Botany Bay: Where Histories Meet

Botany Bay: Where Histories Meet

Botany Bay: Where Histories Meet

Botany Bay: Where Histories Meet

Synopsis

Botany Bay is renowned as the site of Captain Cook's first landing on the east coast of New Holland in 1770, infamous as the place chosen by the British as a dumping ground for convicts, and celebrated as the birthplace of Australia. Drawing on stories, objects, images, memories, and the landscape itself, this work presents Botany Bay in all of its complex significance while investigating the roles that Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal histories play in creating and sustaining local and national communities.

Excerpt

Botany Bay, Captain Cook, 1770. Place, person, date. The stuff of history. These three elements form a type of triptych in an Australian historical imagination. They became irrevocably joined when, in late April 1770, Captain James Cook sailed into the bay he later named Botany Bay. However, they are code for a much more expansive story—about discoveries, first contact, the founding of a colony and the origins of a nation.

Botany Bay, Captain Cook, 1770. There is sufficient symmetry among the elements—the repeated consonants in each, for instance—to entertain momentarily the conceit that their joining together was, if not destined, then a proper state of affairs. However, much more was required than the encounter that brought them together in the first place for the bond between the three to become seemingly unshakeable. And so, circling the triad are many interpretive possibilities. There are those to illuminate the encounter that entwined Botany Bay, Captain Cook, 1770; there are others to explain how the whole ended up standing for so much more than the sum of its parts.

But, while Botany Bay was literally and figuratively put on the map by Captain Cook in 1770, it soon floated free from his cartography and his history. After the 1770 encounter, Botany Bay became imagined place as much as geographical location, at least . . .

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