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Image by Tommy McRAE - Kwatkwat people (c.1842 - 1901)


Aboriginal customs

Turtle Hunting:

“Hemmed in at Endeavour River by a morass of reefs that threatened to maroon the sailors for months until the trade winds changed, the scurvy-stricken crew struggled to find fresh food in this ‘barren’ wilderness, a crisis compounded by the refusal of local Aboriginal warriors to trade European goods for food. The chance discovery of large numbers of green turtles basking on nearby reefs saved the Europeans, but precipitated armed conflict with the Guugu Yimithirr people for whom turtles were a vital staple.

This, the first British-Aboriginal resource war, was ultimately resolved with little bloodshed thanks mainly to sensitive diplomacy on both sides, yet the conflict left a problematic legacy because Europeans never truly understood its causes, even though Cook in retrospect came closer to doing so than most of his successors. Supplies of turtles and brilliant navigation enabled Cook to conquer the remaining length of the ‘Great Reef’ until he cleared the Torres Straits, took possession of Australia and headed for home.” – The Reef