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So where are the English in this History of Australia?

They have been notably absent from the Discovery story, particularly when many think  it was the Englishman Captain Cook who actually discovered Australia. In fact an estimated  54 European ships precede Cook’s so called “discovery” in 1770.

Well, the time has finally come. Enter the English, if ever so briefly. Although the Englishmen in question may wish it was not so. Meaning, John Brook, Commander of a 500 tonne British East India vessel and his crew of some 130 men.

The year is 1622 and he is at the helm of the Tryall, a ship that soon is to become the Great Southern Land’s oldest known shipwreck. So to our story….

Loaded with silver from Plymouth, Brooks is on his way to the East Indies from Plymouth. It is the ship’s maiden voyage and the early days of the English trying out the new Brouwer route to the East Indies. His ship we know is only the second British ship to try out this route.

It is clear Brooks and his crew are inexperienced as they stop in Cape Town, not just for supplies, but to ask the locals basically, “How do we get to the East Indies?” Not happy with a verbal answer, they recruit a solution.  Brooks locates and appoints an experienced First Mate, Thomas Bright and sets off east with the “roaring forties” at their backs.

Then the fun begins. After mistaking Barrow Island for the mainland they find themselves too far east. There are varying accounts of the cause – incompetence, or the the typical challenge of trying to work out their exact longitude.

Fate struck in the dead of night of the 25th of May. The Tryall crashes into submerged rocks some 30 km from Montebello Islands. In the dead of night there begins a mad scramble for a skiff and longboat. Brook’s immediately takes command of the skiff (filled with silver?) and Bright takes to the longboat. Over 90 of the 133 souls are left to perish as the two boats set sail into the night. But they do not head for the nearby Great Southern Land, but rather they head north. Amazingly some weeks later in early July both boats arrived in Batavia some 1200 km away. A feat of endurance and perseverance by both Brooks and Bright.

Today the submerged rocks are now known as the Tryal Rocks, and for some 300 years after their exact location had been a point of controversy amongst mariners.

The English have finally entered our story of discovery, but have not quite managed to set foot on their future domain. But we do know one thing…finally the English are coming…

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