New South Wales

Botany Bay Part 1

LINKS to other pages in the New South Wales website and the Colin Day Travelling Days series:

NSW Home Page
1 : Cook's Landing
2 : First Fleet and Sir Joseph Banks
3 : Daniel Solander and Cook Museum
4 : Bare Island and Cape Banks


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The information that follows was obtained from many sources including the Wikipedia free encyclopaedia website, the Fairfax Australian Travel Guide and the City of Botany Bay website to whom due acknowledgement is given here.

JAMES COOK was born on October 27, 1728 in the Yorkshire village of Marton. Botany Bay is where Lieutenant James Cook, then an officer in the Royal British Navy, landed with his friends and crew on board the barque 'Endeavour' in the Terra Australis Incognita (Unknown Southern Land) on 27 April 1770. By the time he later visited Tasmania and New Zealand Cook had been awarded the rank of Captain.

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Cook had been sent to the South Seas with a dual mission: to observe the transit of Venus across the sun and to secretly investigate the largely uncharted southern lands. He reached the Australian coast and sought a suitable place to anchor.

Just north of the cliffs which form the district now known as Point Solander (right)..........

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........Cook found an inlet (left) between Point Solander in the foreground and Cape Banks in the distance which opened into a bay with safe anchorage and easy access to a beach and adjacent land (below).

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James Cook arrived at Botany Bay on April 28, 1770, where he and his party saw Aborigines onshore and others fishing from canoes. As the Endeavour approached, about 10 of them left their fireplace and sought higher ground to view the ship.

The British party anchored near what is now Kurnell. Onshore was what Joseph Banks later described as 'a small village consisting of about 6 or 8 houses.'

Next day, 29 April, two small boats bearing Cook and others from the Endeavour approached the shore and the Aborigines retired to the bush except for two men. Cook threw some nails and beads ashore which, he says, 'they took up and seemed not ill pleased'. He thought the men were signalling encouragement to come ashore but, when the boats approached the shore, the men threw stones and 'darts' at them. Cook responded by firing a musket between the two.

Cook then fired 'a second musket load with a small shot' as the men failed to heed his warning. Some of the shot hit of the men, 'yet', he wrote in his log, 'it had no effect than to make him lay hold of a shield and defend himself.' The two men left, however, when a third shot was fired.

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Midshipman Isaac Smith, cousin of Cook's wife, jumped out onto a rock (left) and held the boat while Cook clambered ashore. On the beach, Cook found '4 or 5 small children' in one of the bark huts, to whom they gave some beads.

The plaque on the rock (below) reads : "According to tradition in the Cook family, Midshipman Isaac Smith, cousin of the wife of Captain James Cook R.N. afterwards an Admiral of the British Fleet, was the first Englishman to land on this rock and on the shores of New South Wales April 29 1770"

Isaac Smith joined the crew of the Endeavour on 27 May 1768 as an able-bodied seaman. He was a cousin of Elizabeth Cook, nee Batts.

It was very likely due to his family connection with Elizabeth Cook that Smith rose in naval rank. He served as an able-bodied seaman until 23 May 1770 when he was appointed midshipman. On 26 May 1771 he was made master's mate. During the course of the Endeavour his duties included assisting Cook in surveying. After serving as master's mate aboard the Resolution on Cook's second voyage, Smith was commisioned as lieutenant and promoted to post-captain in 1787.

Smith appears to have served on the East India Station for a number of years before retiring with the superannuation of a rear-admiral in 1807. Until his death in 1831 he spent the summer at a modest country estate at Merton Abbey in Surrey, and the winters with Cook's widow at her house in Clapham.

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The only fresh water in the area was in a 'small hole dug in the sand', presumably by the Aborigines. On the third day, Cook later sent a party ashore to explore the underground source. A stream was found and this became the major source of fresh water for the ship's crew.

Another party went ashore to cut wood. Cook made a landing at 'a place from whence some other Aborigines had just fled', finding mussels broiling on a fire and 'the largest oyster shells I had ever seen scattered about' (overexploitation saw the complete disappearance of these large mud oysters from the bay by 1900).

Later, a group of '16 or 18...came boldly within 100 yards of our people. Mr Hicks tried to entice them to him but all they seemed to want was for us to be gone.' Cook wrote that they were 'well armed' although their weaponry, he states, consisted of throwing sticks and their 'darts'. The latter, he noted, 'have each four pointed prongs made from fish bones and seem to be intended more for striking fish than as offensive weapons.'

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