« ZurückWeiter »
beginning to leaven the whole lump. The question of reform has been raised, and no amount of Encyclicals will be able to silence the insistent voice of progress.
Italy, what of the night ?
Ah, child, it is long !
Make it dim now and dark.
A song too loud for the lark,
VOL. XXVI.- NO. 151, N.S.
THE MAN WHO DISCOVERED AUSTRALIA.
ONE OF THE GREAT SEAMEN OF HISTORY.
BY W. H. FITCHETT, B.A., LL.D.
* Tall, thin, grave, even austere '—this is how Besant, who was an artist in words, describes the personal appearance of Cook, the famous seaman, who discovered ' Australia.
Some seven portraits of Cook exist, and for the most part they are in furious quarrel with each other. But from them all, and from such personal descriptions as may be collected, scattered through contemporaneous literature, it is easy to form a picture of the famous circumnavigator.
He was over six feet high, spare-built and erect. The Scottish strain in him is written in his high cheek-bones. The small head might seem insignificant but for the broad, meditative forehead; and the brown eyes, clear and well set as they are, would appear inexpressive but for the definite curved eyebrows above them. It is not a fighting face, but there is strength in the full, long chin, and steadfastness in the firm-shut lips. A fine seriousness lies on the whole countenance; every line in it suggests fortitude. The nostrils are finely cut; the brow is sagacious and meditative; the eyes seem to be searching some far-off sea horizon. As one studies the face the impression grows of a strong, grave spirit, lonely, perhaps, and meditative, accustomed to dwell apart, and familiar with the vast solitudes of the sea; but humane, resolute, unselfish ; a master spirit amongst men.
And this is the man who discovered ’ Australia in the true sense of the word. Portuguese and Spaniards and Dutchmen had for more than two centuries bumped up against the continent by accident, and sprinkled its shores with quaint wrecks and quainter names; but they had never succeeded in bringing Australia, in any practical sense, within the realm of human knowledge. They were never able to decide whether it was a continent or an island, or even an archipelago of islands. The most famous of Spanish seamen thought he was touching Australia when he landed on an
Copyright, 1908, by T. Shaw Fitchett.
island in the New Hebrides. The greatest of Dutch discoverers, Tasman himself, was confident that New Zealand was part of the great southern land of which geographers had dreamed, and which explorers had sought so long.
It was Cook who, with patient and skilful daring, groped his way, in the Endeavour -& ship worthy to be classed with the Golden Hind of Drake, or the Centurion of Anson-along the whole eastern coast of Australia, sounding his dim and perilous way through strange seas, and defining the vast coastline headland and reef and river and harbour-with a scientific accuracy that brought the huge continent at once within the realm of definite knowledge and opened it to commercial use. The British navy of that date was rich in splendid seamen, and they made memorable contributions to history. But no other seaman of exactly Cook's type can be discovered even in the naval records of that great period. And if it be true that 'peace hath her victories no less renowned than war,' amongst the most shining of these—the nobler and more enduring triumphs that history records—few can be found that exceed those of Cook. Canning claimed that he had *called the New World into existence to redress the balance of the Old World’; but that was only a glittering and idle phrase. The seaman made a better contribution to history than the politician. Cook's spacious, enduring, and magnificent epitaph is that he gave Australia to the British Empire.
Cook's fame springs from three great voyages round the world that occupied the last ten years of his life, from 1768 to 1779. He was forty years of age when on August 25, 1768, he sailed from Plymouth in the Endeavour, in charge of an expedition to observe the transit of Venus. Those forty obscure years are a record of hardships endured, of difficulties mastered, of knowledge won, by heroic effort such as is not easily paralleled.
Cook came of a hardy northern stock, half Scottish and half Yorkshire. He was the son of a day labourer, born in a two-roomed cottage built of mud. He learned the rudiments of spelling in a dame's school in the intervals betwixt crow-tending. The sea, in a sense, was native to him. At twelve years of age he was a shopboy in Staithes, a fishing village, squeezed into a narrow crevice in the cliffs, on which the mighty waves and fierce winds of the North Sea break. The little shop was within actual sound of the sea ; the encroaching waters, as a matter of fact, have since washed away the ground on which it was built, and to-day the sea rolls
where the counter once stood. At thirteen years of age Cook became a sea apprentice in a collier, trading on the stormy eastern coast, the best school for hardy seamanship in the world. But by virtue of the Scottish strain in his blood, he had a thirst for knowledge which lifted him out of the forecastle ; and when not yet twenty-three years of age he was mate of a Baltic trader.
