Captain James Cook
11,674 Views – 29.08.2015
Cooktown, Far North Queensland, Australia.
The site of modern Cooktown was the meeting place of two vastly different cultures when, in June 1770, the local Aboriginal Guugu Yimithirr tribe cautiously watched the crippled sailing vessel – His Majesty’s Bark Endeavour – limp up the coast of their territory seeking a safe harbour after sustaining serious damage to its wooden hull from running aground on Endeavour Reef south of Cooktown. The Guugu Yimithirr saw Endeavour beached in the calm waters near the mouth of their river, which they called “Wahalumbaal”. James Cook wrote: “. . . it was happy for us that a place of refuge was at hand; for we soon found that the ship would not work, and it is remarkable that in the whole course of our voyage we had seen no place that our present circumstances could have afforded us the same relief".
The British crew spent seven weeks on the site of the present day Cooktown, repairing their ship, replenishing food and water supplies, and caring for their sick. While the wealthy scientist, Joseph Banks, and Swedish naturalist Daniel Solander, who accompanied Cook on the expedition, were collecting, preserving and documenting many new species of plants, the young artist Sydney Parkinson was illustrating them. He was the first English artist to portray Aboriginal people from direct observation.
After some weeks, Banks met and spoke with the local people, recording about 50 Guugu Yimithirr words, including the name of the intriguing animal the natives called gangurru (which he transcribed as “Kangaru”). The kangaroo was first seen by European settlers on Grassy Hill during this trip.