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Kangaroo – are you sure?

26 January 2016 by News Desk

kangarooThe kangaroo is the most famous symbol of Australia but has the world been making a mistake for 300 years?

When Britain’s Captain Cook landed in Botany Bay in Australia in 1769 he, and the crew of HMS Endeavour were amazed by the spectacular flora and fauna of the land.

Cook and botanist Joseph Banks set out to explore the land around Botany Bay and while most aboriginal folk, wary of the white visitors, kept out of sight one curious local was persuaded to help them identify the many new plants and animals.

But after hours of walking around being questioned by Caption Cook’s party, the local man lost interest and became surly and fed up.

When a strange long-tailed, two-legged animal bounded across the horizon one of the party yelled ‘what’s that?’

The local simply shrugged and said, ‘Kangaroo…’ then walked away. The botanist Joseph Banks duly wrote down the name.

What Banks and Captain Cook were unaware of, and what the rest of the world has not known for over 300 years, is that according to aboriginal historians the word kangaroo in local dialect meant… ‘I don’t know’.

(source: as told by an Australian aboriginal academic during a BBC TV documentary of the voyages of Captain Cook)



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