Danger! Warning! Lookout! I need a Pilot Station

BAMABARAMINTEE bCharles Fraser, saw BAMBARA and MINTEE when he visited Minjerribah in 1828.  He identified them as ‘Banksia’, so-called after Joseph Banks’ journey with COOK in the ENDEAVOUR in 1770.

Endeavour c

Banks flattened samples he ‘collected’ in Botany Bay between the pages of a commentary of John Milton’s poem Paradise Lost’.Banksia

Point Lookout was the third in a series of alarming names, which James Cook applied to the land in 1770, after Point Danger and Mount Warning.


Point Lookout was the third in a series of alarming names, which James Cook applied to the land, after Point Danger and Mount Warning.  Based on these three names, it could be surmised that Cook was feeling the need for a pilot.  On the other hand, these names may be the result of his preference to be without one.  After all, isn’t it logical that explorers come first, and only in their footsteps can pilots implement their findings?  The presence of knowledgeable people, who were living all along the coast line poses a challenge to the notion of ‘exploration’.   A pilot station, specifically designed to support colonial ships in Quandamooka, had been set up at Amity Point by 1825.

A maritime pilot is some one who understands local coastal conditions and who works with the commander of a vessel to correctly and safely negotiate a specific interface between land and sea.  As he traveled north, Cook passed many people, from many different nations, who had a deep knowledge of the interfaces between the sea and the land, which he saw and mapped.  Without their help, James Cook effectively negotiated some offshore physical challenges.  He eventually crashed the Endeavour, his re-fitted coal carrier, into the Great Barrier Reef.  The Endeavour’s records of the language of the coastal people were developed in the context of that crisis.  Cook had traveled a long way up the coastline before demonstrating that there was an accessible vocabulary which might assist communication and relationship.

Physical hazards were not the only challenges facing Cook, Banks and the Endeavour.   Negotiating the interface between land and sea involves negotiating relationships as well as negotiating the local legal conditions.  One key relationship requiring negotiation is the relationship between the pilot and the ship’s commanding officer.  Very often, these two characters are answerable to different authorities, with different rules.  They are likely to have conflicting priorities, conflicting objectives, conflicting needs and conflicting problem solving strategies.  Conflict between pilot and ship’s captain is a real possibility.

There are two elements in Cook’s journey north from the land of the Tharawal People, and past Quandamooka, that suggests he was prepared, in some way, to attempt to negotiate the legal and relational challenges at the interface between land and sea.  Firstly, he had employed a Polynesian navigator and mediator.  This person’s name was Tupaia.   Secondly, he had some ‘hints’ from James Douglas, the 14th Earl of Morton.  These ‘hints’ urged Cook to respect that the people he encountered in his travels are:

‘the natural, and in the strictest sense of the word, the legal possessors of the several Regions they inhabit.’

He also suggested to that Cook

“Form a vocabulary of the names given by the Natives to the several things and places which come under the inspection of the Gentlemen”.

It is ironic that James Cook re-named the Quandamooka region after the man who had urged him to document local place names.

Even with Tupaia onboard and the Earl of Morton’s ‘hints’ in hand, Cook was not well equipped to negotiate the interface between land and sea with the success expected of a pilot.    Nor was Matthew Flinders when he came to Quandamooka.

The first time Flinders came to Quandamooka, he brought with him a Darkinyung man, remembered by the name of Bungaree.  Though he was a man who lived at the interface of land and sea in the southern Pacific Ocean, Bungaree could not speak the Jandai language and was a stranger in Quandamooka Country.   Many distinct Aboriginal Nations lived between Bungaree’s Darkinyung People and the people in Quandamooka.  It is likely that Bungaree new more about the protocols of being a stranger than Flinders did.  However, he did not have the legal or social authority, nor the language or local knowledge to play the role of pilot that Flinders would have desired.

Three place names that appeared on early colonial charts in Quandamooka are direct references to the physical, legal and relational issues that are the domain of a maritime pilot.

  • Point Lookout identifies the physical hazards of rocks and shoals.
  • Cape Morton is an indication that Cook had not forgotten the man who advised him who the legal possessors were, adding “should they in a hostile manner oppose a landing and kill some men in the attempt, even this would hardly justify firing among them, ‘till every other gentle method had been tried.”
  • Point Skirmish is a reminder of the failure to establish a relationship between ‘the landed’ and ‘the landing’, which led to Flinders firing among the Quandamooka People

Street names at Point Lookout are further affirmations of the virtues of the maritime pilot.

  • Hopewell St recollects Flinders being guided to drinking water by the local people (as the physical negotiation).
  • Mooloomba St is a recognition that the Quandamooka People had a relationship with the land before Cook called it Pt Lookout (as the legal element).
  • Mintee St and Baramba St (also known as ‘Banksia’) are assertions that the Quandamooka people were, and are equipped with a language of interest and relevance to English-speaking people, who meet them at their interface between land and sea.  Language enables relationships.

Australians continue to be tested by physical, legal and relational challenges at the interface between land and sea.  Our English language includes place names which remind us of how some specific challenges have been handled in the past.  These names may help us to see what we have learned over time, and if and how we have changed.



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