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Kanguru! : James Cook describes his first sight of a beloved Australian icon.
Kanguru!

Abridged from “Captain Cook’s Journal During the First Voyage Round the World, at the entries for Sunday 24th June 1770 and Saturday 4th August. Spelling has been modernised.

James Cook captained ‘Endeavour’ on a round trip to New Zealand and Australia from 1768 to 1771. Between June and August 1770, the ship lay at the mouth of the Endeavour (Wabalumbaal) River in north Queensland, undergoing repairs. Cook kept a meticulous journal, in which he described some of the animals he saw.

I SAW myself this morning, a little way from the ship, one of the animals before spoke of; it was of a light mouse colour and the full size of a greyhound, and shaped in every respect like one, with a long tail, which it carried like a greyhound; in short, I should have taken it for a wild dog but for its walking or running, in which it jumped like a hare or deer.

Another of them was seen today by some of our people, who saw the first; they described them as having very small legs, and the print of the feet like that of a goat;* but this I could not see myself because the ground the one I saw was upon was too hard, and the length of the grass hindered my seeing its legs.

Besides the animals which I have before mentioned, called by the natives kanguru, here are wolves, possums, an animal like a rat, and snakes, both of the venomous and other sorts.*

* See Footprints of the Eastern Grey kangaroo. Presumably, the ‘very small legs’ were the fore legs, the hind legs being concealed by long grass as they were when Cook saw his kangaroo.

* The wolf may have been a Dingo. See also Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula).

Abridged from “Captain Cook’s Journal During the First Voyage Round the World, at the entries for Sunday 24th June 1770 and Saturday 4th August. Spelling has been modernised.

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Picture: © Fir0002/Flagstaffotos, via Wikimedia Commons. Licence: GFDL v1.2. View original
Eastern Grey kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) in the wild. They are found in their millions in southern and eastern Australia. The name comes from ‘gangurru’, in the language spoken by the Guugu Yimithirr of north Queensland. Cook’s colleague Sir Joseph Banks was the first to record the word, in his diary for 12 July 1770.

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