|List||National Heritage List|
|Legal Status||Listed place (20/09/2004)|
|Place File No||1/16/035/0005|
|Summary Statement of Significance|
Kurnell Headland (comprising Botany Bay National Park and
the Sydney Water land at Potter Point), Kurnell Peninsula, is of outstanding
heritage value to the nation as the site of first recorded contact between
Indigenous people and Britain in eastern Australia. The place symbolically
represents the birthplace of a nation, and the dispossession of Indigenous
people. The first landing at
Kurnell Peninsula in April 1770 by Lt James Cook has been commemorated since
1822. The Meeting Place Precinct,
including Captain Cook’s Landing Place, features memorials and landscape
plantings celebrating the events.
Attributes specifically associated with its Indigenous values include
the watering point and immediate surrounds, and the physical evidence of
Indigenous occupation in the area broadly encompassed by the watering place and
the landing stage. The story of
Cook’s first landing on the east coast of Australia is nationally important and
an integral part of Australian recorded history and folklore.
Cooks’ running-survey of the east coast of Australia in 1770 and his survey of Botany Bay as a safe harbour, was an outstanding technical achievement, enabling the continental characteristics of Terra Australis to be defined for the first time, with the exception of Bass Strait, building on the work of earlier maritime explorers. Cook’s first landfall in Australia at Botany Bay in 1770 informed the subsequent British declaration of terra nullius and began the process which led to British possession of the Australian continent by 1830. The headland area of Kurnell Peninsula, comprising most of Botany Bay National Park, and described by Cook in his Journal as a significant coastal landmark at the entrance to Botany Bay, is significant to the nation as the destination of the First Fleet under Captain Arthur Phillip in 1787.
On this, Cook’s first of three voyages to the Pacific, Joseph Banks was botanist, assisted by Daniel Solander and the artists Sydney Parkinson, Alexander Buchan and Herman Sporing, were to produce botanical, zoological and ethnographic drawings. Banks and Solander collected 83 specimens whilst at Botany Bay, many of which are now the type specimens of species and genera, including Banksia, named after Joseph Banks. Kurnell Headland, was the first site on the eastern coast of the Australian continent to be explored by scientist from Britain, with many of the first type-specimens of flora collected at the Kurnell Peninsula landing site by both Banks and Solander. Cape Banks and Point Solander have defined the entrance to Botany Bay since 1770. Cook’s naming of ‘Botany Bay’ in 1770 would result in its adoption as an emotive term for a distant destination, which came to be associated with convictism for much of the nineteenth century.
1.3 Assessing scientifically diverse environments
2.1 Living as Australia’s earliest inhabitants
2.3 Coming to Australia as a punishment
2.6 Fighting for the land
3.1 Exploring the Coastline
7.1 Governing Australia as a province of the British Empire
8.7 Honouring achievement
8.11 Making Australian folklore
The place occupies an area of approximately 325 hectares on
the southern headland at the entrance to Botany Bay. It includes the Meeting Place Precinct, including Captain
Cook’s Landing Place, the coastal, landmark, sandstone, areas of Kurnell
Headland between Sutherland Point in the north and Doughboy Head in the south,
Endeavour Heights and sand dunes, including Botany Cone, in the south-west. The boundaries are defined by Botany
Bay National Park (Kurnell Section) and a small Sydney Water inholding at
Potter Point. |
Kurnell Headland is an island of outcropping Triassic Hawkesbury sandstone that is fringed by exposed cliffs rising up to 40 m above sea level. During the early Tertiary period, basalt dykes intruded into the sedimentary rocks. Since then, the basalt has been eroded, leaving narrow gorges in the sandstone cliffs, for example at Yena and Tabbigai (NSW NPWS 2001c).
White Pleistocene aeolian and alluvial sands overlay the sandstone in most of the park, while younger yellow Holocene dunes are found near the coast. The sand ranges in depth from a thin veneer in the east to 20 m in the higher areas. At the southern end of the reserve near Potter Point, there are big sand deposits including Botany Cone, one of the largest coastal dunes remaining in Sydney. The parabolic dunes in this area are generally oriented north-south and, as part of the Botany sandbeds, contain a large unconfined aquifer. Several freshwater springs occur on the margins of the aquifer, supporting a number of small wetlands. The park contains several intermittent watercourses and one small permanent stream that runs into Botany Bay near Alpha Farm (NSW NPWS 2001c).
Although much of the headland has been cleared over the last 100 years, a few Bangalays (Eucalyptus botryoides) survive as remnants of the original woodland and small groves of Swamp Oak (Casuarina glauca), Cabbage Tree Palms (Livistona australis) and Broad-leaved Paperbark (Melaleuca quinquinervia) still grow along the creeks (NSW NPWS 2001c). Of particular note are stands of mature Smooth-barked Apple (Angophora costata) on the sandstone areas of the headland, close to the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) Discovery Centre above Cook’s Landing Place.
