History of Australia Before 1788 - James Cook

James Cook

Lieutenant James Cook was the first European to explore the more habitable east coast. Cook had been sent to chart the transit of Venus from Tahiti, but he also charted much of the Australian and New Zealand coastlines. He reached New Zealand in October 1769, and mapped its coast. On 19 April 1770, the crew of the Endeavour sighted the east coast of Australia and ten days later landed in a bay now located in Sydney's southern suburbs.

The ship's naturalist, Sir Joseph Banks, was so impressed by the volume of flora and fauna hitherto unknown to European science, that Cook named the inlet Botany Bay. Of the "Natives of New Holland" (Aboriginal Australians) he encountered on his voyage, Cook wrote in his journal on 23 August 1770: "these people may truly be said to be in the pure state of nature, and may appear to some to be the most wretched upon the earth; but in reality they are far happier than ... we Europeans".

Cook charted the East coast to its northern extent and, on 22 August, at Possession Island in the Torres Strait, Cook wrote in his journal: "I now once more hoisted English Coulers and in the Name of His Majesty King George the Third, took possession of the whole Eastern Coast from the above Latitude 38°S down to this place by the name of New South Wales." Cook and Banks, then reported favourably to London on the possibilities of establishing a British colony at Botany Bay.

The Kingdom of Great Britain thereby became the first European power to officially claim any area on the Australian mainland. "New South Wales", as defined by Cook's proclamation, covered most of eastern Australia, from 38°S 145°E / 38°S 145°E / -38; 145 (near the later site of Mordialloc, Victoria), to the tip of Cape York, with an unspecified western boundary. By implication, the proclamation excluded: Van Diemen's Land (later Tasmania), which had been claimed for the Netherlands by Abel Tasman in 1642; a small part of the mainland south of 38° (later southern Victoria) and; the west coast of the continent (later Western Australia), which Louis de Saint Aloüarn officially claimed for France in 1772 — even though it had been mapped previously by Dutch mariners.

The German scientist and man of letters Georg Forster, who had sailed under Captain James Cook in the voyage of the Resolution (1772–1775), wrote in 1786 on the future prospects of the English colony: "New Holland, an island of enormous extent or it might be said, a third continent, is the future homeland of a new civilized society which, however mean its beginning may seem to be, nevertheless promises within a short time to become very important."

In 1779 Sir Joseph Banks, the eminent scientist who had accompanied Cook, recommended Botany Bay as a suitable site. Banks accepted an offer of assistance made by the American Loyalist James Matra in July 1783. Matra had visited Botany Bay with Banks in 1770 as a junior officer on the Endeavour commanded by James Cook. Under Banks’s guidance, he rapidly produced "A Proposal for Establishing a Settlement in New South Wales" (23 August 1783), with a fully developed set of reasons for a colony composed of English convicts.

Read more about this topic:  History Of Australia Before 1788

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