Stirring the Pot of the Dead Cook

Going by Cook's Charts and Banks' Diaries, Cook only ever stopped over on New Holland twice, once at Botany Bay to get fresh water, and a second time at present day Cooktown, where he stopped for repairs after his ship had hit the reef.
The only other time he got off the boat near New Holland was on a ting rocky outcrop, where we climbed the hill, to see whether he was into the strait that separated New Guinea from New Holland. When he saw clear waters to the west, he got back in his boat and sailed off to Batavia (Java).

James Cook Navigation

This article finds a series of problems with the story Australia's historians and their history books tell us about what actually happened regarding Lieutenant James Cook's claim of the Eastern coast of New Holland.
There are unanswered differences between what is stated and what is written in the diaries of Cook and Joseph Banks with some of the known facts and accounts. The writer leaves us wondering whether there was actually a stitch-up back in England because they needed somewhere to send their abundant number of convicts accumulating in their prisons.

Research compiled by Graeme Taylor

"Captain Cook discovered Australia", or so the story goes.

Strange then, that he called these lands New Holland.

"Captain Cook claimed the whole Eastern Coast, when he was on Possession Island on 22 August 1770".

Strange then that Joseph Banks makes no mention of cannons being fired, nor of proclamations being made, in his diary.

Cape Tribulation to Endeavour Straits<br>Map by Lieutenant J Cook
Cape Tribulation to Endeavour Straits
Map by Lieutenant J Cook

Joseph Banks wanted to accompany Cook on his second voyage, but after fitting out a second ship, it was so top heavy it was un-seaworthy. So he stayed back in England and made a big name for himself by publishing his Journals from the first voyage which became popular throughout Europe. Thus, his diary couldn't be changed so easily. This could account for the discrepancy in the diaries of Cooke and Banks.

Even stranger, Cook makes no notation of this Island continent in his comprehensive 1777 Chart of the Southern Hemisphere, nor on his Charts of his First Voyage published in 1773, where he scribes notations to the topographical features he named along the coast.

'Captain Cook was a great Navigator?'

Strange then, that when he was supposed to look for a suitable locations for Trade Ports, he missed Two Fold Bay (Eden), Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) and didn't investigate the Hawkesbury. Also, when he initially sighted New Holland, Point Hicks in Eastern Victoria, he was about 200 miles north of his ambition to chart Van Diemen's Land, so he was off course in that regard too. But my intent is not to disparage Cook's navigational abilities. Cook's reputation gets maligned much more by the "Official Narrative" when he is blamed for the lie of Terra Nullius.

So what happened, and why did his name get used as discoverer of Australia?

Nobody knows for sure, but Cook's Diary appears to have been doctored after the event. He did re-write sections when he got back to England, prior to being promoted to Naval Captain and sent out again in search of the mythical Terra Australis, but was it changed even more after his death in 1779?

Convicts sent to New South Wales

The decision to send convicts to New South Wales was made on 18th of August 1786

The 'Social Problems'. In 1780s Britain certainly needed urgent attention, and a new place to transport Convicts was seen as the answer. This only became problematic after 1776 when the United States stopped Convicts being dumped there. So then Britain tried renting lands in South West Africa, but these didn't work out to be suitable places to establish prison colonies. By the mid-1780s it was getting urgent.

Cook only intentionally stopped at Botany Bay, an area with little fresh water and poor soils, and not so many local residents as existed in other areas which he missed. To be fair, perhaps people back in England thought that all the land was sparsely populated, like it was around Botany Bay. The grandiose reputation of Cook, the great navigator, would have added to the notion that New Holland must be sparsely populated, for surely the great James Cook would have found the best "suitable locations" as required by his Orders. But it seems he wasn't so good at finding the most fertile (and populated) lands.

In his supposed Proclamation on Possession Island, it is claimed that he had identified "Suitable Locations" and taken possession of them on behalf of King George the 3rd.

Where were these locations?

The actual places are not mentioned. He certainly garnered no "Consent of the Natives" at Botany Bay, and the only other place he landed was in the Endeavour River after getting nearly shipwrecked by smashing into the Great Barrier Reef.

In his Journal, concerning the lands comprising the whole East Coast, Cook wrote 'so far as we know [it] doth not produce any one thing that can become an Article in trade to invite Europeans to fix a settlement upon it'.