Most of the southern section of the park consists of low to medium heathland dominated by Old Man Banksia (Banksia serrata), Scrub She-oak (Allocasuarina distyla) and a Grass Tree (Xanthorrhoea resinosa). Near Inscription Point are dense thickets of the Fine-leaved Paperbark (Melaleuca armillaris). Where aeolian dunes cover the sandstone, there is low scrub dominated by Old Man Banksia, Coastal Banksia (B. integrifolia) and coastal Tea-tree (Leptospermum laevigatum). Swamps occur in small pockets and support vegetation dominated by sedges such as Gahnia sieberana and contain shrubs such as Lemon-scented Bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus), Swamp Banksia (B. robur) and Heath Banksia (B. ericifolia) (NSW NPWS 2001c; 2002).
Plant communities are representative of vegetation types that were once more common but are now severely depleted in the Sydney region. They include:
- Kurnell Dune Forest, listed as endangered in NSW (NSW NPWS 2004a);
- small patches of Sydney Freshwater Wetlands, listed as endangered in NSW (NSW NPWS 2001b, 2004b); and
- Sutherland Shire Littoral Rainforest, listed as endangered in NSW, and present at the northern tip of the park (NSW NPWS 2001c).
The nationally endangered Botany Bay Greenhood orchid (Pterostylis sp. Botany Bay) is only known from a single population of about 300 plants within the Kurnell section of Botany Bay National Park (NSW NPWS 2001b; NSW NPWS 2002; DEH 2004).
The historic coastal landmark, Kurnell Headland, which guided the First Fleet in 1788, is linked via a series of tracks with Captain Cook’s Landing Place, an area of approximately 100 hectares set aside in 1899. The original vegetation of the sandstone headland areas is represented by tree cover, which consists predominantly of Angophora costata, in particular dense stands immediately behind the now culturally modified landscape of the landing site. Specimens of this tree and a native violet, found near the stream Cook used as his primary water supply (Captain Cook’s Watering Hole), were collected by Banks and Solander in 1770. Today, sand dunes to the immediate southwest of the landing site feature Banksia integrifolia, another species collected by Banks and Solander, suggesting that the peninsula areas associated with the landing site were therefore the initial if not the source of many of the 83 botanical specimens collected at Botany Bay. However, there is little evidence of the original shoreline vegetation associated with the landing site, which included xanthorrhoeas (grass trees), banksias and casuarinas.
Commemoration of Cook’s visit in 1770 has been limited historically to recognition of those areas associated with the landing and first contact near the entrance to Botany Bay, at the junction between the sandstone headland and the dune system linking the headland to the mainland. The Sutherland Shire Heritage Study (PMW 1993) identified the following Historical Archaeological Sites associated with Captain Cook’s landing:
81 Captain Cook Landing Place Historic Site (includes 82-92)
82 Captain Cook Landing Site
83 Buoy marking the mooring position of HMS Endeavour
84 Banks memorial
85 Solander monument
86 Captain Cook monument
87 Forby Sutherland monument
88 Landing Place abutment
89 Alpha Farm site
90 Captain Cook’s Watering Hole
91 Captain Cook Well
The above sites (82-92) are set out along the Botany Bay shoreline, beginning with the Cook Monument (86) and ending with a memorial (87) at the supposed site of Forby Sutherland’s grave, to the northeast. Captain Cook’s Well (91) is located a few metres to the west of Cook’s Monument. Adjacent to the Cook Monument, a memorial has been erected to Aboriginal resistance; this features an abstract from Cook’s Journal, detailing the events associated with first contact.
A track along the shoreline connects the monuments and features, the surrounding, modified landscapes including over 300 commemorative trees planted by visitors over the years, mainly Norfolk Island and other related pines. The Trust, which has managed Captain Cook’s Landing Place since the early 1900s, has also been responsible for the planting of over 9,000 trees, with additional plantings made east of the Alpha Farm site (89) in 1954. Specimens included Norfolk Island, Hoop and Cook Island Pines as well as Port Jackson Fig, Olive and Tallowood trees (PMW 1993). A major feature of the site, identified as early as 1910, is the stream (90) where Cook’s men obtained water. An Aboriginal midden and burial site are located in close proximity to this watering hole. The area also includes the sandstone abutments (88) of the second jetty, erected c. 1905, which allowed ferry passengers to embark/disembark, as well as a shelter shed erected c. 1912. The construction of a sandstone ashlar retaining wall (88) along parts of the shoreline associated with the jetty has resulted in new ground, which now features a memorial avenue of trees, and which enclose the Banks memorial (84) and Captain Cook’s Watering Hole (90). Aboriginal artefacts were located at the Banks memorial. The Flagpole (92) is associated with the Solander monument (85). Further to the east of this monument at Inscription Point is a rockshelter containing evidence of Aboriginal burials, stone, shell and bone.
