Kurnell, on the South side of Botany Bay (34 01 S - 151 10 E) is important in the history of European settlement in Australia as the place where Captain James Cook (together with the botanists Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander) first landed in 1770.

Cook reported the presence of the local Koori people as 'Indians' : "... as soon as we approached the rocks, two of the men came down them to dispute our landing, and the rest ran away. Each of the two champions was armed with a lance about ten feet long, and a short stick which he seemed to handle as if it was a machine to assist him in managing or throwing the lance: they called to us in a very loud tone and in a harsh dissonant language......... : they brandished their weapons and seemed resolved to defend their coast to the utmost, though they were but two and we were forty. I could not but admire their courage..."

Cook's map of Botany Bay shows that the shorelines of Kurnell and Towra Point have changed little in 200 years.

Evidence of Koori occupation of the area goes back long before the arrival of Cook and there is a display of artifacts and cultural objects in the National Park Educational Centre which includes details of the utilisation of mangroves for food and weapon making.

With the exception of the rocky headland which makes up the south head of Botany Bay, the actual land is of relatively recent origin as it consists of a sand spit formed following the stabilisation of sea levels close to their current level a few thousand years ago.

About 10000 years ago, when the sea level was many meters below its present level, what is now Bate Bay off Cronulla was closed off by a sand spit and the Port Hacking River joined the Georges River and flowed to the sea through Botany Heads.

Ancient shore line c 6000 bp.
(Map adapted from Roy and Crawford, 1981 and Hann, 1986, courtesy A.R.H.Martin)

Mobile Dune at Kurnell

The Kurnell peninsula used to be noted for its huge sand dunes, however, a major part of the sand which made up the original dune system has been removed over the last hundred years to provide builders sand.

It is hard to see now how Chauvel could use the area to simulate the sand dunes of Sinai to make 'Forty Thousand Horsemen' again!

The removal of so much sand has resulted in the formation of a number of small lakes where the soil surface has fallen below the water table.

Some of these lakes contain populations of the endangered Green and Gold Bell Frog.