Botany Bay 18-26 Jan 1788 – Part 5

[For introduction and part 1 (Non-verbal communication) see here]

[For part 2 (Exchange of possessions and What sex are you?) see here]

[For part 3 (Weapons) see here]

[For part 4 (The first words and Descriptions/opinions/attitudes) see here]


Many of the geographical names referred to by the writers had been bestowed by Cook in 1770. All of the writers refer to Botany Bay with no further explanation. Navy Surgeon George Worgan expects his brother to be as familiar with it as he is with a much older colonial outpost:

‘We sailed from the Cape of Good Hope … the last civilized Country We should touch at, in our Passage to Botany Bay.’

Other features named or referred to by Cook are named or referred to, sometimes also without further explanation, or by formulae such as ‘so named by Capn Cook’ or a full explanation:

‘Sutherland Point, so named from Forby Sutherland, one of Capt. Cook’s Sailors dying at this place & being there buried’ (Navy Surgeon Arthur Bowes Smyth); ‘an Inlet on the Coast … which, our great Circumnavigator, Captns Cook, discovered, and named, (in honour of one of the then Commissioners of the Navy) Port Jackson’ (Worgan).

The process by which physical descriptions become names can be seen by comparing Cook’s ‘a small bare Island’ with Navy Lieutenant Philip Gidley King’s ‘the Bare Island’ and Navy Lieutenant William Bradley’s ‘Bare Island’. [In 2013, I took a photo-excursion to Bare Island on the anniversary of Cook’s arrival, which is very little commemorated in Australia.]

The most significant name bestowed in 1788 was ‘Sydney’, first attached to the cove, then later to the settlement. Worgan did not expect his brother to know it:

‘I think I hear You saying, “Where the D—ce is Sydney Cove Port Jackson”?’

The other name bestowed in the first week was Manly [north of the entrance to Port Jackson]:

‘This confidence, and manly behaviour [by the natives there], induced Governor Phillip, who was highly pleased with it, to give the place the name of Manly Cove.’ (Governor Arthur Phillip’s ghost writer)

There is some initial confusion as to which was what, with some writers switching or combining Port Jackson and Broken Bay [the next major inlet, further to the north], sometimes in the same passage:

‘We reached the mouth of Broken Bay, Port Jackson’ (Bowes Smyth); ‘the Commondor went out Yesterday to Brocking Bay … I hope that the Comr. will find out a better place at Port Jackson’ (Clark); ‘the Comd … went … to Broken Bay Port Jackson’, ‘this Evining the Comdr returned from Broken Bay Port Jackson [and] gave …. orders … to Leave this port to go to Broken Bay Port Jackson’ (Easty); ‘[We] proceeded to the Northward along the Coast intending if we cou’d to reach what Captain Cook has called Broken Bay’ (Navy Captain John Hunter).

Also, there are several alternative names recorded:

‘here we make the Ships fast to the Trees on Shore both sides of Governours Cove’ (Clark); ‘Came to anchore oppisite a littel Cove now nameed Philips Cove Sidney Cove’ (Easty).

In most cultures, naming implies, asserts or states possession or ownership. To the British, the fact that natives were already here mattered less than that no European power had claimed the land. Phillip explains:

‘To New South Wales England has the claim which a tacit consent has generally made decisive among the European States, that of prior discovery. The whole of that Eastern coast, except the very Southern point, having been untouched by any navigator, till it was explored by Captain Cook.’

Despite naming the whole and many parts of New Holland, Van Diemen’s Land and New Zealand, the Dutch had not claimed any of it. [I vaguely remember reading a vague reference that the Dutch had, in fact, claimed New Holland. If so, nothing came of it. The state of research into early Dutch exploration is such that the latest book I could find about it was published in 1899.]

Marine Lieutenant Watkin Tench is blithe about the British claim to the land:

‘the Governor immediately proceeded to land on that side, in order to take possession of his new territory, and bring about an intercourse between its old and new masters’,

about British superiority [as he understood it]:

‘Our first object was to win their affections, and our next to convince them of the superiority we possessed: for without the latter, the former we knew would be of little importance’,

and even suggests fate:

‘We continued to run up the harbour about four miles … till we arrived at a small snug cove on the southern side, on whose banks the plan of our operations was destined to commence.’

He may be using the word as neutrally as we would use ‘destination‘ — cf Clark: ‘the place of our destination’, but then the God-fearing Clark might, in turn, be using that word in a very biblical, providential sense.

Phillip’s first claim was modest. At Manly Cove:

‘During the preparation for dinner the curiosity of these visitors rendered them very troublesome, but an innocent contrivance altogether removed the inconvenience. Governor Phillip drew a circle round the place where the English were, and without much difficulty made the natives understand that they were not to pass that line; after which they sat down in perfect quietness.’ (Phillip’s ghost writer)

His second claim, made on 7 February, spanned half the continent:

‘the territory, called New South Wales; extending from the northern cape, or extremity of the coast, called Cape York, in the latitude of ten degrees, thirty-seven minutes south, to the southern extremity of the said territory of New South Wales, or South Cape, in the latitude of forty-three degrees, thirty-nine minutes south, and of all the country inland to the westward, as far as the one hundred and thirty-fifth degree of east longitude’ (Phillip’s ghost writer, obviously copying an official source).

26 January is celebrated as Australia Day by most and observed as Invasion Day by some, even though 7 February is legally the more significant date. On an ‘uncommonly fine’ day (Judge Advocate David Collins) the British raised the flag, drank to the health of the King and Prince of Wales and the success of the new colony, cheered and fired guns.

There is no record of what the Cadi-gal thought. Possibly wuruwuru.


4 thoughts on “Botany Bay 18-26 Jan 1788 – Part 5

  1. Pingback: Botany Bay 18-26 Jan 1788 – Part 4 | Never Pure and Rarely Simple

  2. Pingback: Botany Bay 18-26 Jan 1788 – Part 3 | Never Pure and Rarely Simple

  3. Pingback: Botany Bay 18-26 Jan 1788 – Part 2 | Never Pure and Rarely Simple

  4. Pingback: Botany Bay, 18-26 Jan 1788 – Part 1 | Never Pure and Rarely Simple

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