A curse of living in Australia with the surname Cook is that new friends regularly ask, “So, related to Captain Cook, eh?” Actually, no. Captain Cook never lived in Australia. He only sailed up the east coast on his first voyage and he ended the ordeal of his third voyage as an hors d'oeuvre for the Hawaiians who killed him. Perhaps that’s why they were once called the Sandwich Islanders. In any case, Cook has no descendants, as all six of his children died without issue.
But he left his mark on Sydney, especially on Kurnell, at Kamay Botany Bay National Park. There several monuments mark where he anchored, where a subject of His Royal Majesty first stepped on the Australian continent, where his sailors found fresh water, where one of his crew is buried, and so on. It is also a sad memorial to the disaster of dispossession and disease which awaited the Gweagal Aborigines who hurled spears at Cook’s men on that Sunday, the 29th of April 1770. To my shame, I had never visited the site until last weekend.
Up the road at Cape Solander (named after a Swedish botanist who accompanied Cook) is a small platform atop towering sandstone cliffs. Throughout June and July volunteers huddled inside are keeping careful statistics on whale migration. I have been interested in whales ever since my undergraduate honours thesis on Moby Dick (“without a doubt the worst typing job which it has been my melancholy duty to assess”, according to one examiner). The volunteers’ latest tally is 1,339 Southern Right Whales and 9 Minkes. No white sperm whales.
It was impressive to see the volunteers’ dedication to looking for Leviathan, to paraphrase Herman Melville. It was blowing and raining and cold on Sunday but they were single-mindedly glued to their binoculars. One man sits there every single day from dawn to dusk, scanning the white caps for spoutings, flukes and breachings. Unfortunately, the volunteers are ageing and their numbers are thinning. You can phone (02) 9995 5550 (61 is the country code) if you are interested in lending a hand.
So far this week we have posted three articles. Micah Watson examines the differences in how Neo, of The Matrix, and Daniel Larusso, of The Karate Kid, go about learning their craft. Margaret Somerville examines a Canadian lawsuit and argues that children’s rights are in danger of being overlooked in the increasingly bizarre permutations of reproductive technology.
And physicist Mark Wyman explains the significance of the discovery of the Higgs boson. We’ve posted an hilarious video, too, in which trendy residents of Brooklyn are asked if they know what the Higgs boson is.