Astronomy in Australia

In 1787, Great Britain sends its first fleet of convicts to Australia. Also on board is William Dawes, a young marine with a broad scientific interest in mathematics, astronomy, and linguistics. He leaves behind an elaborate account of his experiences and contacts with the native population, including an overview of the grammar of their language and several glossaries.

Daniel Rook, the main character of Kate Grenville´s ´The lieutenant´ is modeled after this historical character.

Daniel comes from a modest background and signs up with the marines in order to satisfy his passion for scientific research. The comet Halley was calculated to pass Australia in 1788 or 1789 and Daniel sets out on his journey in high spirits, armed with the equipment of the Royal astronomer.

On arrival in this completely unknown country, the aboriginal inhabitants turn out to be hostile to the intruders. The land is barren and soon there is a lack of food. The supplies that were supposed to arrive from the home country are delayed indefinitely. On the pretext of astronomical observations, Daniel sets up his camp at some distance from the main base. There, the aboriginals start visiting him. He develops a friendship with a young girl who teaches him their language.

The relationship between the British colonists and the indigenous people worsens until it reaches a dramatic low when an Englishman is killed by an Aboriginal. A punitive expedition ensues, and Daniel is forced to take part in it.

Reluctantly, he follows his orders. Until he is confronted with the exceedingly cruel reality.

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