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RISHAD SAAM MEHTA

Discovering Australia, Captain Cook’s way

If there’s one personality you just cannot miss or go without reading about, or seeing mentioned on a highway or attributed to a discovery or a voyage of discovery is Captain James Cook. One of England’s greatest explorers, his brilliant navigational skills at sea were responsible for opening the routes to the Southern Hemisphere. Many areas and islands in Australia have been named by Captain Cook.

What is heart warming to find out is that, though it has been over 200 years since Captain Cook fell dead on a beach in Hawaii, he still looms large for many Australians. On the ferry to Bruny Island in Tasmania, I was trying to find the smokers’ corner, when seeing my inquiring gaze and the cigarette tucked behind my ear, a fellow passenger showed me the discrete nook in the chugging ferry that was rivalling the exhaust with its smoke content.

An old mate started with pleasantries that lead to the story of Adventure Bay.

He told me that in the museum on the way to Adventure Bay lies a dry desiccated bark of a tree and I should go have a look at it. I did. It was the carefully preserved bark of the tree where Captain Cook had anchored his ship the Endeavour, when he’d beached it to repair at Adventure Bay. Repairs done he sailed to Hawaii, where he was killed. At the spot where the tree stood then, stands a commemorative pillar bearing the plaque that is shown here.

In fact another bold tribute to Cook is Captain Cook’s Cottage. This house that originally stood in Yorkshire (England) was where Captain Cook grew up. It was presented to the Australian state of Victoria for its Centenary in 1934 and was carefully dismantled and packed into 253 trunks and transported 14,000 miles to Melbourne. Today it stands assembled and furnished as it must have been around 1750. Visitors can go in today and even stroll through its garden which has plants such as cabbage and citrus, which helped Cook’s crew to fight that dreaded scrounge of the high seas — Scurvy!!

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