The site of Alpha Farm (89) is represented by a weatherboard, Federation style cottage erected c. 1905 by the Trust, as a caretaker’s cottage. An Aboriginal burial site (Cundlemong’s grave) is located to the rear of Alpha Farm. Associated with the cottage, and the adjacent Discovery Centre, is an open, cleared area with introduced specimens of native trees, which has been developed as a recreational and barbecue area. To the southwest of this area is an Aboriginal rock engraving site, situated amongst bushland.
In April 2003 the Department of Environment and Conservation, formerly NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, presented a Masterplan for the ‘Meeting Place’, which sets out interpretation principles for the whole site. The Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW) is also developing a conservation management plan for the Captain Cook’s Landing Place Historic Site, which will confirm the details and extent of historic and Aboriginal heritage items and features. In particular, changes in shoreline characteristics will be reviewed and the historical accuracy of specific site locations, such as Forby Sutherland’s grave (87) and the rock (82) on which Cook is supposed to have first stepped ashore, evaluated and their locations confirmed.
In the central part of the area, three Aboriginal sites have been recorded – a midden and two open campsites. The Gwegal elders have advised that ochre pits are located at Tabbagai, and that other natural resources in the area were utilized by Aboriginal people in the past. In the southern part of the area, seven Aboriginal sites have been recorded – five open campsites and two midden sites (one containing stone artifacts).
The Aboriginal landscape prior to European arrival|
This landscape falls within the boundary of the Tharawal people (Tindale, 1974:198). The general name for the bay was “Kamay” (pers. com. Dave Ingrey).
The landscape contains evidence of Aboriginal use prior to and possibly during and after European contact, including shell middens, open artefact scatters, a rock shelter with cultural material, human burials, hearths, shell and bone implements, animal bone and a single rock engraving site. The evidence from archaeological investigations and excavations suggests that Aboriginal people were utilizing a range of resources, including shellfish (estuarine and rocky reef species), fish (ocean and estuarine species), mammals (such as wallaby, possum, seal) and birds (species unidentified). Although no wood or plant materials have been recovered from excavations, it is probable that people were also using the plant resources that occur across the peninsula. Stone tools have been recorded, with raw materials including silcrete, chert, mudstone and sandstone, the former three of which do not naturally occur on the peninsula.
Evidence from archaeological excavations suggests that Aboriginal people were using this landscape for at least the last 5,000 years. Over seven radiocarbon dates have been obtained from sites at Captain Cook’s Landing Place, Boat Harbour and Quibray Bay (middens and a burial), ranging in date from 3,680+ 110BP to 500 years ago. Artefact typologies from these sites also conform to those recorded within the mid-late Holocene period in the Sydney region. One site (Doughboy Head 1) has been dated to 12,190 + 110 years BP. However, protocols and verifiable documented evidence on the stratigraphy and sample retrieval make this date tenuous (Dallas, 2002). No sites have been dated from the transgressive dune fields.
It was perhaps inevitable that the European discovery of Tahiti in 1766 by Samuel Wallis, who had been instructed by his peers in Britain to concentrate on the southern Pacific, would result in further voyages. Bougainville and Carteret were to follow Wallis to Tahiti with Surville and Marion Dufresne extending French exploration in the Pacific. Marion Dufresne in particular was anxious to discover ‘Terra Australis’, sailing from Mauritius in 1771. On 6 March 1772, he and his crew visited Tasmania, 130 years after Tasman, sighting New Zealand in the same month. Marion Dufresne’s expedition was the first to encounter the Tasmanian Aborigines and was a precursor of the great voyages of La Pérouse, d'Entrecasteaux, Baudin and d'Urville. However, British voyages of exploration were the first to reach the east coast of Australia, prompted by Wallis’s report of a continental coastline south of Tahiti (Frost 1998).
The story of the British colonization of Australia took place at a time of great imperial rivalry between France and Britain, which extended to the Pacific. Cook’s first voyage, begun in 1768, was to record the Transit of Venus at Tahiti, with the additional aim of promoting exploration in the Pacific; Cook’s secret instructions were to take possession of ‘a Continent or Land of great extent’. If he found the continent, Cook was to chart it carefully and record the nature of its soils, animals and plants. He was to ‘observe the Genius, Temper, Disposition and Number of the Natives, if there be any, and endeavour, by all proper means, to cultivate a Friendship and Alliance with them…….and Shewing them every kind of Civility and Regard’. Cook was, ‘with the Consent of the natives to take possession of Convenient Situations in the Country in the name of the King of Great Britain; or if [he] you find the Country uninhabited take Possession for his Majesty by setting up Proper Marks and Inscriptions, as first discoverers and possessors’. If Cook failed to locate Terra Australis, he was to chart New Zealand and then return (Frost 1998).
