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- March 1998 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The voyage from New Zealand to Cape York is as marvellously done. The various logs and journals of the Endeavour are set side by side and are annotated in ways Beaglehole could never have done.
And Beaglehole could never have drawn such maps all the way up the eastern coast with landscapes drawn from the calculated perspective of the Endeavour. There is, I swear, nothing like it.
Cook had three options once he had circumnavigated and mapped the two islands of New Zealand. One was to run to the east and Cape Horn below latitude 40 degrees. The second option was to sail westward, south of Van Diemen’s land to the Cape of Good Hope.
The senior officers voted unanimously for the third option, which was to sail westward slightly north of 38 degrees latitude so that they would come upon the northern extension of Van Diemen’s Land, follow the coast northward to wherever it took them, and come across, if they were there, de Quiros’s Solomon Islands.
That voyage of discovery was magical and dangerous. Parkin follows it every mile of the way, looking at all its events with his new gaze. Cook discovered what it meant to be a discoverer in that part of the voyage. He wondered too at what it meant to those whom he had “discovered”. Parkin leaves the Endeavour’s voyage with Cook reflecting on just that.
“They may appear to some to be the most wretched people on Earth, but in reality they are far more happier than we Europeans … They seemed to set no Value upon anything we gave them, nor would they ever part with anything of their own for any one article we could offer them; this is in my opinion argues that they think themselves provided with all the necessarys of life and that they have no superfluities”.
If we are making paeans of praise, let us make some more. The boxed set is a publication of the Melbourne University Press in the guise of The Miegunyah Press, which has been endowed by the bequest of Sir Russell and Lady Grimwade. The ambition of The Miegunyah Press has been to produce, at below real cost prices, works of the highest scholarly and artistic standard. It has done itself proud in this venture. I think we should salute the philanthropy that made it possible.
(Greg Dening is adjunct professor, Centre for Cross-Cultural Research. Australian National University.)
“Australian” 20-21 December 1997.