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Chronology Chronology [Timeline] of the Discovery and Exploration of Botany Bay [String Ray Harbour], Sydney by Captain James Cook



Introduction

On 28 April 1770, while on his voyage of discovery on the Endeavour, Captain James Cook was located off the east coast of Australia, just south of where present day Wollongong is located. At 2 p.m. he ordered the yawl [fore-and-aft rigged vessel], which was a small boat carried on the ship Endeavour, to be launched. He and some of his crew attempted to land on the mainland, but they were unable to land due to a strong surf. Captain Cook then ordered the ship to be sailed northward. Four hours later at 6 pm. he discovered a Bay, which he was to name Stingray Bay, because to the large number of Stingrays in the Bay.

James Cook
Explorer James Cook

 

The name of the Bay was later changed to Botany Bay.

A plaque at Captain Cooks landing place at the present day Kamay Botany Bay National Park reads:

 

The bounty of this place was such that it held the strangers here for eight full days to replenish, to collect and to marvel. Yet this brief encounter set in place a chain of events that would lead, in less than twenty years, to the founding of a British colony on Aboriginal land.

Celebrated as the birthplace of modern Australia, mourned as the site of original dispossession of the Aboriginal people, a place that has remembered and has silenced, a symbol of hope for reconciliation, this is a meeting place of histories, cultures and people.

The following log and journal entries from the Historical Records of New South Wales Volume 1, Part 1, [Sydney Government Printer 1893] are reproduced (with minor editorial amendments by History Services NSW) to document the activities of Captain James Cook and his crew during the eight days they spent in Botany Bay. Extracts of logs of Cook’s officers have are included where necessary, to supplement information in Cook’s log.


The records describe:


• Cook’s encounters with the Aborigines and use of muskets against them;
  
• Exploration of Botany Bay;
  
• Observations of Aboriginal culture;
  
• Activities of the Endeavour’s crew as they ready the ship for further sailing; and
  
• Burial of one of his seaman, Fordy Sutherland, on shore at Botany Bay.


 

Botany Bay
Botany Bay Landing site as viewed from La Perouse.

 

Sunday, 29 April 1770 – Anchored in Botany Bay; First encounter with Aborigines

Cook’s Log

Gentle breezes and settled weather. At 3 p.m. anchored in seven and a half fathoms of water in a place I called ‘Sting Ray Harbour’ [now named Botany Bay]. We saw several of the natives on both sides of the north shore, opposite the place we anchored, and where I soon after landed with a party of men accompanied by Mr. Banks, Dr. Solander and Tupia [a native of Otaheite, who Cook intended to take to England, but who died in Batavia].


As we approached the shore the natives all made off, except two men, who at first seemed resolved to oppose our landing; we endeavoured to gain their consent to land by throwing them some nails and beads ashore, but this had not the desired effect, but as we put in to the shore one of them threw a large stone at us, and as soon as we landed they threw two darts at us, but on the firing of two or three muskets loaded with small shot, they took to the woods, and we saw them no more.

We found a few old huts made of the bark of trees, in one of which were hid four or five children, with whom we left some strings of beads. After searching for water without success, except a little in a small hole dug in the sand, we embarked 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 some water, which came trickling down and stood in pools among the rocks; but as this was troublesome to get at, I sent a party of men on shore 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.

Journal of Sir Joseph Banks

The following extract relating to the landing of Captain Cook and his party on the rock opposite this tablet in the Kamay Botany Bay National Park are taken from the Journal of Sir Joseph Banks, which is held in the Mitchell Library, Sydney:

The natives resolutely disputed the landing, “although they were but two, and we thirty or forty at least”. Parleying with these two continued for about a quarter of an hour. “They remained resolute, so a musket was fired over them; the effect was that the youngest of the two dropped a bundle of lances on the rock.... He, however, snatched them up again and both renewed their threats and opposition. A musket loaded with small shot was now fired at the eldest of the two who was about forth yards from the boat, it struck him on the legs but he minded it very little, so another was immediately fired at him, on this he ran up to the house about one hundred yards distant and soon returned with a shield. In the meantime we had landed on the rock”. Several lances were immediately thrown and fell among the party. This caused two further discharges of small shot, when, after throwing another lance, the natives fled’.