But there was something in his blood, or in his brain, which made the poop of a trading-ship too small a field for him; and in 1755, when twenty-seven years of age, he volunteered into the navy as an able seaman. Here was a new school of discipline, a field of great opportunities ; for it was the heroic age of British seamanship, and war with France was just about to break out. Cook was quickly made a master's mate, served on long cruises in the Channel--again a splendid school for seamanship-took part in a smart frigate action, and by the time he was twenty-nine years of age was master on board the Pembroke, a fine frigate, under orders for America. He served in the siege of Louisbourg, and, later, in the siege of Quebec, under Wolfe. Here, in the perilous navigation of the St. Lawrence, Cook found the natural field for his genius. No one ever surpassed him in the skill, patience, and hardihood with which he could sound unknown waters or chart unknown shores. He was a seaman familiar with storms, and as much at home in them as a sea-bird ; but he was something more. He was a pilot by bent of nature, cool, steady, vigilant, with a strange gift for reading the puzzling, changeful cipher of sea and sky and wind, of shoal and current. In 1761 he was made a special grant of 501.‘in consideration of his indefatigable industry in making himself master of the pilotage of the St. Lawrence.'
But he was preparing himself for something better than even pilotage. There is a scientific basis to good navigation; and Cook, who had the strong brain of his northern stock, was by this time master of the scientific side of his profession. During the winter months, when his ship was laid up in Halifax, Cook read Euclid and studied astronomy. He was just thirty years of age, and it may be safely guessed that in the British navy of that period not many officers of Cook's age spent their hours ashore, like him, in a study of the higher mathematics and astronomy.
He had his reward, in the shape of new tasks. He was put in command of a schooner, the Antelope, with the modest pay of 103. a day, and set to chart the harbours and coasts of Labrador, & work which he did with a thoroughness that makes his charts even
to-day recognised standards. Later he was set to survey the foggy shores and waters of Newfoundland.
An eclipse of the sun took place on August 5, 1766, while Cook was engaged in taking soundings on the Newfoundland coast, and from the deck of his little schooner Cook took a careful observation of it. It was a trifling incident, but characteristic of the man ; and, as it turned out, it changed his whole career. He wrote a paper on the eclipse, and sent it, with his observations, to Dr. Bevis, a Fellow of the Royal Society. The paper was read before the Society, and the phenomenon of an obscure seaman-a mere warrant officer—who on the foggy coast of Newfoundland could observe' an eclipse, and report it with scientific intelligence and accuracy, arrested the attention of the pundits of the Royal Society.
In June 1769 a transit of Venus was due, and the Royal Society petitioned the King to send out an expedition to observe the event from a favourable point south of the Equator. It was decided to despatch a ship with a staff of astronomers to Tahiti. The astronomers demanded that one of themselves should be in command of the vessel, but Hawke—the great Lord Hawke' of Burkewho was First Lord of the Admiralty at the time, declared he would rather cut off his right hand than permit anyone but a King's officer to command the King's ship. An astronomer, the famous Halley, had been allowed, in 1698, to command a ship on a similar scientific cruise, with very melancholy results-on the marine side, at least—and the blunder was not to be repeated. Cook's paper on the eclipse of the sun had made his name familiar to the men of science, and he was accordingly appointed, and sailed in the Endeavour on the voyage which made his name immortal, and brought Australia within the realm of civilised knowledge.
Cook's three famous voyages had separate aims. The object for which the first was proposed was astronomical; but to send a ship into unknown waters for the mere purpose of watching the transit, on a given day, of a pin-point of black aross the disc of the sun seemed to the practical seamen of that day insufficient. Cook accordingly was instructed to proceed, after the astronomical observations were completed, to make discoveries in the South Pacific Ocean,' pushing as far south as latitude 40 deg. and 45 deg., till he fell in with New Zealand. He was then ' to return to England by such route as he thought proper.' Australia did not find a