The 7 June 2020 – one year from today – will mark 250 years since Captain Cook first sailed past Townsville. The tale of Cook’s compass going haywire and his mislaying the blame on the crop of rocks and hoop pines he consequently dubbed Magnetic Island is legend.
But what of the people who witnessed this all from Townsville’s coastline?
Corroboree 2020 organiser Roslyn Sailor hopes to uncover a side of this story that has seemingly fallen from living memory.
“[Cook wrote about] seeing the campfires along the east coast as they were coming up and I thought ‘that’s how our people would have seen the Endeavour going past’,” said Roslyn.
“Our traditional owners here, the Wulgurukaba people, and the neighbouring groups – the Bindal, the Gugu Badan, and Nawaigi people – have something to share.”
While the planning remains a work in progress, Corroboree 2020 will share various stories through song, dance, theatre, art and yarning. The idea took seed when Roslyn watched The History Channel’s documentary The Pacific in the Wake of Captain Cook, with Sam Neill.
“[Sam Neill] first met up with the local group in Botany Bay and they shared their stories … they saw the men going up the masts and said they were like bandicoots climbing up these great big poles.
“The Stradbroke Island people thought they were ghosts or something. They were saying “go away, go away” because again they didn’t understand what it was.”
Roslyn is eager to discover how North Queensland’s traditional owners perceived Cook and his men; and share the stories in the week’s leading up to 7 June 2020 and the Grand Finale celebration.
“Because the logbooks say they saw the campfires along the coast, we’ll go down there and have a big bonfire on the beachfront – Council permitting – to say ‘Yes, we were here and we’re still here’.”
If you have stories to share about The Endeavour passing Townsville, contact Roslyn Sailor here.