About 45 members attended the biennial conference in Auckland, including visitors Dawn Lea Black from Alaska, and Mal and Jenny Nicholson from Australia. An informal dinner was held in a local restaurant on the Friday (27 October, 2017), to welcome visitors. It included a birthday toast to James Cook. Guests arriving early on Saturday were greeted by organising Chairman Brian Wyeth, MC Brian Pilkington dressed as Captain Cook, and the local Howick Town Crier. The last two took a stroll through the adjacent Saturday morning street market, where they were mobbed by amateur photographers everywhere, and had to stop for numerous “selfies”.
On display at the venue were some stunning Endeavour paintings by marine artists Paul Deacon1 and Alan Sanders; Graeme Brown’s superb collection of Cook coins and notes, including his rare original Resolution coin; Norman Wansborough’s valuable stamp exhibit; and one of the best collections of Captain Cook books we’ve seen for a while, from John Allen. CCS President John Robson delivered an uplifting address updating members on various CCS matters, including the news of Cliff Thornton’s life membership—greeted with pleasure by all. John also advised us of a new Cook documentary series featuring NZ actor Sam Neill, due to be screened on TV in September 2018.
In the first of the day’s presentations, author Graeme Lay introduced his new book, A Travel Guide to Captain James Cook’s New Zealand.2
Graeme highlighted the crucial importance of accuracy in such books, and of “super-sacred” facts. He also made the point that as far as that First Voyage was concerned, Endeavour was a “character” in her own right, since it was the only Pacific voyage on which Cook took only one vessel.
Well-known New Zealand author Tessa Duder followed with the topic of Cook’s relevance to young people. Her own recent research has highlighted the lack of accurate historical information about Cook available for Kiwi youngsters today. Since 2000, only 11 books have been published about Cook for young NZ readers, she said, lamenting the fact that that our bookshops and museums, including the NZ National Maritime Museum, had few or no Cook books. And his role in early NZ history seems to have been largely ignored by educational authorities in recent years.
There followed an interesting account by Dr Alison Sutherland3 of the animals that Cook took on his voyages, with special emphasis on the famous milch goat that circumnavigated the world a couple of times, first in Dolphin, then with Cook. Alison also detailed her outstanding work on the preservation of the famous Arapawa goats, left on an island in Queen Charlotte Sound by Cook, and now classified as one of the world’s “rare breeds”.
A surprise event was the presentation by Auckland Library curator Kate de Courcy of an extremely rare painting of Endeavour by British author and poet John Masefield, produced for a New Zealand friend in 1955.4 In the afternoon Dr Nigel Rankin delivered a fascinating presentation on scurvy. Then we had an update from John Steele on the progress towards the 2019 Cook Sestercentennial celebrations. The Saturday night dinner was held at the local Bucklands Beach Yacht Club in a fine room overlooking the marina and ferry terminal.
On Sunday morning, those not already having to return home travelled by ferry up the Waitemata Harbour to the National Maritime Museum for a guided tour, and an inspection of The Lighthouse and its stainless steel Cook sculpture. It was another very successful and enjoyable occasion.
Brian Wyeth hinted strongly that the next “250th Conference” in 2019, or early 2020, may well be in Marlborough. We look forward to more international guests joining us then, in what promises to be an exciting time in New Zealand.
As my wife and I were the only two South Island members to attend, we did get a special mention at our New Zealand CCS meeting held in Auckland in October 2017. We were highly impressed by the wonderful work the organizing committee had done in arranging this meeting. Thanks folks!
We were met at the Auckland Airport (despite me leaving my cell phone at home!) by Brian and Sheila Wyeth, and Dawn Lea Black, a US member from Alaska, for the start of a great weekend. We began on the Friday night with a visit to a favourite Japanese restaurant of John Steele’s. Brian had to teach me how to use chop sticks, but I steered away from the octopus. It was a first class night out, Cook style.
The meeting started on Saturday morning in the very smart Uxbridge Centre, with our President, John Robson, opening the meeting with his presidential address. We had him answering many questions all day; his knowledge is amazing.