Why then would he have written that:

Notwithstand[ing] I had in the Name of his Majesty taken posession of several places upon this coast I now once more hoisted English Coulers and in the Name of His Majesty King George the Third took posession of the whole Eastern Coast from … Latitude [38deg; South] down to this place by the Name of New South Wales together with all the Bays, Harbours Rivers and Islands situate upon the said coast after which we fired three Volleys of small Arms which were Answerd by the like number from the Ship.
Cook's map of Botony Bay

Botany Bay in New South Wales

According to Cook's 1773 Chart, "Possession Island" was the only other place, besides Botany Bay and Endeavour River, where Cook and crew left the ship and went ashore. It is strange enough that he would use an off shore island to make a declaration about the east coast mainland, but even stranger that this island was not even adjacent to the east coast.

He did however make detailed drawings of Botany Bay.

Cook found a landing place that he first called Stingray, later Botany Bay, on 29th April.

"At day light in the morning we discovered a Bay which appeard to be tolerably well sheltered from all winds into which I resoloved to go with the Ship and with this view sent the Master in the Pinnace to sound the entrance while we kept turning up with the Ship having the wind right out …"
(Cook, Journals I, pp.304-6)

Cook investigated the area here until departure on 6th May 1770.

Chart of the sea coast New South Wales

Chart of the sea coast New South Wales

After almost being wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef (June) and repairs in the Endeavour River (June-August) Endeavour sailed north again and after four months Cook rounded what he called Cape York, the northern point of New Holland. He then sailed on to Batavia (Jakarta).

No mention of the Possession Island Proclamation by those writing of Cook's maritime adventures, nor in his Charts. (Sailors do Charts, Land lubbers do Maps)

Cook's track from Endeavour River to Cape York

Cook's track from Endeavour River to Cape York

The actual location of Possession Island is westward of the tip of Cape York, so how could Cook claim the "whole East Coast" from somewhere not on the east coast?

Possession Island is said to be the little line of an island, in Endeavour Strait (the opposite side of the tip to the arrow for August 21 (see map).

Note that Ship's log date would have been 21st, and the actual calendar date, the 22nd. They had crossed the International Date line, which accounts for the discrepancy in dates.

Extracts from Joseph Banks' Diary

1770 August 21.

Running along shore with charming moderate weather, as indeed we have had ever since our second entering the reef. We observd both last night and this morn that the main lookd very narrow, so we began to look out for the Passage we expected to find between new Holland and New Guinea. At noon one was seen very narrow but appearing to widen: we resolv'd to try it so stood in. In passing through, for it was not more than a mile in lengh before it widned very much, we saw 10 Indians standing on a hill; 9 were armed with lances as we had been usd to see them, the tenth had a bow and arrows; 2 had also large ornaments of mother of Pearl shell hung round their necks. After the ship had passd by 3 followd her, one of whoom was the bow man. We soon came abreast, from whence we concluded we might have a much better view than from our mast head, so the anchor was dropd and we prepard ourselves to go ashore to examine whether the place we stood into was a bay or a passage; for as we saild right before the trade wind we might find dificulty in getting out should it prove to be the former. The 3 Indians plac'd themselves upon the beach opposite to us as if resolvd either to oppose or assist our landing; when however we came about Musquet shot from them they all walkd leisurely away. The hill we were upon was by much the most barren we had been upon; it however gave us the satisfaction of seeing a streight, at least as far as we could see, without any obstruction. In the Even a strong tide made us almost certain.

1770 August 22.

In the morn 3 or 4 women appeard upon the beach gathering shellfish: we lookd with our glasses and to us they appeard as they always did more naked than our mother Eve. The Ebb ran out so strong that we could not weigh till near noon. We had the Wind variable from N to W, the first time since we got the trade. Before we had proceeded far we met with a shoal which made us come to an anchor.

1770 August 23.

In the morn calm: at nine however a small breeze sprang up on which we weighd and saild through a channel which had been found during the calm. At noon we were abreast of an Island which was white with the Dung of Birds; as we had little wind the ship was brought too we went ashore upon it and shot bobies till our ammunition was quite expended. I myself Botanizd and found some plants which I had not before seen. After we came on board the winds were variable and soon after calm and very hot. Water still continued very Shoal but the swell, which ran larger than any we had met with within the reef, gave us great hope.

Whereas Cook's Diary for 22nd August (see in link) contains the following ...

