Ram/e Head

With the 250th Anniversary of James Cook's Endeavour voyage approaching in 2020, we have another opportunity to change our history, place-names, and even locations.

The Australasian Hydrographic Society and Australia on the Map's "Proposal to rename Little Rame Head as Ram Head" should be carefully examined, before it is rejected.


On April 19 1770, the Victorian Coastline was within sight from H.M. Bark Endeavour, for about 12 hours.

Cook's manuscript shows that he recorded two place names on that day - Point Hicks and Ram Head.

On that day, a limited amount of primary information was recorded. However, over the past 248 years 'Amateur Historians' have relied on undue liberties, when publishing their poorly researched articles.


Today's Point Hicks:                                                                                      The placename Point Hicks, was officially established by Premier Bolte on the 20th of April 1970.            

The land seen and recorded by Cook - from 20 or 30nm away, has attracted controversy and assumptions.


Using manuscript information recorded on the day:  Cook's Point Hicks has remained elusive, to this very day.

Previous attempts to plot Endeavour's course from daybreak until 6pm, were obviously constructed using guesswork and very little input from Cook's manuscript journal and/or H.M. Bark Endeavour's Log.


Cape Howe:

Although Cape Howe was recorded in Cook's manuscript on the next day to the other two placenames; sightings taken from the south and north, must have been taken to confirm "the tending of the coast."

Using Cook's clear description of his Cape Howe - 37° 30' south 150° 00' east, was established on 10/01/1788.

Confused by Cook's description of Cape Howe, it still attracts undue controversy regarding its placement.


Cook's Ram Head:

I feel we need to be reminded of who named today's Ram/e Head, and why Ram is misspelt with an 'e'.


At the time Cook named his Ram Head, Cook had been going to sea for over 20 years. He would have sailed in and out of Plymouth Sound many times. Therefore, he would have used the old lime-washed chapel to navigate the Middle Channel "going into Plymouth Sound" - as described in the Seaman's Guide.


Page 39 of the Seaman's Guide states: "...for in this depth you will not be more than half a mile from the shore. The marks to know the Sound, when you come in from the sea in the day time, are, Ram church, which stands to the north-ward of Ram-head."


Page 40 of the Seaman's Guide states:"In coming from the eastward for Plymouth Sound, steer for the Ram-head, until you bring Plymouth old Church on with the east side of the white patch in the middle of the East Hoa. This is the leading mark through the Middle Channel."


Cook's description of his Ram Head states: "This point rises in a round hillock, very much resembling the Ram head going into Plymouth Sound, and therefore I have called it by the same name."


Looking at the Seaman's Guide, one would think Cook was very familiar with the north western view of the Ram Peninsular, and going into Plymouth Sound. Noting, Cook was also a very accomplished cartographer at the time, and clearly placed his Ram head on his Chart.

[From 6 to 8nm's off shore, today's Little Rame Head and even Point Hicks, do not stand out like Cook's Ram Head]


Cook clearly emphasised his Ram Head by charting it 'not to scale' and recording it as: "...a remarkable point".    


Trevor Lipscombe - an amateur historian, states:  "In December 1797 George Bass and his crew sailed in a whaleboat from Sydney to Western Port.  En route, bad weather forced the party ashore near today’s Rame Head.  Since this feature resembled Cook’s description, Bass, not surprisingly, assumed it was Cook’s Ram Head.  Matthew Flinders failed to check Cook’s data, accepted Bass’s placement and placed it on his 1801 and 1814 charts as Ram Head where it remains to this day."


Trevor Lipscombe has failed to research the combined navigational skills of George Bass and/or "his crew". 

It is not 'surprising' that George Bass identified Cook's Ram Head, and why Flinders confirmed Bass' findings.

We also know, Cook's placename "Ram Head", was then officially established by the British Hydrographical Office when they published Flinders' 1799-1800 charts and his Observations, in 1801.

The British Hydrographical Office was still showing Cook's Ram Head, on their 1822 published chart.


We know the Six volunteers from the King's Ships in the harbour were all hand-picked by Bass. We also know that those seven men spent Christmas Day in 1797 looking at Cook's Ram Head . Arguably, all seven men would have been very familiar with the "Ram-head going into Plymouth Sound".


To dismiss the importance of "Governor Hunter's, personal 28 foot whaleboat" voyage by Bass, well into Bass Striate, and thinking it was just a pleasure trip 'sailing' down the coast to Western Port, is problematic, poorly researched and misleading.


Librarian, author, historian, publisher and bookseller. Thomas Daniel (Dan) Sprod  wrote:"One of the men supplied to Bass was John Thistle ... whom later become Flinders' Sailing Master on  H.M.S Investigator".     

 I do not fell William Martian (Bass' servant)  was with George Bass. on that voyage.


Trevor Lipscome's assumption that: "Matthew Flinders failed to check Cook’s data, accepted Bass’s placement and placed it on his 1801 and 1814 charts as Ram Head where it remains to this day"  

is a poorly researched assumption, and very misleading.


In 1986 one of Australia’s foremost maritime historians - Lieutenant Comm. Geoffrey Ingleton RAN        "An accomplished and fine Cartographer" www.navyhistory.org.au/obituary-geoffrey-ingleton-1908-1998/ 

Wrote in his book:  Matthew Flinders, Navigator and Chartmaker [page 42]: "The coastlines of both New South Wales (the present Victoria) and Van Diemens Land (the present Tasmania) were carefully delineated by Flinders, considering the nature and quickness of the survey. Particularly interesting was Flinders' correct identification of Cook's Ram Head, so named for its' similarity to Rame Head in England in the western approaches to Plymouth. Flinders was familiar with its' characteristic appearance - a conical hill on a distinctive promontory. The only feature on this coast SW of Cape Howe which meets exactly that description is the present Rame Head. This  historic headland is identical with that shown on Flinders' charts; further, the name was correctly spelt by Flinders."

