National Geographic : 1967 Nov
of Sydney, Capt. James Cook, commanding H.M.S. Endeavour, had sailed into what he called Botany Bay, in an area he later claimed for George III as New South Wales. Proceed ing northward along the coast, Cook passed -without entering-the entrance to Sydney Harbour, described by Captain Phillip as "the finest... in the world, in which a thou sand sail of the line may ride in the most perfect security." The bulk of Sydney's early settlers arrived as convicts, some of them shipped to this dis tant land for such a minor offense as stealing prayer books. Sufficient punishment in itself, the voyage under sail took at least four months-wretched months of misery and despair. Even worse were the hopeless years of detention in a penal colony on an inhospitable continent thousands of miles from nowhere. By 1830 criticism of the objectionable prac tice was widespread. Transportation of con victs to New South Wales ceased in the 1840's. Australia entered the civilized world. Progress Threatens to Engulf the Past It is astounding what the nation has ac complished since the First Fleet put in to Sydney. Still more remarkable are its achieve ments in just the past few years.* Of course, the relentless surge of modern construction all too regrettably obliterates admirable links with history. But through persistent efforts of the National Trust of Aus tralia, an organization dedicated to the preser vation and restoration of historic buildings,the city retains some-but not nearly enough-of its colonial charm. The trust has managed to save handsome reminders of the Georgian period, and even entire blocks of Victorian row houses, their balconies adorned with lashings of wrought-iron lacery (page 605). Impressive new buildings, like the 25-story headquarters of the Australian Mutual Provi dent Society, oldest and largest life insurance company in the nation, are gradually forming a skyscraping wall around Sydney Cove. Here, at the city's very front door, giant liners dock, ferries fuss about, and the metropolitan subway breaks out onto elevated tracks be neath an auto expressway-somewhat like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco all in one. But I really think Sydney is more like San Francisco-at once gay and businesslike, always exciting and refreshing. Carefree as sea swallows, clean-lined sailboats sweep across the deep-blue reaches, Weaving among colliers and freighters. The agreeable confu 594 sion reminds me that Sydney works in an everlasting holiday atmosphere. A splendid setting and gentle climate are responsible for this happy paradox. With its cove-scalloped harbor, nearby ocean beaches, and ubiquitous playing fields, Sydney epitomizes Australia's love of sport. The nation's yachtsmen, swimmers, runners, golfers, and tennis players rank among the best in the world. Horse racing, lawn bowling, cricket, rugby, surfing are all as much a part of Sydney life as sleeping, eating, and com muting to jobs that interfere with play. One of my own pastimes is harbor-watch ing. Amid the constant come and go at this *Native son Alan Villiers described "Australia: Vigor ous Young Nation in the South Sea," NATIONAL GEO GRAPHIC, September, 1963.