Botany Bay

And we’re bound for Botany Bay

An hour’s drive from Sydney by electric car brought me one afternoon to Botany Bay, and I realised by what a narrow margin of both time and enterprise it was that Australia became an English Dominion instead of a French Colony. At La Perouse, on the north shore, the famous French navigator of that name reached this historic bay only a few days after Captain Phillip had hoisted the British flag. Then I crossed this wonderful arm of the sea to Kurnell, and stood in the sunshine by the monument which marks the landing-place if the intrepid Yorkshireman who reached Australia in 1770. In his private log, Captain Cook gives the fallowing account of his movements and impressions on this and the succeeding day which marked the birth of a modern Australia :-

Sunday, April 29th, I 770.

Gentle breezes and settled weather. At 3P.M. anchor’d in 7 fathom water in a place which I called Sting-Ray Harbour. The south point bore S.E and the north point east, distant from the south shore 1 mile. We saw several of the natives on both sides of the harbour, as we came in, and a few hutts, women and children on the north shore, opposite to the place where we anchor’d, and where I soon after landed with a party of men, accompanied by Mr Banks, Dr Solander and Tupia. As we approached the shore the natives all made off, except two men, who at first seemed resolved to oppose our landing. We endeavour’d to gain their consent to land by throwing them some nails, beads, etc., ashore, but this had not the desir’d effect; for, as (we) put into the shore, one of them threw a large stone at us, and as soon as we landed they threw two darts at us, but the fireing of two or three musquets load with small shott, they took to the woods, and we saw them no more. We fouud here a few poor hutts, made of the bark of trees, in one of which were hid four or five children, with whom we left some strings of beads, etc. After searching for fresh water without success, except a little in a small hole dug in the sand, we embarqued and went over to the north point of the bay, where, in coming in we saw several of the natives, but when we now landed we saw nobody; but we found here some fresh water, which came trinkling down and stood in pools among the rocks ; but as this was troublesome to get at, I sent a party of men ashore in the morning, abreast of the ship, to dig holes in the sand, by which means we found fresh water sufficient to water the ship. After breakfast I sent some empty casks ashore to fill, and a party of men to cut wood, and went myself in the pinnance to sound and explore the Bay, in the doing of which I saw several of the natives who fled at my approach.

Tuesday, May 1st.

Last night departed this life Forby Sutherland, seaman, who died of consumption, and in the A.M. his body was entard ashore at the watering place. This circumstance occasioned my calling the South point of this Bay Sutherland’s Point.

In the Evening Post of July 20th, 1771, a leading London newspaper of that time, the discovery of Australia is recorded in the supercilious language of the period : ”We learn by the Endeavour, from the South Seas, that they discovered a Southern Continent in the latitude of the Dutch Spice Islands ; that the people were hospitable. It is very extraordinary that they have no kind of worship or religion amongst them. Two of the natives came voluntarily with Mr Banks, but died of the flux at Batavia. From this voyage we expect many discoveries and much entertainment. They had an excellent observation of the transit of Venus, but the ingenious Mr Green died upon his return. Upon their arrival, the Admiralty seized all the officers’ papers. In consequence of this discovery, more ships will be destined in search of this new terrestrial acquisition.’