Fact of the day: 21st August

On this day in 1770 James Cook formally claimed eastern Australia for Great Britain, naming it New South Wales.

On 23 April he made his first recorded direct observation of indigenous Australians at Brush Island near Bawley Point, noting in his journal: “…and were so near the Shore as to distinguish several people upon the Sea beach they appear’d to be of a very dark or black Colour but whether this was the real colour of their skins or the C[l]othes they might have on I know not.”

On 29 April Cook and crew made their first landfall on the mainland of the continent at a place now known as the Kurnell Peninsula. Cook originally christened the area as “Stingray Bay”, but he later crossed it out and named it Botany Bay after the unique specimens retrieved by the botanists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander. It is here that James Cook made first contact with an aboriginal tribe known as the Gweagal.

After his departure from Botany Bay he continued northwards. On 11 June a mishap occurred when the Endeavour ran aground on a shoal of the Great Barrier Reef, and then “nursed into a river mouth on 18 June 1770”.images (1)

The ship was badly damaged and his voyage was delayed almost seven weeks while repairs were carried out on the beach (near the docks of modern Cooktown, Queensland, at the mouth of the Endeavour River).

The voyage then continued, sailing through Torres Strait and on 21 August Cook landed on Possession Island, where he claimed the entire coastline that he had just explored as British territory.

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