Captain James Cook: Claiming the Great South Land
Distant, cloaked in mystery and reckoned to be the source of untold riches, the Great South Land was, over centuries, the inspiration for countless voyages of discovery. No less did its possibility influence the British Admiralty when it commissioned James Cook to sail across the Pacific in his first voyage on the Endeavour in 1768-71.
The narrative of Cook's voyage primarily depends on his journal. His eloquence gives power to his story. The tangible reality of the voyage is derived from the maps that Cook painstakingly drafted for every league of that journey. These documents are the powerful record of Cook's contribution to our national story.
In a unique and compelling matching of Cook's journal entries with the journals of others on the voyage, including Joseph Banks, Sydney Parkinson and James Matra, John Molony shapes a layered story of that first voyage, illustrated with a remarkable series of maps. Ultimately, this melding of voices brings to fitting and moving prominence the encounters of Cook and his men with the people and places of an ancient world and especially the Aborigines and Australia. With clear-sighted compassion, Molony locates this meeting of the old and new at the centre of Cook's story. His original interpretation of the primary sources brings a palpable humanity to Cook's voyage of 'discovery' and thus elevates the contemporary debate on our nation's heritage.