Australia in the 1770s


Exploring the land


After leaving Botany Bay in early May 1770, HM Bark Endeavour travelled north, charting the coastline. Cook gave English names to many landmarks along the eastern coast of Queensland that are still used today, among them Point Lookout, Mount Warning, the Glasshouse Mountains and Magnetic Island. By travelling through the Great Barrier Reef, the Endeavour was damaged in far north Queensland, but was able to sail into a nearby harbour and river, which Cook named the Endeavour River. The repairs to the ship took seven weeks to complete.

While waiting for the repairs to be completed, one of the marines shot a kangaroo. Joseph Banks (1743–1820) recorded it and then the officers ate it, saying it was 'excellent food'. The name they thought the local Guugu Yimithirr people used for it was 'Kangooroo' or 'Gangurru'.

During their stay on the river, Cook established friendly relations with the Guugu Yimithirr people, a coastal people who referred to themselves as 'saltwater people'. Local men accepted food and gifts, and the Tahitian man who accompanied Cook on this voyage sat with the men. The men came close to the ship in their canoes and a few Guugu Yimithirr men came aboard the ship, seeing that the crew had captured between eight and twelve turtles, which were drying on deck. According to Banks, the Guugu Yimithirr people tried to take one of the turtles, possibly because they thought they were the rightful owners since it came from their country (which includes the seas) or as part of the sharing of food to build relationships. Repelled by the sailors, they jumped into their canoes and once on shore, in retribution, proceeded to light a fire near the strangers' belongings.


A snapshot of 1778

  • January
    • Captain James Cook began his third Pacific expedition in the ships HMS Resolution and HMS Discovery.

  • February
    • France entered the War of American Independence.

  • June
    • Spain declared war on Great Britain.

  • July
    • Louis XIV of France declared war on Great Britain.

  • November
    • Captain James Cook was the first European to sight Maui Island of the Hawaiian Islands.

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