A western democracy at the edge of Asia, a former English penal colony, which ultimately became a stunning multicultural land full of opportunity, Australia is a country always undergoing change. Bringing people of different cultures together to create and celebrate an environment enriching in the way we live in it, is the way of the future. True success will only come through co-operation and communication with all the people all of the time, as well as by being emboldened by knowledge based on fact.
Starting September 22, and on show until February 10, 2019, it will follow all three of the pioneering voyages eighteenth century English explorer, navigator, cartographer and naval captain James Cook (1728-1779) in the Pacific.
The exhibition marks the 250-year anniversary, since the HMB Endeavour left Plymouth in 1768, and will showcase rare pieces from other Australian and international museums and libraries.
Director-General of the National Library of Australia, Dr Marie-Louise Ayres, announced recently the journals from each of James Cook’s voyages would take pride of place when this, the Library’s major international exhibition for this year, opens.
Two journals from the British Library in London will join the NLA’s own prized Endeavour Journal 1768-1771, on display. It was written entirely by hand by the Yorkshire born son of a farm-labourer, who lived and served his country faithfully during the age of exploration.
James Cook arrived down under because of secretive orders from the British Admiralty and in so doing, finally discovered the mythical southern continent sailors had been talking about for centuries.
Secured for the nation by the Australian Government on 21 March, 1923 – the Endeavour Journal was bought for 5000 pounds at a Sotheby’s auction.
Dr Ayres said. “Reuniting these journals is significant because they are Cook’s own record, in his own words, of how he experienced the three Pacific voyages from 1768 until his death in 1779” he noted.
Those who sailed with James Cook travelled ‘further than any other man’ at that time. It was a case of Europeans and peoples of the Pacific meeting for the very first time, and in many ways, neither would ever be the same again.
This exhibition Cook and the Pacific will showcase the man and the mariner, which means you and your family and friends can discover him for yourself through maps, manuscripts, rare books, large oil paintings, wondrous watercolours by artists painted on different voyages, on show together with medallions, cartoons and poetry.
All will be sure to capture attention and inform the viewer. After viewing the exhibition, we will understand more by embracing the facts.
James Cook lived by a very different set of rules and regulations, put in place by the government, the military, and the King he served loyally according to the traditions and the often unwritten rules of the society of his day.
Let’s face it, today James Cook has had a lot of bad press surrounding his trip to Australian shores. Many judge him by our own social norms and standards now two hundred and fifty years later. This to my mind is very tough. So much has changed since his day. James Cook did his duty for King and country according to the moral, philosophical, theological, intellectual and societal attitudes of his life time, so very different to ours.
To disobey orders would have not ever entered the mind of a man of James Cook’s position in a military hierarchy.
It’s also good to remind ourselves, he had by the time of his death, earned a very solid reputation for treating others sailing with him, well.
James Cook circumnavigated New Zealand and surveyed the east coast of Australia before claiming its east coast for the British Empire on 22 August 1770, naming it ‘New South Wales’.
We can ponder whether or not he realised when he set out from Plymouth, just how significant his discoveries would turn out to be in the history of the world, especially for those who came after him.
Today we can acknowledge, all our actions have consequences; some bad, some good. Just his impact on the evolution of Botany would be immense.
On the voyage Joseph Banks, a gentleman of large fortune … well versed in natural history, ‘joined the expedition with a staff of eight. They included Daniel Solander and H. D. Spöring, naturalists; Alexander Buchan and Sydney Parkinson, landscape and natural history artists; James Roberts and Peter Briscoe, tenants from Revesby; Thomas Richmond and George Dorlton (Dollin), both servants.
Only four of this party survived. Banks himself, Solander and the two Revesby men’.
History teaches us, whether we want to learn its lessons or not, ‘an eye for an eye and the whole world will be blind’, can become a reality because as human beings we are full of frailty.
The Society at the time James Cook lived was in a state of great flux. England had a policy of colonising and civilising others as they sought to expand their horizons.
They were wanting to change old habits, old traditions and old convictions but their ‘empirical style’ rule proved, after a time, to be a failure.
The majority of English people themselves wanted to feel ‘free’ as they moved forward, towards a far more appealing, classless society.
For many to move to a yet undiscovered and unexplored country where everyone would be able to experience a sense of being their own person, was very appealing. I know it is why my ancestors came.
American born British Poet T. S. Eliot said, ‘the purpose of re-ascending to origins is so we should be able to return, with greater spiritual knowledge, to our own situation’ and it is only through sharing each other’s stories we can do that.
That is why this exhibition is important.
For better or for worse, Australia evolved, through the imposition of European cultures on a vast continent inhabited by an Aboriginal people with a sixty-thousand-year history.
Their sensitive and delicate occupation of the land at the time when those who followed Captain Cook, landed, was no match for the already well-developed western tradition of possession.
England’s initial struggle to turn Australian into a multicultural land of opportunity where everyone would be able to partake in a celebration of living is a story told since in the blinding light of sandy beaches, the glint of the sun on iron roofs, and scent of the eucalyptus in the cool night air.
Australian culture in its fullest sense, has since James Cook’s time developed into being about who we are, about how we live and love, maintain bodily health, mental strength and inner well-being.
It is a place where birds laugh, mammals lay eggs and everything familiar is not really what you expect at all.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2018