One of the many possible ways to read this voyage is through the great characters who are tied to the various places: Christopher Columbus in Canary islands and through the Atlantic, Nelson in Antigua, Drake in Portobello and Panama, Darwin at the Galapagos islands, Bougainville and Cook along the Pacific Islands.
Along the route we are currently sailing, going north inside the Great Barrier Reef, it’s Cook again that we follow along the same course he sailed back in 1770.
Right, 1770: few years before the American and French revolutions and the Napoleonic wars, Australia was still largely unexplored, even though probably well known to the sailors from nearby asian Countries.
When he left in 1768 aboard the “Endeavour”, Cook got secret instructions from the Admiralty, besides his official mission to take the opportunity to claim ownership to as much land as possible in the new Continent, compatibly with the natives’ attitude.
Yesterday morning we anchored in front of Cooktown, a very small town located where Cook spent nearly two months repairing the Endeavour after having hit what is nowadays known as “Endeavour reef”. In 1970 the anchors and cannon dropped by Cook on the reef during his efforts to free the ship have been found and recovered, and some of them are now on show in Cooktown’s small Museum.
In fact the town was born about one century later, in the wake of the Australian Gold Rush, and since then it has shrunk significantly although it still preserves the looks of a frontier town: today, it is the jump-off point for 4WD expeditions to the north, through Aboriginal Land up to Cape York.
Today we are in Lizard Island, and here again you find Cook, who climbed the island’s hill to have a view of the surrounding reef, looking for openings. In fact the island is better known for a tragedy dating to 1881, when the wife of an early settler escaped from an attack by aborigines together with her little baby and a chinese servant, quite literally aboard a bathtub! Unfortunately they were swept on another island were they all died of thirst; their bodies were later buried in Cooktown, where a monument still stands to tell their story.
Maybe in Australia you cannot swim a lot, but you certainly learn a lot!!
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