Botany Bay
Memorial at site of Cook's "Watering Place", Kamay Botany Bay National Park



An Anonymous Log

Little winds and fair; at 3 p.m. the Captain [and others] with marines and boat’s crew armed, attempted landing, but were opposed on the rocks and sandy beach by two Indians with four-pronged wooden fish gogs, tipped at the ends with four fish bones, and fastened to ye wood with a gummy resinous substance. One of them, under cover of a shield, approached the boats and threw his gig, and in return was wounded with small shot. They now fled, and with them a woman and six or seven boys. On the beach they found three or four canoes made of the bark of a tree, gathered up at either end, and stuck open with a few sticks for thwarts; the houses too (about five) were no more than angular kennels, made by bending a piece of bark in the middle and resting either end on the ground, increasing the number of pieces of bark according to ye length desired. Having found a watering-place, returned in the evening.


Botany Bay
First Fleet Landing Rock, Kamay Botany Bay National Park

Monday, 30 April 1770 – Commencement of exploration of Botany Bay


Cook’s Log


Gentle breezes and pleasant weather. After breakfast I sent some empty casks ashore to fill, and a party of men to cut wood, and went myself to sound and explore the bay, in the doing of which I saw several of the natives, who all fled at my approach.

In the evening I took the scan over to the north side of ye bay, when in three or four hawls we caught above three hundred pounds of fish, which was equally distributed among the ship’s company.

Wilkinson’s Journal


[Moored in Stingray Bay, New Holland] Little wind and fair. The waterers and wooders on shore as yesterday; on board employed in the hold, armourer at his forge, the sail maker repairing sails; sent the boat to haul the seine, and caught fish enough for all hands.



Tuesday, 1 May 1770 – Observations of Aborigines

Cook’s Log

Gentle breezes and pleasant weather. In the morning I went over in the pinnace [small sailing boat] to explore the north side of the bay, when I met with nothing remarkable. Mr. Green observed the sun’s meridian altitude today. Employed wooding, watering; in the evening hauled the seine, but caught hardly any fish, and in the morning I sent a boat to dredge for oysters, who met with as little success.

Wilkinson’s Journal


[Moored in Stingray Bay, New Holland] Light wind and pleasant. All trades employed as before. At 6 p.m., departed this life, Forby Sutherland, seaman; eleven or twelve Indians came down to the beach within a quarter of a mile of our people and behaved in a very insolent manner, the Captain endeavouring by every fair means to induce a friendship with them, but all to no purpose; we observed these people have not the least rag of clothing on them.

 

Wednesday, 2 May 1770 – Forby Sutherland buried


Cook’s Log


Last night departed this life, Forby Sutherland, seaman, who died of consumption.
Fore and middle part, fair weather; latter part, rainy; In the morning the body [of Forby Sutherland] was interred ashore at the watering-place; this circumstance occasioned my calling the southern part of the bay, Sutherland’s Point. In the evening completed our water.

Lieutenant Hick’s Journal


[Moored in Sting-Rea Bay] The first and latter part little wind and cloudy; ye middle, thunder, lightning and rain; employed on shore wooding and watering, on board scrubbing and cleaning ship.

botany bay

Forby Sutherland Memorial, Kamay Botany Bay National Park

 

Thursday, 3 May 1770 – Stores on Endeavour replenished


Cook’s Log


Moderate breezes and fair weather. In the morning scrubbed the ship between wind and water. Employed getting on board wood and examining the country.

Lieutenant Hick’s Journal


[Moored in Sting-Rea Bay] Moderate breezes and fair. Employed wooding; completed our water to eighty tons saw twelve canoes along shore.

Wilkinson’s Journal


[Moored in Stingray Bay, New Holland] Moderate and fair. All trades employed as before. Completed our water to eighty tons. The Captain [and others], a great distance up the country to examine it; received on board a longboat load of wood.

Friday, 4 May 1770 – Exploration of Botany Bay continued


Cook’s Log


Light airs and calm and serene weather. Employed as yesterday and fishing.

Pickersgill’s Journal


Fine pleasant weather; employed wooding and cleaning ship; the Captain and company away up the harbour this day; the second lieutenant [Hicks] and some of the petty officers went away up the bay, striking stingerrays [stingrays], of which there were sufficient to serve all hands.

