James Cook: Celebrated North Country Explorer

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THEMES ~ WILDLIFE

A variety of fish, mammals and sea creatures were seen from the ships:
PM was some Whales and Porposes, and small red Crawfish, some of which we caught. PM passed by a great Quantity of red shrimps insomuch that you could not tell the Colour of the water they was so thick.”
(Cook, Journals I, 3rd January 1769)

Marine life provided the crew with important fresh food:
This day all hands feasted upon turtle for the first time.”“At 4 oClock in the pm the boats return’d from the reef with about 240 pounds of the Meat of shell fish most of Cockles, some of which are as large as 2 men can move and contain about 20lbs. of good meat.
(Cook, Journals I, 9th July & 18th July 1770)

Some of the lands visited by Cook were extremely fertile, with abundant natural supplies of fruit and vegetables.
As I intend to sail in the morning some hands were employ’d picking of Sellery to take to sea with us, this is found here (New Zealand) in great plenty and I have caused it to be boild with Portable Soup and Oatmeal every morning for the Peoples breakfast, and this I design to continue as long as it will last or any is to be got, because I look upon it to be very wholesome and a great Antiscorbutick (antidote to scurvy).”
(Cook, Journals I, 28th October 1769)

An incredible number of the Natives (Tahitians) round the Ship in their boats all loaded with cocoa-nuts, Plantains, Apples and other fruits, which we purchased for Beads, nails & c. It is impossible to express how agreeable these fruits are to us who had not tasted any thing of the kind since we left the Cape of Good Hope.”
(William Wales, Journal, 16th August 1773)

The first voyage was one of the first organised voyages of biological exploration and thousands of new specimens were collected. Joseph Banks wrote of the recording of these natural history specimens in the great cabin of the Endeavour:
…We (Banks and Daniel Carl Solander) sat at the great table with the draughtsman (Sydney Parkinson) directly across from us. We showed him how the drawings should be depicted and hurriedly made descriptions of all the natural history objects while they were still fresh. When a long journey from land had exhausted fresh things, we finished each description and added the synonyms to the books we had. These completed accounts were immediately entered by a secretary in the books in the form of a flora of each of the lands we had visited…
Parkinson produced over nine hundred drawings and water-colours, many of them being engraved between 1771 and 1784.

All kinds of exotic animals were observed and depicted by the artists on the voyages, including these creatures from North America, Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) and the Arctic regions, along with giraffes and hippopotamus in South Africa.

In describing the shooting of walrus for fresh food in August 1778 Cook also made some observations on their behaviour:
They lay in herds of many hundred upon the ice, huddling one over the other like swine, and roar or bray very loud, so that in the night or foggy weather they gave us notice of the ice long before we could see it. We never found the Whole herd a sleep, some were always upon the watch, these, on the approach of the boat, would wake those next to them and these the others, so that the whole herd would be awake presently. But they were seldom in a hurry to get away till after they had been once fire(d) at, then they would tumble one over the other into the sea in the utmost confusion…
(Cook, Journals III, I, 419)

Cook and his men were some of the first Europeans to see and record the appearance of this Australian marsupial:
…An animal something less than a grey hound, it was of a Mouse Colour very slender made and swift of foot…the full size of a grey hound and shaped in every respect like one, with a long tail, in short I should have taken it for a wild dog, but for its walking or running in which it jumped like a hare or a dear…the fore legs were 8 inch long and the hind 22, its progression is by hoping or jumping 7 or 8 feet at each hop upon its hind legs only, for in this it makes no use of the fore, which seem to be only design’d for scratching in the g round. Excepting the head and ears which I thought was something like a Hare’s, it bears no sort of resemblance to any European Animal I ever saw.
(Cook, Journals I, 23-24 June & 14th July 1770)

Cook wrote:
Whether these masks are worn as an Ornament in their public entertainments, or as some thought, to guard the face against the arrows of the enimy, or as decoys in hunting, I shall not pretend to say; probably on all these occasions.”
(Cook, Journals III, i, 314-15)

Cook recorded that the Tahitians made offerings of animal sacrifices to their gods:
They believe that theer is one Supreme God…from him sprung a number interior Deities Eatuas as they call them…to these they offer oblations such as Hogs, Dogs, Fish, Fruit &ca.”
(Cook, Journals I, p.134, July1769)
Joseph Banks described the scene at a particular altar:“…we found the altar or ewhatta upon which lay the last sacrafice, a hog of about 80 pounds weight which had been put up there whole and very nicely roasted.

(Banks, Journal I, 318, 20 July 1769)

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