I’ll scratch yer eyes out …


I recently heard a woman on the radio telling the presenter that kangaroos are peaceful animals and that she had learnt a great deal from them. By and large I agree that they are peaceful but they do fight and there are plenty of records of attacks on humans.

There have been some studies on kangaroo fighting, a couple of easily accessible ones can be found <HERE> and <HERE>. If you’re into lurid accounts of attacks on humans you can find a catalogue of them <HERE>. I mean, kangaroos kill people don’t they? Well yes but almost exclusively by way of motor vehicle accidents (and even in those cases there’s not always a real kangaroo involved). A hunter in New South Wales was apparently the only human killed in combat when he tried to rescue his dogs back in 1936.

Kangaroos will fight each other for resources such as food, water or access to females in oestrus. These tend to be serious engagements. Much more commonly the fights are between youngish males with no obvious prize at stake and end without significant harm to either. Mothers will also “fight” with young male offspring perhaps by way of training them for future bouts.

Males have impressive arm and chest musculature, an example of sexual selection. Skippy was clearly a female.

Scratching, pushing, punching and downward raking kicks seem to do little harm through thick fur. People of course are not protected in that way. When you watch a fight it looks as though eyes and gonads are the structures most likely to be injured.

More Large Marsupials …

Kangaroos tend to lay up during the day, often in a wooded area, and move to their grazing area late in the afternoon. Evening and early morning are the times when drivers have to be particularly careful. The road sense of a kangaroo is fairly minimal although natural selection is working on it.

A mob of about a dozen adults plus pouch young came across my little farm the other evening. They were grazing as they came. I was accurate in my prediction of the route they would take. I hid in a large bush and they slowly made their way up to me.



They are shy. They compete directly with the local sheep for the currently scanty grass – they have no friends among the farming community.

This one discovered me …

and they were gone in an instant.

The Morning Macropods …

There are two members of the Kangaroo family that are fairly common around the country estate and I encountered both of them on my morning walk. Swamp Wallabies are always around. Eastern Grey Kangaroos come and go. They’re present in fair numbers presently. Brought in, I suspect, by the water that’s available.

Swamp Wallaby
Eastern Grey Kangaroo

You can see the claws on this big male. One recent night the trail camera caught a couple of roos in a dispute. Thick fur is a useful asset on such occasions …

Infra-roo …

I’ve resurrected an old trail camera. Last night I set it near a water point on the farm and captured some images of Eastern Grey Kangaroos coming to drink. The images are very low resolution which can be forgiven to some extent for infra-red images at night. Sadly the day time images are even worse. I may have to invest in a new camera.

This is a composite of three images of one roo.

Eastern Grey Kangaroo

Kangaroo …

I woke up this morning to find a bunch of Eastern Grey Kangaroos at the back door. They were gone in a flash but I found this one again a little later and she was a little slower to flee …

Joey is getting a bit big for riding around in the pouch, the style is typically untidy. It is probably sharing the accommodation with a much smaller sibling fastened on a teat and there may be another sibling in utero in a state known as embryonic diapause.

Despite the heavy load, when it’s time to go it’s time to go …

Cooktown …

There was a time when every Australian child knew that Captain Cook discovered Australia. Not exactly true, of course, but quite possibly more than today’s school children know about the early days of the European influx that led to our modern society.


James Cook was born at Marton in Yorkshire in 1728. He was a bright lad of humble origins. The family moved to Great Ayton where his father became a farm manager. His father’s employer paid for young Jimmy to go to school.

Cook’s career at sea began in the merchant navy as an apprentice on a coal carrier. He studied diligently those subjects that he would need to take charge of his own ship, mathematics, navigation and astronomy, and at the end of his three year apprenticeship passed his exams. Three years later he was promoted to mate. Soon after that he passed up the chance to take command of a collier to join the Royal Navy.

That was a move that saw him starting at the bottom all over again. In 1755 Able Seaman Cook joined HMS Eagle. By 1757 Cook was master of The Pembroke. This was a time of war. The Seven Years War (1755 – 1764) has as good a claim to being a world war as any subsequent war. It pitted Britain against France with virtually all of Europe aligned with one side or the other and dragging in their colonies notably Canada.

It was during this war that General Wolfe surprised and defeated the French on the Plains of Abraham outside Quebec City, a pivotal moment in Canadian history. To put the troops in position to launch the attack it was necessary to navigate up the tricky St Lawrence River. A three month siege preceded the battle during which time Cook on The Pembroke surveyed and mapped the river. And it was Cook that led the troop carrying flotilla into place.

Cook went on to survey and map the Newfoundland Coast.

By the conclusion of the war Cook’s talent as a map maker combined with his obvious competence put him in good stead with The Admiralty. Meanwhile the Royal Society was urging a voyage of exploration in the direction of the much anticipated Terra Australis (necessary to balance the great land mass of the Northern Hemisphere and keep the globe from toppling off its axis). They proposed that Alexander Dalrymple, a noted geographer, be in command. The First Lord of the Admiralty’s response was that he’d rather cut a hand off than have a civilian in charge of a navy ship. Cook was acceptable to both these august bodies.

First step was Tahiti to observe the transit of Venus. Which was duly observed on a clear night on June 3rd 1769. After which our James opened a sealed envelope revealing the rest of his super secret instructions, essentially search the Pacific.

Early October saw him arrive in New Zealand, the first European visit since being discovered by Abel Tasman in 1642. Cook mapped the entire coastline, discovering in the process that the North and South Islands are separated by what is now known as Cook Strait. One of his few errors was not recognising that Stuart Island is similarly separated from South Island.

Having completed his task in New Zealand Cook had a problem. He could discover nothing by heading north west and returning home via The Cape of Good Hope. It was late autumn, his ship was not fit to take a southerly route to round Cape Horn. He outlined his thinking in his Journal and determined …

… upon Leaving this Coast to steer to the Westward until we fall in with the East Coast of New Holland, and then to follow the direction of that Coast to the Northward

Europeans had been bumping into the north and west coasts of Australia aka New Holland since 1606 (Janszoon on The Duyfken). For almost all the rest of the century the Dutch pretty much had a monopoly on the place accumulating quite a list of discoveries. It was 1699 before the poms got involved, William Dampier exploring the west coast and collecting the first botanical specimens to reach the scientific establishment.

The north east extremity of Australia is Torres Strait. That was put on the map in 1606 by Luis Váez de Torres who wrote of “very large islands, and more to the south“. The south east extremity was put on the map by Tasman in 1642. Cook set out to join the dots.

Landfall was well south on the coast on Friday 20th April. Cook named it Point Hicks after the his Lieutenant (a Stepney lad and therefore a cockney like me). Proceeding north Cook discovered Botany Bay and Port Jackson, subsequently the place where Sydney was founded, (according to Melbournians the largest of Cook’s mistakes). Then even further north to the Great Barrier Reef and after bumping into that off Cape Tribulation to the mouth of Endeavour River where he repaired his ship.

The repairs took seven weeks. While they were in progress the scientists went collecting. One of the most important things they brought back was a word garnered from the local aboriginal people, gangurru, which we spell a little differently these days.

This is the place where Cooktown now stands, which is where you can find the statue shown above.

It is a small tropical town, only recently discovered by tourists and not overly commercialised. It is a delightful place to visit just as it is but for me it ranks as one of the most significant historical sites that we have.