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Monday, 7 October, 2002, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
Wreck challenges Captain Cook
Replica of Endeavour
Did other Europeans land on the east coast first?
Archaeologists in Australia say a recently discovered shipwreck could prove that the British explorer, Captain James Cook, was not the first European to discover Australia's eastern coast.

The archaeological team found the 30-metre-long wreck on Fraser Island, off the coast of the eastern state of Queensland.

The team leader, Greg Jeffreys, says four cannon on the ship suggest it was a European, but not English, vessel from the 17th Century - pre-dating Captain Cook's arrival in Australia in 1770.

Photographs of the cannon are to be sent to international experts to verify their age.

Suspicions confirmed?

"The cannon definitely aren't English cannon. We know the style of most of the English cannon, so we're looking at a European ship - probably 1650s, around that era," Mr Jeffreys told Australian radio.

He said that as the ship was excavated other items might be recovered which could provide more evidence of its origin.

It has long been argued that Captain Cook was not the first European to land on Australia's east coast.

Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch explorers chartered much of north and western Australia in the 16th and 17th Centuries.

Evidence burned

But most of Portugal's exploration maps, guarded as state secrets, were destroyed in an earthquake in 1755.

"It's not all that unlikely that there were Portuguese ships we don't know about," historian Marion Diamond, a lecturer in colonial history at the University of Queensland, told the French news agency AFP.

"It wouldn't surprise me all that much if this turned out to be something."

Captain Cook's ship, The Endeavour, set off from Plymouth in 1768 and sailed around Cape Horn and into the Pacific until it reached Tahiti.

From there, Cook observed the transit of the planet Venus across the Sun.

On leaving Tahiti, Cook sailed to the North Island of New Zealand and the east coast of Australia and discovered Botany Bay, near what is now Sydney.

See also:

03 Sep 02 | England
30 Aug 02 | England
20 Aug 02 | Entertainment
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