Bern Cuthbertson AO - a well known Marine Historian and Professional Fisherman with over 65 years experience at sea, re-enacted Bass' whaleboat journey, and all of Flinders' Norfolk journeys, wrote:

"On rounding Ram Head, named by Captain Cook in 1770, there was a vast improvement in the wind at SSW. Light but sufficient to set sail and boat the oars, to lessen the danger the men were under while rowing." As mentioned in his book, Bern knew this area well, having been: "...working out of Mallacoota for many years."

The spelling of Rame Head in Cornwall, and Cook's Ram Head on the Victorian coast:

Some pre 1700 maps show the small village of "Rame" in Cornwall, and the headland spelt as "Ram-head".

In the 17th century, "modern English" was still in use e.g. "Rame" and "Baye". In the 18th century "new modern English" - as used today, deleted the "e". Therefore, "Rame" became Ram and "Baye" became Bay.


In the early 19th century, the spelling for the village of Ram, and Ram Head in Cornwall,  were changed back to the 17th century spelling. It was not until the 1970's Cook's spelling for his Ram Head - on the coast of Victoria, was also changed back to the 17th century spelling. As seen below, poor research and misleading information supplied by the Hydrographer, convinced the Place Names Committee to change Ram Head to Rame Head.


The Australian Hydrographical Office approached the Victorian lands Department concerning the Names. Following is extract from letters concerning the process. 30 Nov 1970 - Hydrographic Office Correspondence to Place Names Committee, Department Crown Lands and Survey Melbourne. (signed by Hydrographer) Dealt with "Victorian Coastal Nomenclature"

Paragraph 5. "This office has in preparation of chart Aus 358 and certain queries have arisen with nomenclation as follows: a. RAME HEAD and LITTLE RAME HEAD: Since 1814 Admiralty charts have used this form which is correct. It will be noted that Cook named Rame Head after the prominent headland on the western side of Plymouth Sound, which was always and is still called RAME HEAD. In his journal Cook used the seaman's vernacular "Ram", but he clearly gave the origin of the name and this is correctly RAME. This Office proposes to continue using this correct form on its chart and it is requested that the proper spelling also be adopted by your Committee."   1March1971 - Correspondence Place Name Committee, Department Crown Lands and Survey Melbourne to Hydrographerr AHO. Para 3. "Ram Head and Little Ram Head. Your suggestion that these names should be changed to spelling originally bestowed on them by Captain Cook is being Referred to the various authorities Concerned." 9 June 1972 - Correspondence Place Names , Department Crown Lands and Survey Melbourne to Hydrographher AHO. "Header - Change of Spelling of Ram Head and Little Ram Head" I have to advise you that the change in spelling of the above names to Rame Head and Little Rame Head has now been confirmed by the Place Names Committee, and the change notified in Victoria Government Gazette dated 10 May 1972. Signed by C.E.E Barlow, Secretary.         The Hydrographer replied on 16 June 1972 indicating charting upgrades would be undertaken.

Little Rame Head was not shown "Since 1814 Admiralty charts have used this form which is correct."


Change of name:

Australia on the Map's "Proposal to rename Little Rame Head as Ram Head" will surely be rejected.


On the 250th Anniversary of Cook's Endeavour Journey, Victoria's Rame Head should be renamed "Ram Head". Better still, to reflect Australia's History, Rame Head should be renamed "Cook's Ram Head".

This would remove the ongoing confusion of Rame Head Cornwall, Rame Head Victoria, and Little Rame Head.


Ken Gold.             August 2018.



Cook used GMT+12 for the date and local time taken from sightings.


Transactions at Port Jackson and Norfolk Island by Hunter, Library of South Australia Facsimile edition 1968.



Most British officer and/or seaman, came out of Plymouth Sound by sea, to reach Australia.

pp 42. Geoffrey C. Ingleton, Matthew Flinders: Navigator and Chartmaker (Guildford: Genesis Publications, 1986).

Letter from Hunter to the Duke of Portland. pp15, Van Diemen's Land Revealed. By Dan Sprod.

The seven men (hand-picked) with a possible combined time at sea of more than 70 years.


pp10-11. Van Diemen's Land Revealed. By Dan Sprod.

Man-power was essential to row a 28 foot whaleboat, in open sea.

pp 42. In the wake of Bass and Flinders. ISBN 0 646 40379 6.

 Lost Landscapes of Plymouth. Maps, Charts and Plans to 1800 - by Elisabeth Stuart. ISBN: 0-86299-772-0.                                                                                                                    

Lieu Kevin Slade, Head of Nautical Information (Ret) emailed this information to me 14/02/2017.

Ram Head was still shown on "Flinders' 1814 Admiralty charts" corrected to 1822 by Capt. Hurd R.N. 

Little Rame Head was not shown on an Admiralty chart until the mid 1880's

This statement is wrong. New Modern English was in use in the 1700's "Ram" was correct in Cook's times.

This statement is wrong. Cook used New Modern English, used after 1712 as still in use today.

Spelling for Rame village in use in 1600's. Ram/Ram head spelling used in 1700's, changed back in 1800's.

Little Rame Head was not shown on a chart until, almost 100 years after Cook named his Ram Head.

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