Queen Elizabeth II Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh attended the re-enactment of Captain James Cook’s landing at Kurnell on 29 April 1970.

The Queen and Prince Philip, with Prince Charles and Princess Anne, arrived for an extensive tour to mark Captain James Bicentenary celebrations after he sailed up Australia’s east coast in 1770.

Huge Crowds at Kurnell

Some had camped at Kurnell overnight with many arriving as early as 3.00 am for good vantage spots, about 12 hours before the ceremony began.

Some had parked their cars along Captain Cook Drive and walked five miles (eight kilometres) to Kurnell.

‘It was merely a demonstration of the Australian people opening their hearts to encompass the royal family.’

The St George and Sutherland shire Leader, 6 May 1970

Unofficial viewing areas had already filled to capacity by midday, but, due to the topography surrounding the Captain Cook’s landing site, was unable to provide for large-scale attendances.

Official portrait of Captain James Cook (7 November 1728 – 14 February 1779). Photo: Nathaniel Dance-Holland - from the National Maritime Museum, United Kingdom
Official portrait of Captain James Cook (7 November 1728 – 14 February 1779)

More than 50,000 people, according to The St George and Sutherland Shire Leader, attended the event but only 15,000 were able to see and hear the reenactment.

Others had a good view whilst sitting in small boats close to the shore.

Captain Cook Landing Re-enactment

Celebrations began at 1.30 pm with a flag-breaking ceremony wreath-laying at the Solander Monument.

Members of the Swedish community laid wreaths to Swedish Dr Daniel Carl Solander who was on board Captain Cook’s ship.

During the proceedings, the Royal Yacht Britannia entered Botany Bay around 1.50 pm, accompanied by three Navy escorts and a flotilla of small boats.

The Governor of NSW Sir Roden Cutler and his wife Lady Cutler, the NSW Premier Robert Askin and his wife Mollie Askin arrived at 2.25 pm aboard the Royal Barge at the landing-place wharf.

The Queen, Prince Phillip and Princess Anne arrived 15 minutes later as cheering crowds greeted them as they walked along a golden carpet to take their places on the dais facing Botany Bay.

Aboriginal actors, including David Gulpilil and Ken Colbung, re-enacted their ancestors’ lives, including six men fishing from small bark canoes.

Captain Cook (played by actor and schoolteacher Donald Reid)  and his party were rowed ashore from the Canadian sailing barque, Endeavour II, moored off the oil wharf.

Sydney University Student Disruptions

However, the re-enactment was disrupted by some university protesters, with a bogus Captain Cook, landed on the shore, tried planting a flag and taking possession of Australia ‘in the name of George the Third and Sydney University!’

The bogus Captain Cook drew loud cheers from the crowd as they thought he was the real one. 

He tried to claim centre stage and doff his hat to the Queen before police arrested him as his companions quickly fled from the scene.

However, the public address system failed to work so the audience could only hear crackles and whistles instead of the script!

The police believed the PA had been sabotaged and their suspicions were confirmed when they discovered a cable which had been sliced through.

Kurnell Public School students, symbolising Australia’s youthfulness, surrounded the landing party as Captain Cook took possession of Australia’s east coast ‘in the name of King’ as a finale.

Premier Bob Askin Address

Premier Bob Askin began his speech, only to discover the microphone was dead, but technicians quickly found and immediately fixed the problem.

The Premier said Cook’s discovery of the east coast marked a great advance in geographical knowledge.

It was one of many final steps in establishing the truth about the ‘mythical southern continent’.

The Premier then said Cook and his associates ‘tilled the ground for the seeds of settlement under Governor Phillip’.

‘From these seeds has grown a great and free nation, made up of people of many countries, but predominantly British.’

However, the Premier acknowledged that not all in Australian history had been good.

Queen Elizabeth Speech

Queen Elizabeth replied in her speech, ‘Mr Premier, I congratulate you and all those who have worked with you on the range and detail of the Captain Cook bicentenary celebrations in New South Wales and on the care and skill that have been given to their planning.

‘May this great spectacle, and the memory of the man whom it celebrates, inspires us to create the best possible world for the future..

Queen Elizabeth also met the Sutherland Shire President Arthur Gietzelt and his wife, and Federal Member for Cook, the Hon Don Dobie and his mother, and Member for Cronulla Ian Griffith.

Queen Elizabeth planted a Norfolk Pine at Kurnell at the end of the ceremony to mark this milestone.

According to David Hill in Australia and the Monarchy, it was one of the Australian Broadcast Corporation’s first live outside broadcasts, filmed in black and white.

Late For Next Official Engagement

Thousands also gathered along the route between Kurnell and Kogarah to see Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Edinburgh and Princess Anne pass by.

Police had trouble trying to keep a lane clear for the royal car to pass through.

The St George and Sutherland Shire Leader said, ‘it was a demonstration of loyalty at its best’.

‘It was merely a demonstration of the Australian people opening their hearts to encompass the royal family.’

The Queen and Prince Philip were about 35 minutes late to their next official engagement, another re-enactment, this time at James Cook High School at Kogarah.

Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, the Prince of Wales and Princess Anne attend the Royal Easter Show in Sydney during the Bicentenary of Captain James Cook’s first voyage to Australia in 1770. Photo: State Library of New South Wales Collection.

Read more about Captain James Cook’s landing in Botany Bay on 29 April 1770 – http://carolynmcash.com.au/2012/01/16/james-cook-puts-sutherland-shire-on-the-map/

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