Naval History

Why Has Australia Been Criticised For Its Captain Cook Commemoration Plans?

A multi-million pound replica of HMS Endeavour is to sail around Australia.

A replica of HMS Endeavour based in Australia (Picture: Hugh Llewelyn).

Australia has faced criticism after revealing plans for a replica of HMS Endeavour to circumnavigate the country next year, to commemorate 250 years since the arrival to the country of Captain James Cook.

The ship is to set sail from Sydney in March 2020 for the journey, which is due to be completed in May 2021.

The country's Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has announced the government is giving 6.7 million Australian dollars (£3.72 million) to the Australian National Maritime Museum for the voyage.

The money is part of an overall fund- 48.7 million Australian dollars (£27 million)- set aside to commemorate the anniversary.

Mr Morrison said the famed explorer's expedition "is the reason Australia is what it is today and it's important we take the opportunity to reflect on it".


The announcement has found itself at the centre of a lively debate, however, due to the cost of the circumnavigation, the fact Captain Cook did not sail all the way around Australia and long-running disagreements over the legacy of British involvement Down Under.

Commentator Greg Jericho tweeted:

"They do realise Cook didn't circumnavigate Australia, right?"

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.

HMS Endeavour
A replica of HMS Endeavour in the UK.

Place in history

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

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

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.

Following the ship's return to Dover in July 1771, Captain Cook - a farmer's son from Marton in North Yorkshire - earned his place in history as one of the great explorers.