The master of ceremonies (MC) was Brian Pilkington, who was appropriately fully outfitted as Captain Cook. Brian Wyeth was detail manager, Dr Nigel Rankin was technical manager, and John Steele was site manager.
All the subjects talked about by our speakers raised some very interesting questions, such as Did Cook take shelter from a storm in Wellington Harbour when looking for Adventure?
Dr Alison Sutherland spoke about goats, and one in particular, Cook’s Endeavour goat. Did it have a name, or was she just called Goat? Where was she buried? Cook noted in his personal diary that she died on March 28, 1772, and that she wore a silver collar. Where is that silver collar? It may tell us her name. Was she the first female to sail around the world twice? As goats on Arapawa Island, plus all the livestock Cook liberated elsewhere, leave us with a direct link with Cook, where did they come from? Was it the UK, or were they picked up on the voyage out? Dr Sutherland’s book No Ordinary Goat explains her battles to save these special goats.1 Her new book, due out early in 2018, and called Cook’s Ark, will cover more details on Cook’s animals, and how they survived.
Graeme Lay presented his latest book, A Travel Guide to Captain James Cook’s New Zealand, and told us of the joy he had in writing it. He said he told the local bookshop of our meeting, and that he was expecting 40 plus people attending. When he called there beforehand, he found they had only two in stock, which sold out within minutes. I had to purchase mine when back in Christchurch.
Tessa Duder, a prize-winning New Zealand writer, offered up some very interesting facts on what had been published in books about Cook in the past, and how the quality of Cook information needed to be improved. She specifically mentioned the need for more accurate facts, and not cutting corners. She showed us some interesting new books, mainly to do with better educating young people about Cook.
Dr Nigel Rankin gave a very interesting address on scurvy, with all the history around it. He left me with the question, why did Cook not like eating pumpkin? Then, John Steele outlined the planned 2019 Sestercentennial Commemorations with the Endeavour replica visiting New Zealand. She will sail from Gisborne, via Mercury Bay, Auckland, and the Bay of Islands, to the Marlborough Sounds
We had a special presentation by an Auckland Library curator, Kate de Courcy, of Masefield’s painting of Endeavour. Also on display were a table full of John Allan’s “Cook books”; Graeme Brown’s big collection of coins and medals; and John Finlayson’s model of Endeavour, a fully detailed masterpiece, which took him over five years to build.
Some large and very fine paintings of Cook and Endeavour at sea by artists Paul Deacon, and Alan Sanders were on display for all to see and purchase. To top it all off, Norman Wansborough’s fine collection of stamps and covers completed a first -class display.
With regard to Don Heussler’s recent article about the stainless steel Cook sculpture in Sydney,2 we have found another one! Also by the same noted New Zealand sculptor, Michael Parekowhai, this one is positioned inside a fully restored 1950s state house at the end of Queens Wharf, the house itself being the artwork! In fact the building, with its Cook statue, all illuminated at night, is the largest gift of public art that Auckland has ever received. It was donated by Auckland real estate company, Barfoot & Thompson. Cook is the only inhabitant inside. He is sitting in a chair in a pensive mood, and looking very contemplative. The public can’t get inside, so to photograph him through double-glazed windows creates reflections from the coloured lights.
Our great find was celebrated by five of us as we did the Royal Navy thing, with a bottle of Lamb’s Navy rum brought by Sheila Wyeth. So we all stood to attention, and toasted our Captain!
Some of the onlookers were a little perplexed as to what we were doing.
Brian mentioned to them it was Cook’s birthday on the 27th, so were celebrating it with a toast!
Sheila had made some ship’s hard tack biscuits, which we all tried to eat. I thought I had lost a tooth!
What a great weekend! Many questions remained unanswered, so the experts all scurried away on Sunday night to look up their reference materials. We may yet get some answers to our questions. Take note Mr. MC.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 24, volume 41, number 1 (2018).
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