Documents reveal signs of Captain Cook's greatness

By Amelia Wade

Captain James Cook's signature tells much about his character, says a historian. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Captain James Cook's signature tells much about his character, says a historian. Photo / Sarah Ivey

You could tell what type of man Captain James Cook was by looking at his signatures, says a historian.

Rare personal letters and draft journals from the explorer show he even worked on it and rehearsed it before it became his impressive scrawl.

"His signature is so obviously a signature of a great man," said Paul Brunton, emeritus curator of the State Library of New South Wales, which owns the historical collection.

The documents also reveal that after his first landing at Gisborne, Cook regretted that a number of Maori lost their lives.

This was deleted from the final copy of a report.

"I can by no means justify my conduct in attacking and killing the people in this boat who had given me no just provication [sic] and was wholly igernorant [sic] of my decision and had I had the least thought of their making any resistance I would not so much as looked at them," Cook said in a draft journal written between October 9 and 11, 1769.

Cook was under orders to treat the communities in the South Pacific with restraint, so he wanted to explain his first encounters with Maori after landing at Poverty Bay.

He gave the bay its name because "it afforded us no one thing we wanted".

The original documents are among artefacts travelling on the Queen Mary 2 ocean liner and relating to Cook's journeys to New Zealand, including his first circumnavigation of the country in 1769-1770. Mr Brunton is sailing with the items.

Other artefacts include a map of New Zealand and Cook's tea caddy and a spoon which he took with him to New Zealand.

The liner is in Auckland on its first circumnavigation of New Zealand.

At 345m long and 151,400 tonnes, the Queen Mary 2 is the largest ship to visit New Zealand.

It is at full capacity with 2600 passengers.

- NZ Herald

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