James Cook's three Pacific journals together for the first time
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James Cook's three Pacific journals together for the first time

In a world first, all three of explorer Captain James Cook's handwritten journals from his three Pacific voyages will be on display together.

The National Library of Australia's Endeavour Journal - purchased by the Australian government for £5000 at a Sotheby's auction in 1923- will be joined by Cook's two other journals, on loan from the British Library in London, to mark the 250th anniversary of the beginning of his three Pacific voyages.

Pictured with the 250 year old captain's log from the Endeavour sailing, National Library of Australia director general Dr Marie-Louise Ayres announce the upcoming major international exhibition, Cook and the Pacific.

Pictured with the 250 year old captain's log from the Endeavour sailing, National Library of Australia director general Dr Marie-Louise Ayres announce the upcoming major international exhibition, Cook and the Pacific. Credit:Karleen Minney

They form the centrepiece of the exhibition Cook and the Pacific at the National Library of Australia from September 22.

Curated by Dr Martin Woods and Dr Susannah Helman, the exhibition contains about 180 books, maps, artefacts and other materials including multimedia, more than half of which are in the library's collection.

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Other items have been borrowed from institutions in Britain, Hawaii and New Zealand, including Cook's last logbook, also on loan from the British Library. Its final entry is on January 17, 1779, just under a month before he was killed at Kealakekua (Karakakooa) Bay in Hawaii on February 14.

The library's director-general, Dr Marie-Louise Ayres, said on Monday the exhibition - funded with $2.1 million from the Australian government as well as contributions from corporate sponsors - would examine the achievements of Cook as, among other things, a scientist, navigator and leader.

A close-up view of Cook's journal from the Endeavour.

A close-up view of Cook's journal from the Endeavour.Credit:Karleen Minney

It also, she said, "included the voices of the First Nations people he encountered" in Australia and overseas, to present a multifaceted portrait of the man who led three major expeditions that covered the distance from the Arctic to the Antarctic.

The journals, she said, were "in Cook's hand, straight from his head, more often from his heart".

Dr Woods said the exhibition included recordings of the languages Cook and his men encountered and wrote down during the voyages, including a haka in New Zealand in the Maori language of the period.

Dr Helman said the sailors' records of languages reflected the relationships they had with various indigenous peoples and that they consulted with present-day members of those peoples to obtain their impressions of what was recorded.

She said Cook' "changed the world and changed the Pacific", greatly increasing European knowledge of the ocean and the various lands and peoples there. But, she said, his explorations also led to disease, destruction and death among those peoples.

The free exhibition Cook and the Pacific will be on display at the National Library of Australia from September 22, 2018 to February 10, 2019. nla.gov.au.

Ron Cerabona is an arts reporter for The Canberra Times.

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