20th April 1770. Paving the Way for Captain Cook.

Today in 1770 Captain Cook on the Endeavour was the first European to reach the east coast of Australia with the first place to be sighted named Point Hicks, (now Cape Everard), after Lieutenant Zachary Hicks.(1)

Cook’s statue at Greenwich.

However the Dutch had been there before in 1606 mapping the West Coast but it was Cook who mapped the East Coast and took formal possession of Eastern Australia on 23rd August in 1770.

As well as the Dutch, another Englishman the pirate, William Dampier (1651-1715), had blazed a trail before Cook to the Antipodes.

Born in East Coker, Somerset, had circumnavigated the world three times before Cook appeared on the scene, first as a buccaneer raiding Spanish possessions on the west coast of South America and west Africa before reaching Australia where little booty was to be found.

The publication of his book in 1697 came to the attention of the Admiralty in 1699 and he was given command of a 36-gun ship HMS Roebuck with a mission from King William III to explore the east coast of New Holland (Australia) and undertake scientific exploration.

Dampier was the first Englishman to visit Western Australia when he anchored at Shark Bay on August 6th 1699 describing the aborigines, before visiting New Guinea then returning to England in 1701.

He went on to explore the Australian North West Coast and discovered and named and charted the island of New Britain. His ship eventually sank at Ascension on his return voyage and the details are recorded in his book ‘A Voyage to New Holland’, published in 1703.

Dampier holding his book in a painting by Thomas Murray c1697-8.

In the process he made important contributions to knowledge of navigation, currents, winds and tides which would prove invaluable later to Cook and Horatio Nelson. Also his work on the flora and fauna of north west Australia was studied by the naturalist Joseph Banks.

Whilst other explorers have taken all the limelight, Dampier has been largely forgotten, but he remains one of the most important British explorers between the age of Walter Raleigh and Captain Cook.


(1) This point on the eastern coast of Australia we now know as New South Wales.


wikipedia.org/Dampier and Cook/pics.



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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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