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The rise of the British empire - Australia
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Extract from the log book of Captain Cook in 1770 describing what he saw in Australia
(Catalogue ref: ADM 55/40 f165)
  • This document is a short extract from the log book (diary) of Captain Cook's voyage to Australia.
  • This extract shows one small example of the hundreds of pages he wrote about the plants, animals, geography and people of the continent.
  • In this particular extract he is describing the Aborigines - the people living in Australia (New Holland). He lists a number of words and their equivalent in a local language. Cook was a scientist as much as a captain and his writings show he was intensely interested in everything he saw.
  • Cook sailed in his ship Endeavour in 1769 and reached Australia in 1770. Although he was a navy captain in a Royal Navy ship, most of his instructions came from the Royal Society. The Society's main aim was to advance scientific knowledge and understanding. The instructions were top secret.
  • Cook did not discover Australia. Aboriginal people had already settled Australia long before. Also Europeans knew Australia existed because the western half of the continent had already been mapped and called New Holland.
  • However, no Europeans had sailed to the other side of Australia. This was Cook's achievement. His main priorities were to map the land and to claim it for Britain if possible (if it was uninhabited or if the local people agreed).
  • Cook spent April 1770 to August 1770 sailing along the Australian coast.
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