Saturday, 5 May 1770 – Description of Botany Bay and Aborigines


Cook’s Log


Light breezes and pleasant weather; in the evening the boats returned from fishing, having caught sufficient to serve five pounds a man to all hands.

Pickersgill’s Journal


Light breezes and pleasant weather; employed wooding, watering, and striking stingerrays, of which they caught three hundred pounds, one weighing two hundred and thirty six pounds; served five pounds per man and stopped ye sea provisions. Stingerray Bay lies in latitude 34° 6´ and longitude west of London 207° 43´; it is formed by two low points, between which there is a passage of one mile, with twelve fathoms of water. On the eastern side lies a little island, and off ye southern end it is a shore, where the sea sometimes breaks. After you are in, the bay spreads and tends to ye westward for about six or seven miles, and then ends in two large lagoons. Off the shore lie large flats with only six or seven feet of water. Upon them is a great quantity of stingerrays. The bay is very shoal, but there is a channel which lies open to ye entrance with five and six fathoms water, but after you are two miles within it shoals too. The bay is about four miles broad and has a regular tide. The country is very rich and fertile and has a fine appearance, and we saw a large tree which grows alone and yields a gum like dragon’s blood; this we found in great quantities sticking to ye bark. The tree on which it flows is very large and spreads, but does not grow straight or tall; besides we saw a wood which has a grain like oak, and would be very durable if used for building; the leaves are like a pine leaf. The soil is a light; sandy, black earth mixed, but is very shallow. Upon digging we found vast quantities of oyster-shells, which seemed to have been underground a great while. We also found a tree which bore a red berry about ye side of a cherry, but they grew only in one place.

The inhabitants are so shy that we had no kind of intercourse with them. They used to come down every evening armed with lances and wooden swords. They appeared very thin, and had their faces daubed with something white. One day as the Surgeon was walking in the woods, which are all clear of underwood, he had a lance hove at him out of a tree, but the man made off. This was all we saw of them except when they were fishing off in their canoes, which are very small and made of bark; they carry one man, who paddles with two small pieces of wood; they use them in striking fish on ye flats.

Their houses are several pieces of bark set up one against another and open at one end, and are the worst I ever saw.

The people have nothing to cover themselves, but go quite naked, men and women, and, in short, are the most wretched set I ever beheld or heard of.

botany bay

Captain Cook Memorial completed in 1870, Kamay Botany Bay National Park

 

Sunday, 6 May 1770 – Preparations for departure


Cook’s Log


In the morning, as the wind would not permit us to sail, sent a boat up the harbour a fishing.

1p.m. Pleasant weather. People employed wooding.

5 p.m. The yawl returned from fishing, having caught two stingrays, the weight of which was near six hundred pounds. The great quantity of these sort of fish her occasioned my giving it the name of Stingray Harbour.

Pickersgill’s Journal


Little winds and fine pleasant [weather].
[In the afternoon] cleared ship for sea; the yawl returned from fishing with two skate, weighing six hundred pounds, which was served to the ship’s company instead of salt provisions; it was very strong, and made a number who ate of it sickly.


Wilkinson’s Journal


[Moored in Stingray Bay, New Holland] At 1 p.m. low water, the weather calm and clear. People employed wooding; the yawl returned from fishing; brought on board two skate weighing six hundred pounds; served five pounds per man to the ships company. At 7 p.m. high water. At midnight, light airs and fair.

 

Monday, 7 May 1770 – Endeavour left Botany Bay


Cook’s Log


7 o’clock. Weighed [anchor] and put to sea.

8 o’clock. Made sail to ye northward

 

Botany Bay
Endeavour Canon on display at Kamay Botany Bay National Park.
One of six cannon of the Endeavour recovered from the Barrier Reef in 1969.



Links

James Cook

Australian Dictionary of Biography: James Cook

Captain James Cook

James Cook University: James Cook

Joseph Banks

Australian Dictionary of Biography: Sir Joseph Banks (1743 - 1820)

A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook: The Endeavour Journal of Sir Joseph Banks

The Papers of Joseph Banks

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