It was my first time at a Captain Cook Society meeting. I was a bit nervous as I didn’t know what to expect. But afterwards, I can recommend anyone to attend one. Many people go frequently, so take care, it seems to be contagious.
We arrived on Friday in Newcastle and rented a car to go to Middlesbrough. Driving on the left was a bit strange in the beginning, but we managed to get to the hotel while enjoying the typical autumn landscape with yellow, red and green trees everywhere and a quick lunch stop in Durham.
The first evening started with an informal dinner. We felt immediately welcomed. Everybody was very friendly and wanted to know each other’s interest in Cook. The slightly different approaches, interests or expertise (from art to astronomy, philately, Cook’s family or crew, London’s history, science, explorers, maps, ships, etc.) enriched the evening. It was almost a family gathering talking about the good old James, his crew, the family.
If young people aren’t interested in history anymore, they should meet some CCS members. It gets so much more lively than the mere facts and dates. I am still amazed you can find so much information on the 18th century. I also liked the historical gossip as it were, to make it more human and alive. And even more so the passion to find the objective truth and to put things right. Trying to find what really happened and not necessarily following the common view on a topic is what Captain Cook in 2012 would do.
I don’t know much about stamps and didn’t think much about them before. But I have gained a new respect for philatelists. When you collect stamps on a subject, like Cook for example, you have to know a lot about it. If you have a stamp with a kangaroo, you want to make sure that he really saw this kangaroo and not another species or variant of it. That takes a lot of research. Every stamp is a story and helps to remember history. So philatelists have loads of interesting stories. I think they sometimes know more than historians as they are looking for specific and detailed facts. The general knowledge comes along with it.
I saw a Banksia dried fruit. That’s a plant named after Joseph Banks. Ian Boreham told me a story about it. Coincidently, later that evening Lesley Hawkins showed me one he happened to have brought along. He had bought it for £2 and didn’t know much about it. Chris North told us some facts and nice stories about it. For example, that the follicles open easier after a bushfire as they are adapted to the Australian climate.