Captain Cook Society
Report on Biennial Meeting in Howick, Auckland
Saturday, October 28th and Sunday, October 29th, 2017
By Sheila Wyeth
Portrait of Capt Cook by Alan Sanders
John Robson, Brian Pilkington, Town Crier,
0830 Saturday morning: All was in readiness at the 'Te Whare Ora' Uxbridge Arts Centre in the smart Auckland suburb of Howick.
Beautiful Cook-inspired acrylic paintings (by artists Paul Deacon and Alan Sanders) set on easels decked the hall – really making
for a wonderful Cook ambience. Cook memorabilia (John Freeman) was on display as were coins/medals (Graeme Brown),
stamp collections (Norman Wansbrough), a model of the Endeavour (made by John Finlayson), and books for sale (provided by
John Allen who was not able to attend and whose knowledge and wit were sorely missed.)
Captain Cook (aka Brian Pilkington) was in full regalia to meet and greet our guests/members as they arrived
and was given some moral support by the Howick Town Crier who called a loud and official start to the proceedings.
Brian was magnificent as moderator, stately in bearing, and a credit to his uniform.
Brian Wyeth took the helm and warmly welcomed the group of 45 attendees coming from as far afield
as Kerikeri, Christchurch, Masterton, and Wellington in NZ, joining many who live near Auckland.
The Australian CCS was represented by Mal and Jenny Nicolson from Sydney.
From furthest afield was CCS member, Dawn Lee Black, who flew all the way from Kodiak, Alaska to come to the meeting!
We also had 3 visiting students interested in history from 2 colleges in the area.
Our own John Robson, CCS International President, honoured us with his presence when he could have instead
attended the Int’l CCS meeting in Marton, Yorkshire. (We’re certain he made the right decision!)
John highlighted the role of CCS around the world and impressed us with his substantial knowledge of Captain Cook.
His Presidential address was entertaining, self-deprecating, and humble.
Tessa Duder Graeme Lay Brian Pilkington John Robson
The program then got underway with a succession of brilliant presentations by no less than three celebrated authors.
Graeme Lay was first up with his recently written book, “Travel Guide to Capt. James Cook’s New Zealand”. He made one mistake – not bringing 30 copies to the meeting for us to buy it!
Graeme was followed by Tessa Duder, who gave a passionate and well-researched talk about history education for today’s youth, highlighting the dearth
of knowledge about Captain Cook in the NZ curriculum.
Morning tea was provided, giving members a chance to stretch and mingle.
Then our third author, Dr. Alison Sutherland, gave a fascinating presentation describing the animals Cook brought along and what happened to them as they were deposited along the route. Arapawa goats have been DNA tested and proved to be descendants of goats brought by Cook from England.
Before lunch, a Question and Answer session gave members a chance to interactively address many areas of interest with the three authors.
A few controversial items were noted: Maori resistance in some parts of NZ to “celebrating” Cook’s arrival in NZ,
the lack of Cook related exhibitions in museums in NZ,
and the many mistakes made in student’s history books.
The visiting students joined in the discussion, citing the fact that Cook was not a major part of any NZ History they have at school.
A delicious lunch was served and gave everyone time to view the displays; talk to the artists, boat-builders, collectors; look at the books; etc. but there was
an added surprise: the Auckland Libraries brought the original Masefield painting of the Endeavour on a limited time viewing.
After lunch, Dr. Nigel Rankin spoke about Scurvy, a diabolical disease described in gory detail with the audience hanging on every word.
Most of us did not know that scurvy attacks the collagen in the body. All connective tissue is affected.
Then John Steele’s report followed about the Sestercentennial (2019 marks the 250th anniversary of Cook’s arrival in NZ.) Arrangements
are being made by the government in conjunction with local trusts at four Cook landing sites. The commemoration will be titled
“Dual Culture – Shared Heritage.”
A budget of $10 million was set by the National government. We will have to see if this will be honoured by the new government. Dame Jenny Shipley is the
chair of National Coordination Committee. And the Endeavour replica has been seconded from Australia to make appearances around the coast in 2019.
Last up were the two artists, Paul Deacon and Alan Sanders, who described the inspiration for their passion to portray Cook’s voyages. Learning more about the
technical details about the paintings on display was amazing. They are both truly skilled to capture the movement of the seas, the details of the ship, the air and sky.
Art by Alan Sanders
That ended a thoroughly good day of presentations and everyone agreed it had been both fascinating and educational. Everyone departed amidst good wishes to
either get ready for the evening or to head home.
For those who stayed, the evening at the Buckland’s Beach Yacht Club was superb. We wish to thank Mike Neale, patron of the BBYC for his assistance in the evening.
The venue was perfect – with expansive views over the Half Moon Bay Marina out to Rangitoto Island. It was lovely to get to socialize with old and new friends with our
shared interest. The buffet dinner was excellent! And finished with an informal book auction which netted a handsome return for the Heart Foundation (through John Allen).
Next morning, around 20 members met again at the Half Moon Bay Ferry port for a “sailing voyage” across the Waitemata Harbour to the “City of Sails”.
It was a glorious morning, which was quite a relief after the rain of the previous two days.
And to entertain, as well as offer refreshments, Sheila Wyeth offered mandarins (to save us all from scurvy) as well as homemade Hard Tack sea biscuits to the hearty sailors.
This sustained the intrepid sailors until we arrived at the Maritime Museum, just a short stroll from the ferry terminal after arriving in Auckland.
We were warmly welcomed by staff at the museum, taken to a private function room, and offered coffee and tea. And, we were just in time for the daily firing of the cannon
at noon. BANG! Not bad, but we all agreed it wasn’t quite as loud as the bang from Cook’s Beach two years ago.
Then we split into two smaller groups for our guided tour of the museum. The guides admitted being just a tad nervous of our expert knowledge about Captain Cook
and we were able to impart a few choice bits of information that the guides took on board. There was really only one area dedicated to that era of history but it was adequate
and quite illuminating. Especially the display showing where all the animals fit onto the ship’s deck. Highlights of the museum also included everything from Pacific Island wakas to the latest America’s Cup racing boats.
Our final stop was the old Light House at the end of the Queen’s Wharf for a peek at the stainless steel sculpture of Captain Cook.
Sheila pulled out her last surprise: a bottle of Lamb’s Navy Rum which we used to toast
King George III, Captain Cook, the Endeavour, and all who sailed in her! CHEERS!!!
The return ferry to Half Moon Bay at 3pm came far too soon and marked the end of a great weekend.
It was such an honour to participate and enjoy the company of so many talented, interesting CCS folk.
The organizing committee (Brian Wyeth - Chair, Brian Pilkington, Nigel Rankin, and John Steele) are to be congratulated for all their hard work to make this meeting such a wonderful
experience for those who attended.