New Holland

On this day …….. 22nd of August 1770

James Cook takes possession of the eastern coast of “New Holland”.

Captain James Cook was not the first to discover Australia, as he was preceded by numerous Portuguese and Dutch explorers. However, he was the first to sight and map the eastern coastline. Cook’s ship, the ‘Endeavour’, departed Plymouth, England, in August 1768. After completing the objective of his mission, which was to observe the transit of Venus from the vantage point of Tahiti, Cook continued on his mission to find out more about Terra Australis Incognita, the great unknown south land. He first came across New Zealand, which had already been discovered by Abel Tasman in 1642. He spent some months there, charting the coastline. Nearly a year later, he set sail east. In mid-April 1770, officer of the watch, Lieutenant Zachary Hicks, sighted land and alerted Captain Cook. Cook made out low sandhills which he named Point Hicks, although he did not yet know whether they formed part of an island or a continent. Point Hicks lies on the far southeastern corner of the Australian continent, and Cook chose to fly before unfavourable winds up the eastern coast. Cook went on to chart the east coast of what was then known as New Holland, mapping numerous inlets and bays as he headed north. On 22 August 1770, at Possession Island in Torres Strait, Cook claimed the eastern coast of the continent for Great Britain under the name of New South Wales. The territory he claimed included “the whole eastern coast, from latitude 38 degrees S to this place, latitude 10.5 degrees S, in right of His Majesty King George the Third”. This essentially meant just the eastern parts of what are now New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. Cook recorded the following: “Notwithstand[ing] I had in the Name of His Majesty taken possession of several places upon this coast, I now once more hoisted English Coulers and in the Name of His Majesty King George the Third took possession of the whole Eastern Coast by the name New South Wales, together with all the Bays, Harbours Rivers and Islands situate upon the said coast, after which we fired three Volleys of small Arms which were Answered by the like number from the Ship.”