The centenary of the discovery of New South Wales [23 April 1870]

[Editor: An article commemorating the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the Eastern coast of Australia by James Cook in 1770. Published in The Australian Town and Country Journal, 23 April 1870.]

The centenary of the discovery of New South Wales.

Amongst the thousands of persons, of all grades and ages, who made holiday on Monday, no doubt there are many who will have remembered that it is the eve of the centenary of the discovery of the east coast of Australia, by Captain Cook, in the good ship Endeavour, as she proved to be, though probably if such a craft were offered nowadays for a voyage to Cape York there would not be many seamen found ready to take command of her.

It was at about midnight of Wednesday, the 18th of April, 1770, that the Endeavour approached the land, though Cook records in his journal that at one o’clock in the morning of the 19th they brought to and sounded, but found no bottom with thirty fathoms of lead line. At six in the morning, however, land was seen, extending from north-east to west, at a distance of “five or six leagues.” There can be no doubt that the land thus sighted was what is now known as Gipps Land, in the colony of Victoria; and the point of land which Cook named after his first lieutenant is unquestionably identical with what is now marked as Cape Everard on the maps. Captain Cook’s diary proceeds thus:—

“We continued standing westward, with wind at south-south-west, till eight, when we made all the sail we could, and bore away along the coast north-east, for the easternmost land in sight, being at this time in latitude 37 degrees 58 minutes south, and longitude 210 degrees 39 minutes west. The southernmost point of land in sight, which bore from us W. ¼ S., I judged to be in latitude 38 degrees, and longitude 211 degrees 7 minutes, and I gave it the name of Point Hicks, because Mr. Hicks, first lieutenant, was the first who discovered it. To the southward of this point no land was to be seen, though it was very clear in that quarter.”

The next point sighted and named was Ram Head, or Cape Howe. On the 21st Mount Dromedary and Point Upright were successively passed and named; on the 22nd the Pigeon House; on the 24th Cape St. George; and on Saturday, the 28th, at daybreak, Botany Bay was discovered.

It was between the 18th and 19th of April, however, that the eastern Australian coast was really made out. When Cook hove to and took soundings at one o’clock in the morning, he had no doubt observed some of those indications known to seamen to lead him to the belief that land was nigh, although it is known that two or three days before he had given up all expectation of finding land in this quarter. At six o’clock in the morning, at this season of the year, the atmosphere was perhaps not clear enough to admit of land being sighted at a greater distance than twenty miles, which appears to have been about the distance at which it was observed from his Majesty’s ship Endeavour a hundred years ago.

A hundred years! The time is long; but when we call to mind that eighteen years elapsed between this discovery and the actual occupation of the country, and when we think of the magnificent spectacle of subsequent progress exhibited by the tens of thousands of happy and prosperous people who have this week been holiday-keeping in the neighbourhood of Sydney alone, not to speak of other parts of this great island-continent, we must be struck with admiration at the wondrous change that has been brought about. And in two years more we shall, there is every reason to believe, be within two days’ communication with England, by means of the electric agency which, as applied for that purpose, was utterly unknown when Cook approached these shores a century back.

We have at hand a volume of a London Magazine some eighty-five years of age, with an illustration which calls up some rather unpleasant feelings in connection with this subject. There is a bust of the great navigator, on a pedestal under the shade of some palm trees, and there are some lines in the quaint style of the period, commencing thus:

Sacred to Cook’s immortal name,
The sculptured bust excites to fame.

So far as concerns this country, however, the “sculptured bust” belongs at present to the realms of pure imagination. A great many meetings have been held; speeches have been delivered and articles and letters without number written; a son of the Queen, himself a sailor, has laid the foundation stone of a monument, and finally we have in Hyde Park, on a granite pedestal, that emblem of mortality, a broken column. This is simply all, and the “sculptured bust” is not yet visible. Considering all the fuss which has been made from time to time about Captain Cook’s monument, it might have been expected that the centenary of his discovery of this land would not have been allowed to pass without having the statue in its place.

It is most true that a nobler monument to his fame may be seen by looking around us and observing the nucleus of a nation and people destined, in all probability, to become greater than even Great Britain, in the palmiest of her days; but although the effigy of the old sailor, elevated upon the now vacant column, could add nothing to his glory, it might vindicate from some reproach the country which he circumnavigated the globe to find.

[As the best recognition we can make of the Centenary of Captain Cook’s landing on these shores, we intend to devote a portion of our next issue to a biographical notice of the great navigator, illustrated by a life-like portrait, with views of the scene of his landing, of places on the shores of Botany Bay rendered memorable in connection with his visit, and of the attack by the savages of Owyhee, in which he was killed.]

The Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW), 23 April 1870, p. 8

Editor’s notes:
palmiest = superlative adjective of “palmy”, flourishing, luxurious, prosperous

[Editor: Corrected “Aprili” to “April,”.]

[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]

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