Sailing from New Zealand in early 1770, Cook’s ship, HMS Endeavour, met the Australian coast at Point Hicks, at the continent’s south-eastern corner. Cook was assisted by Charles Green, as they made a running survey of the east coast. Point Hicks, Ram Head, Cape Howe, Mount Dromedary, Bateman Bay, Point Upright, Pigeon House, Long Nose and Red Point were identified. Prevailing weather and water conditions prevented the ship from making landfall until beyond the coastal ranges, which petered out near the edge of Sydney Basin. The arrival on 28 April 1770 at Botany Bay of Lieutenant James Cook would lead to the provision of information, which became the basis for the mapping and colonization of Australia by the British (PMW 1993). Cook claimed eastern Australia, at Possession Island, Torres Strait/Cape York, for Britain in 1770, after mapping the eastern coastline. As the first European discoverer, and carrying a regular commission to do so, Cook was able to claim this terra nullius for his sovereign (Frost 1994).
Frost (1992) has discussed the issues relating to the doctrine of terra nullius. By the mid-eighteenth century, if a region was not already possessed by a rival, then a state might acquire it in one of three ways: by persuading the Indigenous inhabitants to submit themselves to its over-lordship; by purchasing from those inhabitants the right to settle part or parts of it; and by unilateral possession, on the basis of first discovery and effective occupation. As Cook wrote, ‘We are to Consider that we see this Country in the pure State of Nature, the industry of man has had nothing to do with any part of it’ (Frost, 1992).
At Botany Bay, the Endeavour ‘came to an anchor abreast of a small village consisting of about 6 or 8 houses’ (Banks’ Journal 28 April 1770) at Kurnell Peninsula and attempted to obtain water on shore, unsuccessfully, with some resistance from the Aboriginal people. Diary and journal entries for the 28 April 1770 present slightly different versions of events. Cook recorded in his Journal that a musket fired close to two Aboriginal men had little effect; a second musket loaded with ‘small shot’ likewise had little effect, the two men taking up shields to prevent being hit again. Parkinson’s Journal (pp.179-181) recorded that ‘we attempted to frighten them off by firing off a gun loaded with small shot; but attempted it in vain. One of them repaired to a house immediately, and brought out a shield with two holes in it to see through, and also a wooden sword, and then they advanced boldly, gathering up stones, which they threw at us. After we had landed they threw two of their lances at us; one of which fell between my feet. Our people fired again, and wounded one of them; at which they took up the alarm and were frantic and furious, shouting for assistance’. Small gifts of beads and nails were left amongst the ‘few small huts made of the bark of trees’ (Cook’s Journal 29 April 1770). Re-embarking, they sailed across to the north point of the bay (Cape Banks), (Barrow 1993) where they found some fresh water, which was difficult to access (Cook’s Journal 29 April 1770). However, Kurnell Peninsula became the main shore-base for the expedition. Botany Bay, as it was named in Cook’s Journal, was initially named ‘Stingray Bay’ in the Endeavour log on account of the large number of rays caught by the crew.
The first person ashore at Kurnell Peninsula was Isaac Smith (an able seaman, also Cook’s nephew, later midshipman (1796) and finally Admiral). However, it may well be that an ordinary seaman, before Isaac Smith and Cook, was first ashore to steady the longboat (Hough 1994). The ships log for 26 August 1767, recording the crew, placed Smith immediately after the officers, reinforcing this connection and his relative importance. Described by the Lords of the Admiralty as a ‘gentleman of large fortune’, with money and estates, Joseph Banks was able to pursue his botanical interests on the voyage, in what has come to be known as the Age of Enlightenment. On this, Cook’s first of three voyages to the Pacific, Joseph Banks was botanist, assisted by Daniel Solander (Plomley, 1993) and the artists Sydney Parkinson, Alexander Buchan and Herman Sporing, all employed by Banks. The artists were to produce botanical, zoological and ethnographic drawings (Frost 1998). Banks and Solander collected 83 specimens, many of which are now the type specimens of species and genera, including Banksia, for which Towra Point is the type site for some Banksia species (AHDB Place report Kurnell Peninsula Towra Point Area Place ID 3337, File No 1/16/035/0005). Banksia species collected at Botany Bay included B. integrifolia, serrata and ericifolia.
On 29 April 1770 Banks noted in his journal that ‘Dr Solander and myself went a little way into the woods and found many plants’. Subsequently, on 3 May 1770, Banks noted that ‘our collection of plants was now grown so immensely that it was necessary that some extraordinary care should be taken of them…’ and on 4 May Banks noted ‘myself in the woods botanizing as usual’ and later that day on the north side of the bay went a ‘good way into the countrey …..and [which] resembles something of our Moors in England, as no trees grow upon it but everything is covered with a thin brush of plants about as high as the knees’ (Banks’ Journal 1770).
