A Travel Guide to Captain James Cook’s Australia: exploring significant locations from Cook’s voyages of discovery.  Graeme Lay. 2018

A Travel Guide to Captain James Cook’s Australia: exploring significant locations from Cook’s voyages of discovery. Graeme Lay. 2018

Lay, Graeme.  

A Travel Guide to Captain James Cook’s Australia: exploring significant locations from Cook’s voyages of discovery.  

New Holland Publishers. 


ISBN 9781921024542.  

248 pages. 


Selecting, condensing and presenting information relevant to the exploration and maritime voyage along the eastern Australian seaboard in one volume is a big task.  Producing it in an accessible, readable and digestible format is something author Graeme Lay has achieved. 


This soft covered, A5 sized publication fits into a travel bag or pocket of your daypack.  It sets out to describe “in text, maps and photographs the places of significance resulting from Cook’s 18-week voyage from Point Hicks-Tolywiararin Victoria to Possession Island in Far North Queensland”.  The content is laid out to mirror the sequence of events witnessed by Cook, his officers and ship's company as they sailed HMB Endeavour along the Australian Coast from April to August, 1770. 


The book is richly illustrated with 67 black and white images.  There are seven maps, simple in design, that provide enough detail of the geography of the region and the scope of the territory covered and charted by the expedition.  There are ten chapters, though not listed as such, followed by ten Appendices, Notes, Acknowledgements, a brief biography of the author, and an all-important Index. 


The author is ambitious with the scope that he covers in this publication.  He not only describes sites of significance for the expedition, but also brings into the work elements of contemporary Cook related actives.  For example, the Endeavour Replica (Chapter 4) is given 26 pages or 13% of the work. 


In terms of balance between events and content of the publication, chapter sizes tend to reflect activities of the voyage and their physical locations.  The Australian States of Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland all get their moment in the text.  It is pleasing that the text on events, locations and attractions in Queensland occupy 90 pages, or 47% of the publication. 


The 48 days spent ashore at what is present day Cooktown, when Endeavour was careened on the shores of Endeavour River, or Wabalumbaal in Guugu Yimithirr, make a stronger narrative than the eight days foraging and watering the ship at Kamay Botany Bay.  The Europeans over-fishing of sea turtles gave rise to tensions and conflict between the Gamay Warra clan of the Guugi Yimithirr, which came to a head in the first recorded act of reconciliation between Europeans and Indigenous Australians on the east coast.


Interwoven between the voyage and details of the respective landing sites are details of contemporary attractions, monuments and events relating to Cook and the Endeavour voyage.  This will be most useful for those who will not only read the book but do so as they travel to some or all the sites of interest.


Some of these details are tangential to the voyage, but are none the less interesting for those people wanting to locate Cook-related touchstones in the Antipodes.  For example, Cooks’ Cottage in Melbourne’s Fitzroy Gardens is described, including the origins of the project by Sir Russell Grimwade to purchase and then relocate the Cook family home from Great Ayton to suburban Melbourne. 


This publication is a most welcome addition to the library of anyone interested in the charting of Australia’s east coast, and some of the more complex issues that remain to be clearly understood by the wider public. 


Richard G Ferguson

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 59, volume 41, number 4 (2018).

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