American Marine Scientists have discovered the remains of the Endeavour, the fine old ship sailed by Captain James Cook on his voyage of discovery along the Eastern Seaboard of Australia in 1770.

It lies at the bottom of the harbour at Newport, Rhode Island, where it was scuttled during the American War of Independence long after Cook had died on his third world voyage.

My hope is that the remnants of the Endeavour can be brought Australia and placed in a new Museum which can be built at Cooktown. There, it can become part of an international study centre on the enormous impact it had on life on the Australian continent, changing forever the proud heritage of 65000 years of indigenous habitation.

Sadly, we are now at a time in Australian history where an influential minority are demonising James Cook, accusing him of being the originator of every social and economic problem that Indigenous Australians have faced, and will face, into an uncertain future.

However, I am one who seeks to differ quite passionately, but courteously.

Let us look objectively at what Cook and the Endeavour actually did.

Firstly, he was sent out here on the direct orders of the King of  England to find the Great South Land and formally claim it for England. He carried out his instructions to the letter and did it with great skill and determination. Indeed, it was one of the great feats of exploration in world history.

His modern critics say that he made no effort to negotiate with the indigenous people whom he encountered on his voyage before he ‘arrogantly’ claimed the land for the King.

This is true. He did not negotiate, but he did report to the King that the land was occupied. He made no attempt to claim that this was an empty continent.

But, we now know that there was no Aboriginal nation to negotiate with. There were hundreds of tribes and dialects which would have presented a nigh impossible negotiating situation.

So, let us stop denigrating James Cook or try to claim that the Endeavour had no right to come here. After all, the Dutch and French had turned up around the same time with the same intent. One European nation or another was destined to take the Great South Land.

The facts before us now are these.

The British King, not Cook, made the decision to invade Australia and set up a penal colony at Botany Bay.

The British settlers stole the finest land and its food supply from the indigenous people, directly killing 30,000 of them in doing so. It was not the proudest moment in British history.

Ever since then, Australian Governments have made a ridiculous hash of making peace with the original inhabitants, throwing money at them when this was never going to solve the problem.

And, indigenous people have shown great bitterness about being deprived of their ancient lands despite the fact that none of the subsequent white Australians were responsible for their problems. They too inherited the results of history and can justly claim that they did not create the tragedy, yet are suffering also from its legacies.

So, where do we go from here.

I do not believe that a European Australian has yet been born who can solve this immense issue. It is simply huge.

Similarly, I do not believe that an Indigenous Australian has yet been born who has the stature and skill to achieve a solution either.

Nevertheless, the attempt must be made.

A Treaty does not appear to be a solution as there is no such thing as a Treaty between people who are citizens of the same nation.

And an Aboriginal Parliament gives the clear impression of being a cosmetic activity that is like a band aid on a huge wound. It would simply be legally unworkable.

Perhaps we can look once more at the Endeavour for a solution.

This sturdy ship went around the world with safety and achievement because it had a skilled captain who was a superb leader with an extraordinary ability to weld together a strong and able team who had one goal, ie, to carry out their orders and get home safely.

So, Australia must be like the Endeavour. It must be a stable entity with a fine leader who can weld a team together and change the nation into one solid entity.

Sometime in the next generation, we need to find an extraordinary leader who is acceptable to both sides.

I hold the view that it can only be an indigenous person, someone of the charisma of Barrack Obama, and most probably female.

Then, let us forget about black and white and be proud Australians in a proud land where everyone gets a fair go.

I reckon that the return of the Endeavour to Australia will be the starting point in achieving this.

Yours at Large

Everald Compton

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4 thoughts on “THE ENDEAVOUR

  1. Colin den Ronden

    As far as I remember an Aboriginal Parliament was set up in the Whitlam days. The first thing they did was vote themselves a pay rise! Don’t know whatever happened to it, never heard much more after that. Also research showed that since the coming of the white man the Aboriginal population slowly declined and was heading for extinction until the 1960s when they were made eligible for social security payments, and then it started bouncing back up. Probably a way to dissolve any negative associations would be to classify the system of government payments to Aborigines as ‘rent’ for the non-Aborigines stealing their land. To look at another perspective, the whites introduced an economic system that was apparently superior because it could feed more people. However, the Aboriginal system was static and had got into an equilibrium with nature and was sustainable. Time will tell whether the white man’s system is ecologically sustainable and thus superior or inferior to the Aboriginal system.

  2. David Spear

    Everald, I always enjoy reading your stories. In this case though I feel that your history is “English” history. After all the Dutch East India company charted part of the Gulf before 1600. William Janzoon went ashore from the Duyfken in 1606. Later in 1629 the Batavia ran aground on Houtman Abrolhos Islands. Other explorers were Dirk Hartog, Frederick de Houtman, Louis Antoine de Bouganville and William Dampier. I fact over 50 Europeans made landfall before Cook. Not to forget Abel Tasman who “discovered” Tasmania in 1642. Capt James Cook set off 126 years after Tasman “discovered” Tasmania. Cook was sent to “claim” Australia as a convict settlement because of the looming American War of Independence which would deny England the American Penal Colonies. In those days England did not have a prison system but used “Transportation” as a solution. Was the “Transit of Venus” merely a ruse to throw the French off the scent? These voyages were only by Europeans, what about the Asians from Makassar who traded with the Aborigines? Google “Kayu Jawa” (Wood Java in Indonesian), it is a place in the Kimberleys where Makassans spent 6 months a year catching Trepang (Beech de mere). Language and art was exchanged between the Aborigines (Yolngu) and Makassans. The Trepang fleet was evicted in 1906. The Endeavour? I am the grandson of a Trawlerman and a former sailor. I think that the Endeavour should be left to rest with a “Do not disturb” sign on it. Leave her where she lies, in “Davey Jones Locker”.
    Thank you Everald. Always a pleasure.

  3. Rosalind Weaver

    Dear Everald

    I enjoyed reading this post very much. As an ex-Pom I have great admiration for the achievements of Captain James Cook, a fellow Northerner, but remain sensitive to the fact that his name evokes a different reaction in others.

    Your commentary, as always, is informative and considered, and so true. It will take great minds and enormous goodwill on both sides to achieve a solution. Let us hope it does not take another 200 years.

    Best wishes


    Sent from Samsung tablet.

  4. Peter Hanson

    Well said Everald,this country needs stability by governments not pandering to any one group. We are all Australian as the words of the song say and we all need to embrace this fact by all being treated the same.

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