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Video clip synopsis – Written on board the Endeavour during his trip down under in 1770, James Cook’s journal records the beginning of Australia as we know it today.
Year of production - 2004
Duration - 5min 0sec
Tags - Australian History, biography, Captain Cook, heritage, heroes and villains, icons, identity, national identity, see all tags


Endeavour  Journal

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About the Video Clip


Endeavour Journal is an episode of the series National Treasures produced in 2004.

Endeavour Journal
What is Australia’s greatest book? In the National Library of Australia there is a 743-page volume that could lay claim to the title. It is Lieutenant James Cook’s journal, written on board the Endeavour during his trip down under in 1770. Warren Brown leafs through these precious pages to discover Cook’s first impressions and trace the beginning of Australia as we know it today.

National Treasures
Take a road-trip of discovery with the irrepressible Warren Brown – political cartoonist, columnist and history “tragic” – as he reveals a fascinating mix of national treasures drawn from public and private collections across Australia. On its own, each treasure is a priceless snapshot of an historic moment. Together, they illustrate the vitality and uniqueness of the Australian experience.

National Treasures is a Film Australia National Interest Program. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Curriculum Focus


Inquiry question:
How can a knowledge and understanding of the nature of history and the methods of historical inquiry be applied to the study of a thematic issue?

A student
E5.5 evaluates the contribution of cultural groups, sites, and/or family to our shared heritage
E5.6 identifies, comprehends and evaluates historical sources and uses them appropriately in an historical inquiry
E5.8 locates, selects and organises relevant historical information from a number of sources, including ICT, to undertake historical inquiry
E5.9 uses historical terms and concepts in appropriate contexts
E5.10 selects and uses appropriate oral, written and other forms, including ICT, to communicate effectively about the past for different audiences.

This material is an extract. Teachers and students should consult the Board of Studies website for more information.

Background Information


Captain James Cook FRS RN (October 27, 1728 – February 14, 1779) was an English explorer, navigator and cartographer. Cook made three voyages to the Pacific Ocean.

James Cook was the first European explorer to chart the east coast of Australia. Written on board the Endeavour during his 1770 trip, James Cook’s journal records his first impressions and traces the beginning of Australia as we know it today.

Classroom Activities

  1. Understanding the video clip
    1. What is the object shown?
    2. When does it date from?
    3. Who is it associated with?
    4. Where is it found today?
    5. Why is it located there?
    6. Why is it a significant item?
  2. Exploring issues raised in the video clip
    James Cook was the first European explorer to chart the east coast of Australia. He is presented in many Australian text books as a hero. In tracing his voyage around the world, writer Tony Horwitz discovered that to many Indigenous people he is seen as a villain:
    Initially, I was drawn more to Cook’s voyages than to Cook himself. The man went everywhere: he touched every continent except Antarctica, and he only missed that by a hundred or so miles. In the past, writers have focused on Cook’s considerable maritime achievements as a navigator and mapmaker. But to me, the most compelling part of his story is what happened on land: the drama of ‘first contact’ between Europeans and native peoples. Island after island, Cook and his men stepped off their ship with no idea whether they’d be greeted with embraces or arrows. They knew little or nothing of the cultures they were about to encounter, and islanders knew even less of them. Yet somehow they had to find a way to communicate, trade, and get along — and remarkably, for the most part they did …
    But as I began to research the captain’s voyages, I became just as entranced by Cook the man. He was born in a mud hut in rural Yorkshire, the son of an illiterate day laborer: the very bottom of Britain’s class-bound, 18th-century society. Yet he broke free from this cramped world and went on to explore more of the earth’s surface than any person in history. He’s a British Abe Lincoln: a once-in-a-generation figure who comes out of nowhere to transform his world and ours. You have to wonder what drives a man like that, and much of my book is an attempt to understand Cook’s character …
    Memory of Cook varies a great deal from country to country. In Tahiti, where the French seized control from the British seventy years after Cook’s voyages, he’s conveniently forgotten. In New Zealand and Australia, he’s seen as a ‘founding father’ by some whites, while being reviled as an imperialist by many Maori and Aborigines. In Tonga, which has modeled itself on monarchial England, he’s remembered fondly: a turtle he gave to a Tongan king roamed the palace grounds until a few decades ago. In Hawaii, he’s widely despised, because American missionaries spread disparaging tales about his behavior on the islands. One Hawaiian activist has termed Cook a ‘syphilitic, tubercular racist’ and declared it a point of pride that the captain didn’t leave Hawaiian shores alive. So I had plenty of controversy to work with in writing this book …
    The sad truth is that Cook’s discoveries paved the way for whalers, traders, colonialists, missionaries and others who dispossessed native peoples, destroyed their cultures and belief systems, and despoiled the environment. We have to recognize this, and do what we can to repair the damage done. But I don’t think we should dismiss and vilify Cook in the process. He didn’t set out to ravage the Pacific: his mission was to explore and understand, not exploit. And much of what he wrote was strikingly sensitive. Most explorers before him were brutal men: gold-mad conquistadors and buccaneers who regarded natives as heathen savages and thought nothing of slaughtering them. Cook was open and tolerant, and willing to learn from unfamiliar cultures — he admired their non-materialism and their respect for the environment. I think this is instructive at a moment in time when we tend to regard foreign societies with fear, and in many cases, hostility.
    Interview with Tony Horwitz, author of Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before
    1. Research Cook’s travels and decide: was he a hero or a villain? Justify your conclusion by reference to the criteria you develop to apply to him.

Further Resources


For more National Treasures information and video clips go to Investigating National Tresures