After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast we motored the short distance to the Captain Cook Birthplace Museum in Stewart Park. The weather was crisp and sunny so there were many locals taking advantage of the place with its varied facilities, including a Saturday market and animals to view. We had things to do so we made our way to the Endeavour Room for the beginning of the day’s intensive programme.
Like speeches by all good Society officers, the welcome and update speeches made by Alwyn and Mike were brief and to the point. I will mention now that I am a listener not a note taker so some of these summaries are very brief.
The first few minutes were devoted to an update on the museum by Gill Moore, who had recently taken it over from Phil Philo. My impression of the museum was that it was obviously very modern, provided suitable meeting rooms with an adjoining exhibition area, had friendly staff, and included café facilities. The reference library was extensive holding many interesting books to help members with their research, but with a finger biting filing cabinet system.
Then Vanessa Collingridge, who I have seen on television, gave a very detailed talk called “The Fabled Southern Continent”. I was aware of the thought, at the time of Cook’s voyages, that there must be a large landmass in the southern oceans to balance that of the Northern regions, but I was interested to hear about the thought processes and discoveries, or lack of them, which accompanied this belief. There was no land of milk and honey but plenty of ice. Vanessa had obviously thoroughly researched this subject, and she has an easy presentation manner.
Cliff Thornton followed with a talk on “Cook’s Missing Papers”. It started with the premise that there were some pages of his Second Voyage journals that were not accounted for but were turning up in various places. Peter was able to chip in that his great grandfather, Robert Young Carter, had written in a letter to the “Northern Lore” magazine in 1850, that the family had several items that belonged to Cook including log pages. Cliff was delighted with this information, and afterwards expressed his appreciation that Society members were so often able to add new information during their meetings.
After lunch John Paul, who had built his own boat and sailed it around the world, showed an excellent model of Endeavour that he had made. He explained the many corrections he had made to the original kit to make it totally accurate. Steve Ragnall then gave a talk on King Kamehameha. He appeared to be a powerful man who had conquered many of the Hawaiian islands by force, but who mellowed with age and authority to be a capable and respected ruler.
The final talk was given by Ian Stubbs entitled “Known and Unknown – Cook Statues and Memorials”. I had no idea there were so many all around the world. I had seen the plaque in Tahiti, where Cook landed to measure the Transit of Venus, and the seafront statue at Whitby, but so many others!! Peter and our son Bruce had hacked their way down the cliff path on the island of Hawai`i in 1983 to see the underwater plaque that commemorates the point where Cook was killed. Not a well-trodden path then. During our Polynesian cruise we had met the Dawson-Browns who farm at Pickering. They are Cook enthusiasts and mentioned that Sophie Forgan would be at the CCS meeting; having seen the poor state of repair around the Cook landing site in Tonga they suggested we bring this to her attention. We had in mind a proposal that the CCS could help in some way, but Sophie gave a brief talk about the state of disrepair of the Whitby statue that needed a considerable sum to renovate, so we thought it probably took precedence.
Alwyn wrapped up the meeting, which I felt had been much appreciated by all attendees. I had previous forebodings that this could be a rather boring day for me but can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. The evening auction was not for me, but was enjoyed by many. Alwyn was seated close to us at the dinner table, and was heard to say several times “that’s a bargain” when the hammer fell. He later entertained us with his repertoire of jokes, which I found very amusing.