Cook: It was only eight days

Students investigate the ways in which the Europeans interacted with the Gweagal people of Kamay (Botany Bay) during their eight day stay. The nature of this contact will be interrogated from both perspectives, as students are introduced to aspects of the Gweagal people’s way of life.
Key inquiry question #1: 
What was life like for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples before the arrival of the Europeans?
Key inquiry question #2: 
What was the nature and consequence of contact between Aboriginal and / or Torres Strait Islander peoples and early traders, explorers and settlers?

Content

The diversity and longevity of Australia's first peoples and the ways Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples are connected to Country and Place (land, sea, waterways and skies) and the implications for their daily lives (ACHHK077)  

Students:   

  • investigate, drawing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community representatives (where possible) and other sources, the traditional Aboriginal way of life, focusing on people, their beliefs, food, shelter, tools and weapons, customs and ceremonies, art works, dance, music, and relationship to Country  

 

The journey(s) of at least ONE world navigator, explorer or trader up to the late eighteenth century, including their contacts with other societies and any impacts (ACHHK078)   

Students: 

  • outline the voyages of ONE early explorer, eg … Captain Cook …, and explain the impact of their voyages   

 

The nature of contact between Aboriginal people and/or Torres Strait Islanders and others, for example, the Macassans and the Europeans, and the effects of these interactions on, for example, families and the environment (ACHHK080)   

Students: 

  • describe the nature of contact between Aboriginal people and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples and others, including Aboriginal resistance   
  • use sources to identify different perspectives on the arrival of the British to Australia  

Key inquiry questions

Activity 1: A long voyage

How did James Cook and the Endeavour crew prepare for their long voyage?  

What was it like to engage in world exploration in the late eighteenth century? 

Activity 2: We saw them coming

Why did Gweagal people and the Endeavour crew see the events of 1770 differently? 

Activity 3: Violence on the shore

What was the nature and consequence of contact between Gweagal people and the Endeavour crew? 

Activity 4: We call them pirates

How do different groups of people think differently about the events of 1770? 

Activity 5: Seeing without understanding

How was the Gweagal people’s knowledge of the plants and animals in Kamay different to the Europeans’ knowledge? 

Activity 6: Botanical sketches

How was the Gweagal people’s knowledge of the plants and animals in Kamay different to the Endeavour scientists’ knowledge? 

Activity 7: A place of plenty

How did the Gweagal people and the Endeavour crew differ in their understandings of food, language and nature? 

Activity 8: Perspective and power

How did prior knowledge influence the behaviour of the British towards the Gweagal people? 

    Learning Intentions and Success Criteria

    A long voyage

    Learning intention 

    Students are learning to: 

    • recognise the challenges of world exploration in the late eighteenth century 

    Success criteria 

    Students will be successful when they can: 

    • explain the difference between a primary and secondary source 
    • identify the types of supplies needed for the Endeavour’s voyage 
    • describe conditions on board the Endeavour 
    • identify the features of navigational equipment used by James Cook 

    We saw them coming

    Learning intention 

    Students are learning to: 

    • empathise with different perspectives on the events of 1770 
    • understand how miscommunication about differences in perspectives influenced the nature of first contact between Gweagal people and European explorers. 

    Success criteria 

    Students will be successful when they can: 

    • give examples of how Gweagal people and the Endeavour crew held different perspectives on the events of 1770 
    • explain how miscommunication about differences in perspectives influenced the nature of first contact between Gweagal people and European explorers. 

    Violence on the shore

    Learning intention 

    Students are learning to: 

    • use sources to understand different perspectives on the contact between Gweagal people and the Endeavour crew in 1770. 

    Success criteria 

    Students will be successful when they can: 

    • explain the differences in the perspectives of European and Aboriginal people during the events of 1770. 

    We call them pirates

    Learning intention 

    Students are learning to: 

    • critically analyse sources to examine different perspectives on the events of 1770, including Aboriginal, European and modern-day perspectives 

    Success criteria 

    Students will be successful when they can: 

    • give examples of Aboriginal, European and modern-day perspectives on the events of 1770 

    Seeing without understanding

    Learning intention 

    Students are learning to: 

    • understand the Gweagal knowledge and use of plants in Kamay. 

    Success criteria 

    Students will be successful when they can: 

    • explain the Gweagal people’s extensive knowledge and use of the cabbage tree palm. 

    Botanical sketches

    Learning intention 

    Students are learning to: 

    • compare the Gweagal knowledge and use of plants in Kamay with the Endeavour crew’s approach to learning about these plants 

    Success criteria 

    Students will be successful when they can: 

    • explain the limitations of the Endeavour crew’s scientific knowledge of Kamay plants compared to the Gweagal people’s extensive knowledge and use of plants. 