Cook recorded in his Journal the activities of himself and also of the scientists. On Tuesday 1 May 1770, an Excursion into the Country was made by Cook himself and Banks and Solander, the men walking till they were completely tired (no mention is made of their direction or the time involved). On Thursday 3 May Cook made a little excursion along the Sea Coast to the Southward, accompanied by Mr Banks and Dr Solander. On the same day Cook had also travelled some distance inland from the head of the bay (Georges River), finding the land much richer than on the Peninsula. On the 6 May, Cook named the bay Botany Bay, after the great number of plants found by Banks and Solander. In his description of the place, Cook described the bay as ‘capacious, safe, and Commodius; it may be known by the land on the Sea Coast, which is of a pretty even and moderate height, Rather higher than inland, with steep rocky Cliffs next the Sea, and looks like a long Island lying close under the Shore. The entrance of the Bay lies about the Middle of this land. In coming from the Southward, it is discovered before you are abreast of it’ (Cook’s Journal 1-6 May 1770).
Cook, Banks and Parkinson also recorded the Aboriginal people they observed during their stay at Botany Bay. They encountered men, women and children, of up to 17 people in a group. Their huts were bark shelters (refer sketch by Parkinson, 1770), and were located “… not far from the watering place where some of the natives are daily seen” and “here we left several articles such as Cloth, Looking glasses, Combs, Beeds, Nails &Ca”, (Cook’s Journal 29 April 1770). Huts and places where people had slept upon the grass were also seen during excursions into the country (exact location of sightings unclear) (Banks’ Journal 1 May 1770).
On a number of occasions people were seen in their canoes gathering shellfish and fishing with ‘gigs’ and hooks and line; and cooking fish and shellfish over fires Cook, for example, describes landing in a place where several ‘natives’ had just left and found “small fires and fresh muscles broiling upon them – here likewise lay vast heaps of the largest oyster shells I ever saw” (Cook’s Journal 29 April 1770). There is also evidence of the use of plant resources, with trees cut down using “ … some sort of a blunt instrument and several trees that were barked, the bark of which had been cut by the same Instrument, in many of the trees, especialy the palms, were cut steps about 3 or 4 feet asunder for the convenience of Climeing them (Cook’s Journal, 1 May 1770).
Observations were made of their canoes and implements, with ‘weapons’ including ‘…a kind of chisel fixed at their ends….” (Parkinson, 1770; also refer Cook’s Journal 29 April 1770). People were observed carrying spears, ’wooden swords’ and darts with ‘four prongs and pointed with fish bones’ (Cook’s Journal 30 April 1770). Banks described a wooden ‘weapon’ of about 2 feet long, and resembling a scymeter in shape, and recorded the collection of spears by his party “….no improper measure to take away with us all the lances which we could find about the houses, amounting in number to forty or fifty. They were of various lengths, from 15 to 6 feet in length; both those which were thrown at us and all we found except one had 4 prongs headed with very sharp fish bones, which were besmeard with a greenish colourd gum that at first gave me some suspicions of Poison” (Banks’ Journal 28 April 1770).
Various features of the peninsula were named by/after the party, such as Cape Banks and Point Solander. The south point of the bay, between Point Inscription and Point Solander, was named Sutherland Point, after one of the seamen (Forby Sutherland) who died on Tuesday 1 May 1770, and who was buried ashore (Barrow 1993). In the official log, Cook made the following record: ‘Tuesday May 1, 1770. At 6pm departed this life, Forby Sutherland, seaman. A.M. sent the body ashore to be buried’ (Royal Australian Historical Society Journal, 1923:281-298).
In his Journal, Cook, following an excursion into the country, remarked on its diversity, with woodlands, grasslands and marshes: ‘The woods are free from undergrowth of every kind and the trees are such a distance from one another that the whole country or at least a great part of it might be cultivated’. On the last day of April Cook made a tour of the entire bay. Before leaving the bay, where the Union Jack had been flown every day, Cook ordered an inscription to be cut on a tree close to where they had watered, setting forth the ships’ name and date, 6 May 1770. Almost at once after they had departed they sighted safe anchorage, naming it Port Jackson (Hough, 1994). The Endeavour sailed from Botany Bay on 6 May 1770, and subsequently, but not without mishap, successfully mapped the eastern coastline of Australia before returning to England. It is interesting to note that in a brief report sent to the Admiralty in London, from Batavia, where the Endeavour was under repair before returning to England, Cook stressed that he had been unable to locate ‘the so much talked of Southern Continent’- how wrong he was (Adams, 1986).
In 1779 Banks was examined by a committee of the House of Commons, which was looking into the issue of where to place convicts. Some 6 years earlier Britain had lost America as a convict colony as a result of the War of Independence. Asked what he thought about establishing a colony of convicts in a distant part, and which place did he think was most suitable, Banks answered – Botany Bay! (Hough, 1994). Banks’ report also allowed the British to consider Botany Bay as a base for whaling ships. Hughes (2003) and other authors have discussed the importance of Britain maintaining its geo-political presence in the Pacific in the face of French exploration. Sir James Harris reported to Pitt in 1786 that no time should be lost in augmenting British Naval and Land Force in the south-west quarter of the Pacific. According to historians such as Frost and Blainey, such strategic outlier arguments led to Botany Bay. Pine trees and flax were the mainstay of shipping, providing sails, masts and spars (Hughes, 2003). In 1786 a proposal was put to Pitt to colonise Botany Bay for the purpose of ‘effectively disposing of convicts’. The First Fleet, which arrived in Australia in 1788, was designed to serve both official purposes. However, two London Aldermen sent the ‘Lady Penrhyn’ to Botany Bay with the First Fleet with secret orders to note the whaling prospects. Among the strategic purposes of the First Fleet was the need to develop naval resources including flax and timber for British ships (The Blackheath Connection, Dan Byrnes, 1996-2000). On 20 March 1788 the ‘Supply’, part of the First Fleet, arrived at Sydney Cove from Norfolk Island with news of the absence of New Zealand flax and the [poor] quality of the pine trees (Watkins Tench diary; www.Gutenberg.net.au).
