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Discovering WWII history in Cooktown
On a clear day, if you find yourself on a ship sailing around the outer spine of Eastern Australia, you can see Cooktown, a sliver of an island with a small town charm and a great history. It turns out that the island which houses some 2,400 people was named for British explorer Captain James Cook who accidentally gashed a hole in his ship in 1770 when he struck a bed of coral near the Coral Sea (and thereby was stranded, making his way to the island). There is more history here than meets the sunlit eye. I made my way along the main drive running parallel to the beach, to the museum that was a former convent for nuns. This fully-restored Victorian building houses the giant anchor that belonged to the HMS Endeavour that went missing for nearly two centuries before its coral-encrusted body was discovered in 1971. This well-maintained museum is a star attraction, with photographs of the nuns who made this their home for years before they were evacuated during World War II when it became a base for 20,000 allies battled the Japanese in the Battle of the Coral Sea. The homage to James Cook is evident all over the island, with even a bronze statue of the explorer in the Bicentennial Park. But it is, in every way, a lovely place to call a second home, because the views are serene (almost rustic in their simplicity), with all the cascading light of a Turner painting. You can even sleep on a small eggshell-colored boat in the diminutive bay.
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