    A place of plenty

    Learning intention  

    Students are learning to: 

    • use sources to investigate the different perspectives of Gweagal people and the Endeavour crew on food, language and nature. 

    Success criteria 

    Students will be successful when they can: 

    • compare the use of food, language and nature by Gweagal people and the Endeavour crew. 

    Perspective and power

    Learning intention 

    Students are learning to: 

    • understand how prior knowledge and beliefs influenced the behaviour of the Europeans towards the Gweagal people. 

    Success criteria 

    Students will be successful when they can: 

    • demonstrate an understanding of first contact between the British and Gweagal people from both perspectives 
    • explain how pre-existing opinions and attitudes can influence behaviour and outcomes 

    Background notes for teachers

    James Cook 

    James Cook was 18 when he became an apprentice in the British merchant navy (commercial ships). He joined the Royal Navy in 1755 and by 1758 was master of his own ship and saw service in Canada. In 1762 he married Elizabeth Batts and they had six children. 

    Cook studied mathematics, charting, geography and astronomy. His skill and knowledge in the latter led to his appointment by the Royal Navy as the leader of an astronomical expedition that the Royal Society (a prestigious society of scientists) was organising. Before setting sail on the HM Bark Endeavour (Endeavour) with 93 other crew and expedition members, he was promoted to Lieutenant (although he is almost always called Captain Cook, this title came much later.) 

    First voyage of the Endeavour  

    James Cook’s first Endeavour voyage lasted 1050 days, between 1768 and 1771. Primarily tasked with making astronomical observations in Tahiti, Cook then followed secret orders he had been given by the Royal Navy to conduct further explorations in the south Pacific. He proceeded to New Zealand, where he mapped the coast, and then on to Australia, which was already known as New Holland. 

    Cook and the crew of Endeavour were the first known Europeans to sight and chart the east coast of Australia, in 1770. They entered Botany Bay (Kamay), forced their way onto the shore, and spent eight days collecting specimens and exploring before setting sail once more. The Endeavour continued north, through Torres Strait, over the Indian Ocean and around Africa, then returned to England. 

    Cook’s navigation  

    James Cook used a newly developed method of navigation called lunar distances to guide the Endeavour on its first voyage around the world. There were three key pieces of equipment to this method: 

    • the newly published Nautical Almanacs, by Astronomer Royal Nevil Maskelyne, which listed the angular distance of bright stars from the edge of the Moon at various times from Greenwich (in the UK) 
    • a sextant 
    • Cook’s aptitude for complex mathematics.  

    To navigate using lunar distances, Cook would, in simple terms, first measure the height of a star from the horizon, then the height of the moon from the horizon, and finally, using a sextant, the angular distance between the moon and the star. He would then repeat this process with another star. These measurements then had to be put through a series of difficult mathematical calculations. As the first to use this method of navigation, Cook had a better idea of his position than any previous navigator on a major voyage of exploration. On his second and third voyages he had the benefit of newly developed chronometers, but it was due to his skill with lunar distances that he created such excellent charts of Tahiti, New Zealand and the east Coast of Australia. It is worth noting, however, that he gained significant assistance in navigating from Tahiti to New Zealand from Tupaia. Tupaia was a Tahitian Polynesian navigator, whom Banks convinced Cook to take with them when they left Tahiti due to his knowledge of both the geography and people of the south Pacific.  

    You can find out more about Tupaia in the Encyclopaedia of New Zealandhere.  

    The transit of Venus and journey to Tahiti 

    The primary impetus for James Cook’s first Endeavour voyage was to observe the transit of Venus from Tahiti, expected to take place in June 1769. England’s Royal Academy sponsored the voyage, as scientists hoped that observing the transit from various places around the world would solve one of the chief mysteries of eighteenth century science - the size of the solar system. At the time, European astronomers were only aware of the inner six planets that orbited the Sun. They knew the relative spacing between these planets, but not what those distances meant in a quantifiable way (i.e. in miles or kilometres). In 1716, Edmund Halley (of Halley’s comet fame) realised Venus was the key. As seen from Earth, Venus occasionally crossed the face of the Sun. These were called transits of Venus and were very rare. They came in pairs, eight years apart, and then not for around 120 years. Halley himself would never have the opportunity to observe a transit of Venus. Although astronomers tried to time the transit of Venus in 1761, they were thwarted by weather conditions. Fortunately, they were to have a second opportunity eight years later. However, if Cook and the others who were sent around the Earth to observe the event failed in 1769, every astronomer on Earth would be dead before the next opportunity to observe the phenomenon and unlock the mystery. The theory was, that by noting the times the black disk of Venus started to glide across the surface of the Sun and the time the disc completed its journey across the face of the Sun, from widely spaced locations on Earth, astronomers would be able to calculate the distance from Earth to Venus and thus could work out the size of the rest of the known solar system. 