The First Fleet, under Captain Arthur Phillip, arrived at Botany Bay on 18 January 1788, anchoring off Bare Island (near today’s La Perouse). A French expedition, led by La Perouse, anchored in Botany Bay on 24 January 1788, where Captain Phillip was in the process of transferring his settlement to Sydney Cove in Port Jackson. La Perouse sailed from Botany Bay on 10 March 1788 (Plomley, 1993). La Perouse established his camp on the northern shore of Botany Bay, as had Phillip, near Cape Banks; this appears to have been to avoid hostilities with the Indigenous people on Kurnell Peninsula (Berzins, 1988). In a letter of 3 July 1788 Arthur Phillip informed the Marquis of Lansdowne in England of the reasons for the move to Sydney Cove. In addition to the poor quality of the land for agriculture it was particularly noted that Botany Bay offered ‘no security for large ships’ while Port Jackson offered room for ‘a thousand Sail of the Line… in perfect security’ (PICMAN database State Library of NSW MLMSS 7241: filed at safe 1/234).
Lt William Bradley recorded in his journal entry for Sunday 20 January 1788, that ‘At 2pm saw the white cliffs mentioned by Cap.n Cook to be 10 miles to the S.oward of Botany Bay; I do not altogether think it a certain mark for knowing when you are near Botany Bay, there being many white Sand Hills that shew like cliffs coming up the coast;’ (Nelson Meers Foundation, State Library of NSW). Another First Fleet diarist, marine Watkins Tench, spoke of the First Fleet’s 6 days at Botany Bay as not uneventful. Governor Phillip proceeded to land on the north shore in order to ‘take possession and to have communication’. Some 3 days later Tench went ashore on the south side, describing the country as invariably sandy and unsuitable for cultivation. The spring where Cook watered was considered to be of poor quality. Of interest, Tench reported that some 40 persons appeared on the south shore but only some 6 persons on the north shore of Botany Bay. During this visit he obtained a large club ‘with a head almost sufficient to fell an ox’, in exchange for a looking glass. According to Tench, the French officers took pains to survey Botany Bay, including Cooks River some 20 miles inland. (Diary of Watkin Tench, Gutenberg website). In contrast, George Worgan, First Fleet Surgeon, reported that Governor Phillip first stepped ashore on the south shore of Botany Bay on 20 January 1788. Phillip also sent an officer and sailors to clear land and dig sawpits at Kurnell Peninsula, near Point Sutherland, on 21 January 1788, according to Worgan’s diary and letters (University of Sydney Library 2003).
By 24 January 1788, at Point Sutherland, Governor Phillip had raised the British flag (Bradley’s map 1788, State Library NSW; Bradley Botany Bay 1788, a 127080). It is not known whether Phillip provisionally claimed the country at Botany Bay. In addition, raising the flag may have been prompted by the arrival of the French ships, commanded by La Perouse, in Botany Bay on the morning of 24 January 1788, although any shore base would have raised the flag if Cook’s actions in doing so in 1770 can be taken as a precedent. Phillip began to transfer his fleet to Port Jackson on 25 January 1788, raising the British flag at Sydney Cove on 26 January 1788 before formally taking possession.
Although the original and final sailing instructions to Arthur Phillip have not been found in any archive, an earlier edited version has survived (Public Records Office London 20 April 1787 Co 201/1 ff 29-45v). The instructions, composed by Lord Sydney, were from George 111, with the advice of the Privy Council. The instructions designated Phillip as Captain General and Governor in Chief of NSW. An amended instruction dated 25 April 1787 designated the territory of NSW as including ‘all the islands adjacent in the Pacific Ocean’ and running westward to the 135th meridian, the line established by Cook in 1770. The instructions advised Phillip about managing the convicts, granting and cultivating the land and exploring the country. The Aborigines’ lives and livelihoods were to be protected and friendly relations with them encouraged, but the instructions made no mention of protecting or even recognizing their lands. It was assumed from the time of Cook that Australia was terra nullius; that is land belonging to no one (Historical Records of NSW, Vol 2 Part 2, for more detail).
Settlement at Kurnell Peninsula
Located close to Sydney, Botany Bay was settled as a land grant under Governor Macquarie. James Birnie, the first recorded landowner at Kurnell, called his Botany Bay property ‘Alpha Farm’.
