Captain Cook visited New Caledonia in 1774, arriving by ship.1 We visited in 2015, arriving by plane!
We flew to Grand Terre, the main island, with Aircalin from Sydney, landing at the capital of Nouméa. We began with a visit to its modern and interesting maritime museum, housed in a building of very unconventional architecture.
The museum has several historical documents about the French explorer Jean-Francois de la Pérouse, who visited New Caledonia in 1788.
For James Cook the museum displayed some information about his visit, a model of Resolution, and his chart of New Caledonia.
Outside the museum we found a memorial to Captain Cook that had been moved from Balade.
The plaque had been erected on 4 September, 1974, to commemorate the arrival two hundred years earlier of Cook at Balade, his first point of call in New Caledonia. The plaque’s move to Nouméa, on the southwest coast, meant we were spared the necessity of driving 1,500 km to Balade on the northeast coast to see it.
The plaque reads
A LA MEMOIRE
DU CAPITAINE JAMES COOK
QUI LE 4 SEPTEMBERE 1774
A BORD DE LA “RESOLUTION”
DECOUVRIT LA NLLE CALEDONIE
1774 - 1974
Near the museum we came across a road named after James Cook—Rue James Cook. A sign on the street proudly declared him Navigator and Explorer. It also gives the years of his birth and death.
From Nouméa we drove to the east coast, crossing the 600km chain of mountains that runs along the length of Grand Terre. There is a magnificent view from Col de Nassirah.
At Thio, on the east coast, we had sight of the same land that Cook would have seen when he sailed south along the north side of the main island, to the Isle of Pines off its southeasternmost tip.
We saw a large river outfall, and wondered if Cook’s men had landed here to get some fresh water.
Teija and Michael Spiekien
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 40, volume 40, number 3 (2017).
your email address will not be published