    To be in Tahiti with plenty of time to set themselves up before this important event, Cook and his crew of 93 set off from England on 12 August 1768. Joseph Banks, the young botanist onboard, wrote of their departure: ‘We took our leave of Europe for heaven alone knows how long, perhaps for Ever.’ Their destination in the South Pacific was so far flung, in a part of the Earth so poorly explored, that most couldn’t even agree if there was a giant continent in the area or not.  

    Arriving in Tahiti eight months later, Cook had lost five crewmen during the rounding of Cape Horn, and another one, who threw himself overboard during the following 10-week passage across the Pacific. Cook wrote on their arrival, on 13 April 1769, that they had very few men on the sick list and attributed a general lack of scurvy to the sauerkraut that had been specially prepared for the journey. 

    On the day of the transit of Venus, Cook wrote in his journal that the air was ‘perfectly clear’. 

    After observing the transit of Venus, Cook turned to his next mission. Prior to his departure from England he had been issued with secret orders. In these, the Royal Navy instructed him: 

    there is reason to imagine that a Continent or Land of great extent, may be found to the Southward…You are therefore in Pursuance of His Majesty’s Pleasure hereby requir’d and directed to put to Sea with the Bark you Command so soon as the Observation of the Transit of the Planet Venus shall be finished and observe the following Instructions. You are to proceed to the Southward in order to make discovery of the Continent abovementioned… 

    And so, they set sail once more. 

    Kamay 

    James Cook, Joseph Banks and the crew of the Endeavour were in Kamay (Botany Bay) for eight days out of a 1050-day journey. Although this was a short time in the history of the Aboriginal people of Australia, who have inhabited this land for more than 65 000 years, the ramifications of these eight days were to be enormous for both the Aboriginal people of Australia and all those who have since moved to her shores. 

    The exhibition, Eight Days in Kamay, explores the visit of James Cook, Joseph Banks and the crew of the Endeavour to the shores of Kamay, telling the story from a largely Indigenous perspective. You can visit this exhibition online, here.

    Indigenous cultural systems 

    Country 

    When used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the term Country encompasses the lands, waterways, skies and seas. However, it is much more complex than just a collective term for physical land formations. Country speaks to complex ideas about every aspect of life. Not only is Country a place to call home, but it informs laws, customs, responsibilities, spiritual beliefs, cultural practices, family, identity and language. Compounding the complexity of the term further, is the idea that Country also informs physical and emotional relationships with the ancestral beings that inhabit places within Country and as such; Country is animate (alive) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 

    Ancestors play a significant role in the way in which Country has come to exist, and the relationship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to Country. The ancestors’ legacy in Country informs the complex social rules and kinship relationships that guide how people live, the names of places in Country, the language people speak and the songs and ceremonies required to keep the Country and its people healthy. 

    Despite popular assumptions, Aboriginal people were not opportunistic in the use of resources, but managed Country via highly complex systems, developed over thousands of years, that dictated patterns of hunting, fishing and agriculture. With extensive ecological knowledge, Aboriginal peoples lived a highly sustainable life. 

    Language 

    Approximately 250 distinct languages, and many hundreds of dialects, were spoken across Australia. Maps of language groups provide only an approximation of ‘boundaries’ as mapping traditional territories is very complex, requiring an understanding of the travels of ancestors through the land. 

    Kinship 

    Kinship locates all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in networks of belonging and webs of relationships that include not just people, but places, plants, animals and ancestors. Whilst the exact nature of kinship varies from place to place, it generally works to group together certain relatives, allocate specific roles and responsibilities, and dictate rules about marriage and contact between people. The principles of kinship remain very important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today. 

    Student Activities

    A long voyage

    Students investigate the route of the Endeavour, consider the supplies required for such a long voyage, contemplate what life might have been like and learn about the tools of navigation used on the 1080 day voyage.

    Number of set tasks: 4

    We saw them coming

    Through an examination of sources and personal reflection students will begin to understand the differences in perspective and miscommunication that influenced the nature of first contact between Gweagal people and European explorers. 

