above) to realise that if the British didn’t colonise Australia, then some other country would have; and would the Aboriginals have been better off in such a case?
    If it hasn’t already been mentioned, also keep in mind Daniel Andrews signing up to ‘Belt and Road’ (the Chinese government’s plan to increase it’s global strategic and economic influence); the only Australian premier to do so.

  • This might be a little off topic, but I just wonder with the term “First Nations” being used a lot these days, how many Aboriginal tribes who have won Native Title actually want to become completely separate nations? I could be wrong, and I can’t speak for Aboriginal tribes but I suspect that, at least for the most part, they want sovereignty over their native title land but that they still want to be part of the broader Australian nation – I don’t think that they really want their native title land to be recognised as a completely separate nation per se. I think for the most part, the term “First Nations” is something that many Non-Aboriginal people are projecting on to Aboriginal people – that it is not so much a grassroots push by Aboriginal people who have won native title – I suspect that for the most part they are quite content to have a high degree of sovereignty over their traditional native title recognised land but still be part of the broader Australian nation. I know this is slightly off topic but just thought I would add my thoughts.

  • same thing in the states so many liberals whine about the Redskins (an American football team) name being offensive to native americans but most native americans when asked dont mind in fact many native american high schools have redskins as there team name! liberals love to act like they care about people and are championing a cause on someone else behalf but really it is about THEIR ego and increasing THEIR power. (they rarely seem to ask someone IF they are offended by something)

    I dont know about australia but in the states the government owns the reservations by keeping the land in trust (something that is normally only done for children and those incompetent to handle ownership should tell you what bureaucrats think of american indians) so they can’t get loans because they have no collateral because they don’t own their land. If aboriginal people have the same problem then I can see why there would be exploitation of the situation by politicians.

    I think politicians LIKE keeping people in poverty that way they have a permanent class of people they can promise a whole bunch of stuff too in order to get votes and then deliver very little and then next election do it all over again. Look at the black community in america the dems have been promising the moon for 50 years and have never delivered but still get votes. it should be called bribery but the media is so in bed with them no-one calls them out.

    I dont think the rich have ever forgiven us for the serf rebellion hundreds of years ago.

  • I do wish those who bellyache on about dispossession of land would spare a thought for how the Tasmanian Aborigine became disposed of mainland Australia?

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