Australian government mocked over plan to honour Captain Cook with voyage he never made

A replica of Captain Cook’s HMS Endeavour will circumnavigate Australia to mark its arrival Down Under 250 years ago – despite the fact the voyage never took place.

The Australian government is spending 6.7m dollars (£3.7m) on the journey, which is due to set off from Sydney in March 2020 and end in May the following year.

But the announcement has faced criticism due to the cost and the fact Captain Cook did not sail all the way around Australia.

It has also reignited the long-running debate over the legacy of British involvement in the country.

Captain cook new south wales
Image:Captain Cook arrived in New South Wales in April 1770

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the famed explorer “made some mistakes” but his expedition “is the reason Australia is what it is today”.

“As the 250th anniversary nears we want to help Australians better understand Captain Cook’s historic voyage and its legacy for exploration, science and reconciliation,” he said.

“I believe it’ll be a voyage to bring Australians together. That’s why I’m so keen to support it.”

.@ScottMorrisonMP: Those who want to engage in judgements of things that happened 250 years ago and ignore the context of the period do history and themselves a disservice … Sure, James Cook made some mistakes. Who doesn’t?

The circumnavigation will be paid for as part of a 48.7m Australian dollar (£27m) fund set aside to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the voyage.

But responding to the plans, political journalist Peter van Onselen tweeted: “That’s a wonderful tribute to Matthew Flinders, the first person to circumnavigate Australia (1801-1803).”

Commentator Greg Jericho added: “They do realise Cook didn’t circumnavigate Australia, right?”

Meanwhile, journalist Karen Sweeney pointed out that indigenous Australians arrived in Australia “give or take, 65,000 years ago” and other European sailors had visited the continent before Captain Cook.

Captain cook statue Hyde park, Sydney
Image:Captain Cook earned his place in history one of the great explorers.

Endeavour and her Royal Navy crew set off from England in August 1768 in search of the hypothesised continent of Terra Australis Incognita.

She first reached New Zealand in October 1769 and arrived in what is now known as Botany Bay in New South Wales in April the following year.

From there, Captain Cook and the Endeavour sailed along Australia’s east coast, coming close to oblivion when she ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef.

The ship arrived back in Dover in July 1771 and Captain Cook, a farmer’s son from Marton in North Yorkshire, earned his place in history one of the great explorers.

The Australian National Maritime Museum’s replica of Endeavour made its maiden voyage in 1994 and has a regular programme of trips to Antipodean destinations including New Zealand and southern Pacific Islands.