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Captain James Cook

Greatest explorer of his age
Cook's early life and career
Cook and the Pacific voyages
HM Bark 'Endeavour'
Science and natural history on Cook's voyages
The aftermath
Cook's later years
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The aftermath

Botany Bay

Founding of the settlement of Port-Jackson at Botany Bay in New South Wales (caricature).
View full size image Founding of the settlement of Port Jackson at Botany Bay in New South Wales. © NMM

This optimistic artist's impression of the first convict settlement in Botany Bay in 1788, where Cook had landed during his first voyage in 1770, is completely made up. 

The plan to establish a convict settlement in 'Terra Australis' came about largely because Cook said how fertile the land was and Joseph Banks championed the place to the British authorities.

Sydney's origins

A view of Botany Bay

View full size image A view of Botany Bay, 17 June 1789. © NMM

In fact, Cook and Banks had mistaken Botany Bay's wet season for its dry one and the land quickly proved too poor for agriculture. Botany Bay was abandoned and the developing colony moved a few miles up the east coast to Port Jackson. This was the site of modern-day Sydney. 

Cook had sailed past and named the place, but did not enter it himself. He never established any colonies, but within a few years of his death the Pacific was being plundered by whalers and sealers, converted by missionaries and settled by colonists.

Popular fascination

When Cook returned from his first voyage, a professional writer, Dr John Hawkesworth, was commissioned by the Admiralty to write the official account.  He negotiated a fee of £10,000 (about £1 million today), a new record. It showed just how fascinated people were at that time for voyages of exploration. Publishers thought that a sailor would not have the literary style to write a saleable book.

Page from Cook's Journal
View full size imageUsing his journal as a guide, Cook wrote the official account of his second voyage. © NMM
In addition to Cook's voyage, Dr Hawkesworth also included three earlier voyages to the Pacific by Commodore Byron, Samuel Wallis and Phillip Carteret. They were published in London in 1773 as An Account of the Voyages undertaken …for making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere.

Cook was annoyed at the ways in which Hawkesworth took liberties with his journal and sensationalized certain aspects of the Pacific for the reading public. When Cook returned from his second voyage he secured the rights to write the official account himself. 

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