According to Byrnes (1996-2000), among the families engaged in whaling and sealing in the ‘South Seas Trade’ was that of James Birnie, who, with his brother Alexander, was established in the shipping trade in London. James Birnie was to become part of a successful group which exploited whaling in Australasian waters, reaching its peak by 1820-1822 (Dan Byrnes, 1996-2000). James Birnie, merchant and ship-owner, arrived in NSW in 1807. Birnie engaged in local sealing and whaling. As early as 1814 the Birnie family appears to have speculated in buying and selling wool. A philanthropist, Birnie received a primary land grant from Governor Macquarie in 1814, with a promise of another 500 acres. Being in ‘affluent circumstances’ Birnie took possession of land on the margin of Botany Bay in 1815 (Australian Dictionary of Biography, MUP, 1966).
Accessible by boat from La Perouse, Kurnell was acquired in 1828 by John Connell and his family. In the early 1860s most of what was to become Sutherland Shire, including Kurnell Peninsula, was bought at auction by politician Thomas Holt, preventing free selection by small farmers. Holt resorted to timber extraction when pastoral activity failed and later developed an oyster industry. In 1864 the peninsula was connected more firmly to Sydney by a ferry service at Tom Ugly’s [Bridge], enabling better access to metropolitan markets by what is now the Princes Highway (PMW 1993).
Thomas Holt was responsible in 1870 for the erection of a sandstone obelisk, to James Cook. In 1899 ‘Captain Cook’s Landing Place’ was resumed as a public park/reserve by the State Government, and in 1900 the Holt-Sutherland Estate Act was passed. Under this Act, the debts incurred by tenants during the depression of the 1890s were written off. After the Act was passed some 8,732 acres were converted to freehold. Livestock and poultry became the mainstay of the district for the next 50 years. ‘Alpha Farm’, in its present form, was redeveloped between 1906-1910 as a Federation style ‘Trustee’s cottage, for the new reserve, formally proclaimed a public park in 1902, with a typical ‘gabletted’ roof on the foundations and cellar of the earlier rubble-stone farmhouse (PMW 1993).
Kurnell Village, on the Eastern extremity of the Peninsula, appears to have begun to be built in the 1850s as a fishing village. The majority of the inhabitants were of Aboriginal origin. On 9 October 1882, Richardson & Wrench began the first subdivision of the Sutherland Estate, which was the first land sale in Kurnell. In the 1880s many of the Aboriginal people displaced from the South Coast and Sydney area went to live at La Perouse. In 1895 the camp was officially recognised as an Aboriginal Reserve, and it is possible that people formerly living in the Kurnell area moved across to La Perouse.
A ferry service connected Kurnell with La Perouse by 1912, although a weather shed was in place by 1910. By 1930, the village on the northern side of the peninsula had evolved intoa depression period village, contemporary with similar settlements at Bundeena and other sites in the Sydney region. The ferry service from La Perouse brought day-trippers from the southern areas of Sydney to Kurnell to see the landing site, the dunes and the beaches. From there the day-trippers walked over the dunes to Cronulla (PMW 1993). Aboriginal people from La Perouse also used to catch the ferry from the wharf over to Kurnell Peninsula to collect shells for shellwork, to go fishing, gather pippies, get mutton fish (abalone) and collect tree limbs for making boomerangs (Gloria Ardler, NSW Board of Studies, 1995).
The remoteness of the peninsula was impacted in 1955 when the Kurnell Oil refinery commenced operation. The Peninsula has been mined for sand during the twentieth century, with some mining leases still extant and in use. Since the 1930s, it has been mined continuously to provide sand to the construction industry in New South Wales. The Cronulla Sewage Treatment Plant, numerous pipelines and the ocean outfall were also established. Development at Cronulla has now extended to the narrow peninsula neck at Woolooware Bay, with some infill development proposed for former sand mining areas.
Parts of the Peninsula are already listed as sites of significance under various treaties and agreements. The Towra Point Nature Reserve was listed as a RAMSAR site in the 1980’s and the NSW Government placed part of the Kurnell Peninsula on the NSW Heritage Register in 2003.
Captain Cook’s Landing Place
The ‘Endeavour’ anchored on the south side of Botany Bay, with the first party ashore landing on the northern side of Kurnell Peninsula, on the northern side of Point Sutherland.
A monument, a brass plate, was first erected in 1822 near Solander Point. On 22 March 1822 members of the Philosophical Society of Australasia were accompanied to Kurnell by an old Aboriginal person (who had witnessed Cook’s landing), at which time a brass plate was fixed to the cliff-face (Inscription Point, as the nearest available place) near the spot a little to the north-east of the Landing Place. Cook had landed somewhere in front of Alpha Farm. The brass plate was later moved nearer to Cape Solander.
In the 1840s, shells were dug from a shell bank located close to the watering hole. A skeleton was also uncovered, and then reburied (Rich, 1988).