    Number of set tasks: 3

    Violence on the shore

    Students use sources to understand different perspectives on the first contact between Gweagal people and the Endeavour crew in 1770, as they consider ideas of consent and learn about Indigenous protocols around Country.

    Number of set tasks: 3

    We call them pirates

    Through an examination of contemporary and historical artworks, students consider how different groups of people may think differently about the events of 1770. Students continue to examine questions about recognition of other ways of life and questions of knowledge and power. 

    Number of set tasks: 4

    Seeing without understanding

    Engaging in research, an art activity and close examination of historical sources, students explore the many uses of the cabbage tree palm for both the Gweagal people and, later, European settlers. 

    Number of set tasks: 2

    Botanical sketches

    Using botanical sketches created by the Endeavour crew, students consider the limitations of their scientific knowledge of Kamay plants compared to the Gweagal people’s extensive knowledge and use of plants whilst engaging in creative activites.

    Number of set tasks: 3

    A place of plenty

    Students engage in primary source research to investigate different the perspectives of Gweagal people and the Endeavour crew on food, language and nature. 

    Number of set tasks: 3

    Perspective and power

    Students consider the impact of pre-existing attitudes and beliefs, informed by sources such as William Dampier's experiences in Western Australia in 1688, on the way in which the Endeavour expedition approached the Gweagal people of Kamay.

    Number of set tasks: 2

    NSW SYLLABUS FOR THE AUSTRALIAN CURRICULUM HISTORY K - 10

    A student:

    • HT2-3 describes people, events and actions related to world exploration and its effects
    • HT2-4 describes and explains effects of British colonisation in Australia
    • HT2-5 applies skills of historical inquiry and communication. 

    Comprehension: chronology, terms and concepts 

    • respond, read and write, to show understanding of historical matters 
    • use historical terms (ACHHS066, ACHHS082) 

    Analysis and use of sources 

    • locate relevant information from sources provided (ACHHS068, ACHHS084, ACHHS215, ACHHS216) 

    Perspectives and interpretations 

    • identify different points of view within an historical context (ACHHS069, ACHHS085) 

    Empathetic understanding 

    • explain how and why people in the past may have lived and behaved differently from today 

    Research 

    • pose a range of questions about the past (ACHHS067, ACHHS083) 

    Explanation and communication 

    • develop texts, particularly narratives (ACHHS070, ACHHS086) 
    • use a range of communication forms (oral, graphic, written) and digital technologies 

    Cause and effect: events, decisions or developments in the past that produce later actions, results or effects, eg how conditions and decisions in Britain resulted in the journey of the First Fleet. 

    Perspectives: people from the past will have different views and experiences, eg views on the arrival of the British in Australia from a British and an Aboriginal point of view. 

    Empathetic understanding: developing an understanding of another’s views, life and decisions made. 

    Learning across the curriculum 

    Cross-curriculum priorities  

    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures 
    • Sustainability 

    General capabilities 

    • Critical and creative thinking 
    • Ethical understanding 
    • Intercultural understanding 
    • Literacy 
    • Personal and social capability 

    Important learning 

    • Difference and diversity 

    The diversity of Australia’s first peoples and the long and continuous connection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Peoples to Country / Place (land, sea, waterways and skies) (ACHASSKO83)

    • investigating pre-contact ways of life of the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples; their knowledge of their environment including land management practices; and their fundamental beliefs about the interconnectedness of Country/Place, People, Culture and Identity 

     

    The journey(s) of AT LEAST ONE world navigator, explorer or trader up to the late eighteenth century including their contacts with other societies and any impact.  (ACHASSK084)

    • examining the journey of one or more explorers of the Australian coastline (for example, the Macassans, Dirk Hartog, Abel Tasman, James Cook, Comte de la Perouse) using navigation maps to reconstruct their journeys 
    • examining the impact of European exploration or colonisation on ONE society 

     

    The nature of contact between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and others, for example, the Macassans and the Europeans, and the effects of these interactions on, for example, people and environments (ACHASSK086)

    • investigating contact with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples before 1788 (for example, the repulsion of the Dutch at Cape Keerweer in 1606 and the trade between the Macassans and the Yolngu people) 
    • comparing the European concept of land ownership, including terra nullius, with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples' relationship with the land, sea, waterways and sky, and how this affected relations between the groups 
    • exploring the impact that British colonisation had on the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (dispossession; dislocation; and the loss of lives through conflict, disease, loss of food sources and medicines) 
    • considering whether the interactions between Europeans and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples had positive or negative effects 
    • examining paintings and accounts (by observers such as Watkin Tench and David Collins) to determine the impact of early British colonisation on Aboriginal Peoples' Country