SUNY Maritime to host Capt. Cook conference

The following is the text of a news release from SUNY Maritime College:

(THROGGS NECK, N.Y.) — In three voyages in the 1700s, Capt. James Cook transformed humanity’s understanding of the world’s geography, its people, plants and animals. His maps, especially of Australia and New Zealand, were so good that many were still in use well into the 20th century.

On March 7, SUNY Maritime College and the Australian Consulate-General will host a conference, “Capt. Cook and the HMB Endeavour: Australia and America — An Enduring Bond Between Our Two Nations,” to discuss and examine the famous mariner’s significance today.

“The Endeavour sank off the coast of Rhode Island, which isn’t too far from here, and there is quite a bit of Australian interest in finding the wreckage,” said David Allen, a maritime historian and humanities professor at SUNY Maritime. “In addition to having one of the largest maritime museums in the area on campus, we have several Capt. Cook artifacts in our library’s archives. There is a natural synergy here around this voyage.”

The conference, which is being organized by humanities Professor Mark Meirowitz, will include presentations from several SUNY Maritime faculty members, as well as the Hon. Nick Minchin, consul-general of Australia; John Berry, retired American ambassador to Australia and president of the American Australian Association; and Kathy Abbass, director of the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project.

In a series of talks and panel discussions, the conference will focus on the efforts to find the wreckage of the Endeavour, Cook’s significance to indigenous Australians and the intercontinental maritime links formed by the ship and its famous captain.

“Capt. Cook was one of the world’s greatest explorers,” said Minchin. “His first voyage on HMB Endeavour charted the east coast of Australia, circumnavigated New Zealand, and had a huge impact on our understanding of the world at that time. The Australian Consulate-General is excited to partner with SUNY Maritime College to deliver this conference and explore the importance of Capt. Cook and HMB Endeavour to both Australia and America.”

Cook’s first voyage was onHMB Endeavour, a three-mast sailing ship. The voyage was intended to help determine how to measure longitude by tracking Venus. After that portion, Cook and his crew went on to “discover” Australia. His significance to Australia today is roughly equivalent to Christopher Columbus in the United States.

Cook went on to map New Zealand and most of the northwestern portion of the North American coastline up to the Bering Strait on subsequent voyages. He was killed in Hawaii in a conflict with the island’s residents.

The conference will be from 8:30 a.m. to noon in the Maritime Academic Center. It is free and open to the public. Members of the media are welcome.

For those unable to make the conference in person, it will be streamed live from a link on the college’s home page.

By Professional Mariner Staff