In 1861, Kurnell Peninsula was visited by Australian poet Henry Kendall. Thomas Holt informed him that he had found the skeleton of a ‘white man’. Presumably this was Forby Sutherland (died at Kurnell in 1770), if correct (later Kendall wrote a poem to ‘the sailor buried ninety years before’). It is unclear whether there is any connection between this skeleton and that uncovered in the 1840s (Smith et al. 1990:44). The location of the grave has been subject to some dispute but appears to have been closely related to the waterfront areas near Cook’s watering point at Kurnell (Macdonald, 1928:281-298). It is interesting to note that memory of the location of this grave and Captain Cook’s presence in Botany Bay was held by at least one member of the Aboriginal community in the early 1920s (op cit).
At some time during the late 1800s / early 1900s (date uncertain) Cundlemong, reportedly the last ‘chief’ of the Aboriginal clan from this area, died under the most western of the two pine trees, and was buried in the vicinity of the Trust Cottage, in a grave marked by four wooden posts (Rich, 1988:8).
Captain Cook’s Landing Place on Kurnell Peninsula, where Cook is believed to have stepped ashore, is today commemorated by a series of monuments to the events and to Cook (the first erected in 1870 by Holt) and his companions. There are monuments to Isaac Smith (first to land), Forby Sutherland, Joseph Banks (erected 1947), Carl Solander (1918), Aboriginal resistance and to Cook’s Well and a watercourse, where Cook’s crew obtained water. It is interesting to note that ten Aboriginal artefacts were found during excavation of the foundations of the Joseph Banks Memorial (Smith et al. 1990:44). Trees were also planted as memorials to events, and a Register of Trees dated 1905 indicates that Norfolk Island, Hoop and Cook Island Pines surrounding the landing place were in place by that time. The register indicates that other tree plantings, including Port Jackson Fig, Olive and Tallowood trees were also in place (PMW 1993). Historical images confirm that Pine trees were well established by 1906, with one large mature pair of Norfolk Island pines in front of the remains of Alpha Farm, predating the formation of the reserve in 1899 by some years. The visit in 1881 by Prince Albert and Prince George, Queen Victoria’s sons, resulted in the planting of four pine trees, one of which was an Araucaria cookii, brought by Thomas Holt from New Caledonia. Later plantings were made by other important visitors, such as the Duke of Gloucester, Duke of Clarence, Sir H. Rawson and a Miss Lawson. In 1906 the attending state premiers at the Premiers Conference in Sydney visited Kurnell, reinforcing the symbolic importance of the place. Commemoration of Cook’s landing has also been through re-enactments of the landing at various times, such as in 1951 as part of the Commonwealth Jubilee celebrations and in 1970 for the Captain Cook Bicentenary. Queen Elizabeth, Governor Cutler and Premier Askin attended the re-enactment (PICMAN database, Mitchell Library, State Library NSW).
In 1961 midden material and two adult inhumation burials were uncovered during construction of the PMG inspection vaults, and were reburied in another nearby area. A new museum building was erected on the reserve at Kurnell in 1967, to enable the original events and subsequent commemoration to be interpreted to visitors. Also in this year trial archaeological excavations were undertaken both at Skeleton Cave, Inscription Point and along the foreshore west of the watering place (Megaw, 1969b).
In 2003 the name of Captain Cook’s Landing Place was changed to the ‘Meeting Place Precinct’. Earlier changes resulted in the place being extended, with most of Kurnell Headland being included in Botany Bay NP. This is now known as the Kurnell Section, the smaller section being located on the northern side of the bay at La Perouse.
|Condition and Integrity|
Landscapes have been subject to severe and large-scale erosion
in many areas, particularly in the dunefields where vegetation has been
removed. The largest blow-out, covering an area of more than 25 hectares east
of Potter Point, has been stablilised since the 1980s. Recreational use by
four-wheel drivers, trail bikers and horse riders has damaged the largest dune
in the reserve, Botany Cone (NSW NPWS 2002).|
Highly invasive weeds such as Lantana, Bitous Bush, Blackberry, Prickly Pear, Pampas Grass, African Olive, African Box-thorn and Asparagus Fern present serious management problems in the Kurnell section of Botany Bay National Park (NSW NPWS 2002).
In general the historic attributes of the place appear to be in good condition. The foreshore areas of the Meeting Place Precinct have been subject to storm and wave activity, with the loss of the jetty. Indigenous sites have been subjected to varying levels of disturbance as a result of post contact landuses. A detailed survey of the condition and integrity of the historic and Indigenous attributes of Botany Bay NP was not available at the time of the assessment. These aspects of the place will be detailed by the Department of Environment and Conservation in the Contextual History of Botany Bay National Park, Kurnell Section. It is anticipated that this will be completed in July 2005.
About 400ha, at Kurnell, comprising Botany Bay
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Report Produced Tue Sep 23 13:14:00 2014