Friday 2 October 2009

History Bites: Why Cook Drew his Map of Cape Grafton this way

History Bites is a series of unique and easily readable pieces for CairnsBlog readers, of historical vignettes, pertinent to our unique and special region.

It is bought to you by Dr Bottoms, a specialist in Aboriginal and North Queensland history who has wide experience in writing, producing and presenting radio documentaries and music biographies.

Dr Timothy Bottoms is a published and widely respected historian, based in Cairns, North Queensland. He has spent ten years researching and writing City of the South Pacific, A History of Cairns.

Extract from the map Terra Australis by Matthew Flinders, Commander of H.M. Sloop Investigator (1802-1803, East Coast – Sheet V) showing Captain Cook’s route.

Flinders noted on the map: “The Coast, Reefs &c. in this sheet are mostly copied from Capt. Cook’s charts and journals, the longitudes being made conformable to my timekeepers in the Investigator & Cumberland.” [North & compass added]
  • Cook drew a ‘working-chart’ on the evening of Sunday 10th June 1770 when the Endeavour sailed north at midnight from the peninsula that he called ‘Cape Grafton’ (unplotted course 315° Magnetic).

    Actually, Cook as a mariner, recorded that it was Saturday 9th June, but a landsman would say it was Sunday 10th June 1770. Later it seems he mistook ‘True-North’, drawn from the anchorage on his working chart as the ship’s track, which was not surprising, considering the travails that were to follow. Thus Cook mis-fitted ‘True-North’ as his ‘315° Magnetic track’, and unwittingly pivoted his working chart 39° anti-clockwise: his Cape Grafton (and Fitzroy Island) now ‘stood upright’!

    Re-checking observed angles, Cook correctly aligned latitudinally Mission Bay’s outermost capes, and also, inadvertently included some distortions. Cook’s finished chart, therefore, was able to create a ‘phantom headland’ facing Green Island, which placed (today’s) Cape Grafton ‘inside’ Mission Bay.

    Within 24 hours of leaving Cape Grafton, the Endeavour had sailed past the northern tip of Trinity Bay, the headland which Cook called Cape Tribulation “because here began all our troubles”.

    They were grounded for 23 hours on a reef that was later named after the ship. Ingeniously they managed to re-float the Endeavour and five days later, sailed into a river estuary (which was also named after their ship) where they beached the ship (on 22 June 1770) for repairs. By 6 July 1770, the Endeavour was re-floated and re-corked by 28 July, but it took until Friday 3 August for them to get over the bar at the river mouth and be on their way. It was here that the first contact and interaction with indigenous Australians took place with the Guugu Yimithirr.

    It was from this interaction that the word ‘kangaroo’ (from ‘Gangurru’) came into use in the English language. Nineteen days (22 August 1770) later Cook landed on what became Possession Island and claimed Australia for the British Crown. 103 years later, where Cook and his crew had repaired the Endeavour, the township of Cooktown (1873) was established to service the Palmer River Goldfield.

You can contact Dr Bottoms via email. There is more information on his website.


Conlina the Cabin Boy said...

(Running in circles with eyes closed) Reef.... what reef?

Lillian at Yorkeys said...

I know they don't attract a lot of comment, but I think a lot of us enjoy Dr. Bottoms' contributions.
And Conlina - Cook & his officers did a magnificent job of charting the reef. Yep, they got stranded, but finally, with a lot of effort, got themselves unstranded.
I did quite a lot of sailing-training a few years back, & remember my trainer saying that a huge percentage of the Reef was charted quite accurately by Cook, & those chartings are still used on current maps, in some circumstances.