"Notwithstand I had in the Name of his Majesty taken posession of several places upon this coast I now once more hoisted English Coulers and in the Name of His Majesty King George the Third took posession of the whole Eastern Coast from the above Latitude down to this place by the Name of New South ^Wales together with all the Bays, Harbours Rivers and Islands situate upon the same said coast after which we fired three Volleys of small Arms which were Answerd by the like number by from the Ship this done we set out for the Ship but were some time in geting on board on accout of a very rappid Ebb Tide which set ^NE out of the Passage away to the NE ever sence we came in among the Shoals this last time we have found a Moderate Tide the Flood seting to the NW and Ebb to the SE. at this place it is High-water at the Full and Change of the Moon about 1 or 2 o'Clock and riseth and falls upon a perpendicular about 10 or 12 feet. We saw on all the Adjacent Lands and Islands a great number of smooks a certain sign that they are Inhabited and we have dayly seen smooks on every part of the coast we have lately been upon - Between 7 and 8 oClock in the Morning we saw several naked people, all or most of them women, down upon the beach picking ^up Shells, &Ca they had not a single rag of any kind of Cloathing upon them and both these and those we saw yesterday were in every respect the Same sort of people we have seen every where upon the Coast; two or three of the Men we saw Yesterday had on pretty large breast plates which we supposed were made of Pearl Oysters Shells this was a thing as well as the Bow and Arrows we had not seen before -"

Cook's Secret Instructions
Cook's Secret Instructions

So it can be summised that Cook and Banks did go ashore on to a small island in Endeavour Strait, but Banks makes no mention of any volley of cannons, nor any proclamation being read by Cook.

Additionally, Cook's "Secret instructions" of 1768 specified that Consent of the Natives was required before any lands could be claimed. If indeed, Cook's diary entry about taking "possession of certain places" is true, why wasn't such a claim thrown out when Cook got back to his masters in England, since his records clearly indicate that no consent of the "New Hollanders" was ever agreed to at Botany Bay, not at Endeavour River (Cooktown) nor "Possession Island"?

Instead, he was promoted to Captain and sent out again in search of Terra Australis.

As to Cook's 1768 Secret Instructions, they were called 'secret' since Britain didn't want it's competitors finding out. In part, they say

"You are likewise to observe the Genius, Temper, Disposition and Number of the Natives, if there be any and endeavour by all proper means to cultivate a Friendship and Alliance with them, making them presents of such Trifles as they may Value inviting them to Traffick, and Shewing them every kind of Civility and Regard; taking Care however not to suffer yourself to be surprized by them, but to be always upon your guard against any Accidents. You are also with the Consent of the Natives to take Possession of Convenient Situations in the Country in the Name of the King of Great Britain: Or: if you find the Country uninhabited take Possession for his Majesty by setting up Proper Marks and Inscriptions, as first discoverers and possessors."

Such Instructions were in regard to the mythical Terra Australis that Cook was searching for, however, such instructions would equally apply to any "new lands" he encountered. So even if Cook didn't believe the East Coast of New Holland were "new lands", how then can he be referred to as the discoverer, and to have taken possession of certain places on the coast?

The only explanation that seems plausible is that the whole "Possession Island thing" was made up afterwards, most probably after Cook' death in 1779. That the British Crown claimed, 8 years after Cook's death, in 1787, the whole Eastern Half of New Holland as Crown Land, with the British Crown the sole owner, is perhaps the biggest Crime of all time. Even if the Cook's diary entry is true, Cook only claimed a coast, not the lands itself. The claim over half the continent was made in 1787 back in England.

If you want to make Fake News, show glossy pictures

Cook - Possession Island
'Captain Cook taking possession of the Australian continent on behalf of the British Crown' by John Alexander Gilfillan

Possession Island or Botany Bay?

Possession Island
Possession Island seen here with the white monument commemorating Lieutenant James Cook. A rugged Island and not the 'paradise' portrayed to the Australian people.

John Alexander Gilfillan's painting titled 'Captain Cook taking possession of the Australian continent on behalf of the British Crown' is universally used to illustrate the taking possession on Possession Island. It was presented to the Philosophical Society of Victoria in 1889. Banks' greyhound is watching two men skin a kangaroo near the tent on the left of the painting. National Library of Australia.

The only problem with this painting is that does not depict Possession Island - anyone who has been there knows it doesn't look like this. Some say the painting depicts Botany Bay, but anyone who has been there knows that the lay of the land there is not as depicted either. One can only assume it is a depiction of how he saw the incident in his mind's eye, perhaps based on eyewitness accounts.

As to why Britain was desperate to find new lands to dump their "social problems" and concoct the story of Cook taking possession of "New South Wales" or even worse "Australia", please see here, and have a listen to the first 10 minutes of the radio documentary for an imagined account of what occurred after Cook's death, and before 1788, which led to the British Crown's claim of Sovereignty over the lands and presuming itself, the sole owner of the lands.

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More from Graeme Taylor:

Crown Rules