Make me your Homepage
left corner left corner
China Daily Website

The unlikely tale of two Captains Cook

Updated: 2013-12-30 07:48
By Tym Glaser ( China Daily)

In 1770, the first Captain Cook, James, reached Australian shores with little fanfare.

That was mainly because the aboriginals probably didn't know what the hell a boat with masts was, and the dour Yorkshire man (is there any other kind?) wasn't absolutely sure what he had found or where precisely he was.

On his way back home, up Australia's east coast, his ship, HMS Endeavour, struck a little crop of coral know as the Great Barrier Reef and nearly sunk.

Ever resourceful, Jimmy beached his vessel, patched it up and returned to the Old Dart as somewhat of a hero as he had found something "down there" and planted an English flag upon it.

Fast forward a mere 243 years, and another Captain Cook, Alastair, has also struck trouble in the land formerly known as Terra Australis.

Captain Al's ship, HMS Three Lions, ran aground almost immediately upon arrival this year and has since been thoroughly looted and dismantled by angry men wearing green caps.

The unlikely tale of two Captains Cook

In an extremely unsporting manner, his crew has been savaged 4-0 by the locals and nothing but a complete 5-0 whitewash appears on the horizon for Cook and his beaten, battered and disgruntled staff - of which two have already deserted.

While James was very proactive in getting his ship back in shape to get home, Al, while equally keen to leave such inhospitable shores, has merely reacted to each attack from the locals by reinforcing weak points rather than going on the counter-attack.

His lack of initiative has drawn howls of derision from his homeland and, while he is a very adept sailor, he doesn't appear to be a particularly great leader nor a savvy tactician.

He and his men had seen green caps before, but not in such a cantankerous mood. In the past, they were generally quite polite and went away with nary a fight after five days of mingling on verdant fields; but not so "down there".

Captain Al and his remaining crew will limp into Botany Bay for the final leg of their antipodean journey this New Year and then head home.

There will be no fanfare and Cooky may even lose his rank, such is the fickleness or the admiralty at England 's Cricket House. A bit harsh, one might say, given the foreign conditions and a tough turnaround in attitude by those men in green caps. But that is the price one must pay for failing to salvage a listing ship.

There is no doubt Alastair will be revered as one of England's all-time greats with a bat in hand rather than an oar - but not one in charge of bringing the big boat home laden with that most precious of booty: the Ashes.

A long holiday may well be due Captain Al. The Hawaiian Islands are nice this time of year.

Then again, maybe not.

After all, that's where Jimmy got clubbed to death!

Tym Glaser is a senior sports copy editor and budding historian. He can be contacted at