I suppose I should be grateful.
If Yorkshireman James Cook had not caught sight of the south-east tip of Australia from the little ship HMAS Endeavour in 1770, I might not be here.
Or I might have been writing this in French.
Thus, I think of Captain Cook a lot. In English.
I am particularly thoughtful every time I am a front-seat passenger in a car heading towards new Parliament House across Commonwealth Bridge in Canberra.
If the wind is blowing in the right — er, wrong — direction and the window is down, it is very easy to be showered with water from the nearby Captain Cook Memorial Water Jet, which spurts between three and six tonnes of water up to 147 metres above Lake Burley Griffin at any given moment for at least four hours every day.
"What the &*@#$@## was that?" I asked in my crudest English the first time I got an unexpected soaking going over the bridge.
"The Captain Cook Memorial Water Jet," I was told.
"What IS it supposed to represent?" I asked, wiping water from my chin. "Captain Cook trying to wee as high as he can in the air?"
It was built to commemorate the bicentenary of Cook's discovery of the east coast of Australia, and was officially inaugurated in 1970 by Queen Elizabeth II.
Captain Cook made three great voyages to the unchartered southern oceans and left his mark in many places.
There are dozens and dozens of monuments bearing his name around the world: busts, statues, columns, lookouts, streets, towns, plaques museums and other buildings. In New Zealand, according to one site I found on the Internet, there are even three statues purportedly of him but actually made from the cast of an unknown Italian naval officer.
The Captain Cook Memorial Water Jet, however, is the only Captain Cook Memorial Jet there seems to be.
It is unique.
No where else in the world can you get drenched by a Captain Cook Memorial Water Jet on the bridge over troubling waters.
Personally, I do not think it is particularly attractive and I hate to think how much money it might cost to run.
And heaven knows what Captain Cook have thought about it anyway if he and his hardy crew had discovered it. They might well have left it for the unsuspecting French as a kind of a consolation prize.
"Ce que le &*@#$@## était celui!"
©January 23, 2002 John Martin. All Rights Reserved
If you liked this short column perhaps you'll like my new comic fiction novel, which has nearly 250 pages of laughs. Check out the first chapter here free