South Seas Research  
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About South Seas

South Seas is a research venture conceived and undertaken by Paul Turnbull and Chris Blackall. with the support of the National Library of Australia and Centre for Cross-Cultural Research, at the Australian National University.

As well as the Centre for Cross-Cultural Research and the National Library, South Seas has been supported by the State Library of New South Wales, and has involved research collaboration with the Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre of the University of Melbourne.

Other organisations and cultural institutions participating in aspects of the project include H-Net, Humanities and Social Sciences On-Line, and James Cook University.

A Companion to Cooks First Pacific Voyage, 1768-1771

The aim of the first phase of South Seas is to produce an on-line companion to James Cooks momentous first voyage of discovery.

Like the numerous print-based companions published over the last decade or so, this companion is in part a specialist encyclopaedic reference work. Where it will differ is in adapting and translating the organising principles of the companion genre to the virtual information landscape.

As the name companion suggests, companions serve as trusted guides, providing knowledge and critical reflections on original writings by significant figures in literature or philosophy, or on major works of a particular cultural epoch, or artistic movement.

South Seas will be a companion in this sense, though it will also give readers editions of the more important manuscripts, books and pamphlets relating to Cooks first voyage. It will offer the complete text of the holograph manuscript of James Cooks Endeavour Journal, together with the full text of the journals kept by Joseph Banks and Sydney Parkinson on the voyage, and the text of all three volumes of John Hawkesworths Account of the Voyages the Southern Hemisphere...(1773).

Readers will be able to compare and contrast how occurrences on the voyage struck different participants. They will also find explanatory commentaries, short articles and reflective essays, in both written and (eventually) hyper-media forms, drawing upon the National Library of Australias rich and remarkable collections relating to eighteenth-century voyaging in Australian and Pacific seas. In particular, South Seas aims to facilitate the discovery and educational use of historical images and maps preserved by the Library.

Cross-Cultural History in Hypermedia

In later phases of South Seas we hope to build upon research over the past decade that has sought to redress the failure of earlier scholarship to appreciate the true extent to which indigenous agency shaped European perceptions of the peoples of Oceania.

Over the past decade, historians in Australia and the Pacific have begun exploring whether visual and sonic softwares can simulate the cognitive weight that oral, visual and kinaesthetic modes of communication have in representing the past. Some have sought to assess whether these new tools can be employed in ways that explain histories of cross-cultural interaction with greater accuracy than print-based narration allows.

South Seas is similarly concerned to explore whether networked hypermedia can be a means of transcending the conceptual limitations of working purely with words.

Scholarly Editing Standards for the Virtual Environment

A key aspect of South Seas has been collaboration with the Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre on developing the functionality of software tools for creating on-line historical and heritage information resources. The Centres Online Heritage Resource Manager (OHRM) and Web Academic Resource Publisher (WARP) have been adapted to provide historians with a cheap and relatively easy way of creating web-based editions of historical documents that conform to emerging international standards for electronic text markup and content description.

The ultimate goal of South Seas is to create a distributed version of the tools in open source programming that will help facilitate collaborative production of historical information resources by researchers regardless of their location.

Future Partnerships

We are particularly interested in talking with other researchers and cultural institutions currently developing or planning to create - networked resources digital information resources relating to Cooks voyaging or eighteenth century Pacific voyaging and cross-cultural encounters.

Please Paul Turnbull at


To date the project has generated the following publications and conference papers:

Paul Turnbull, The Endeavour Project: creating Scholarly Digital Editing Standards, LASIE: Library Automated Systems Information Exchange, December 1999.

Paul Turnbull and Chris Blackall, Explorations in Hypermedia: the Endeavour Project, Proceedings of the 2000 Pacific Neighbourhood Consortium Conference (Academica Sinica), University of California, Berkeley, January 2000.

Paul Turnbull, 'Who cares about Readers', National Scholarly Communications Forum, Sydney, July 2000

Paul Turnbull and Chris Blackall, A New Foreign Country: The Challenges and Risks of Making History in Digital Media for Historians and Librarians, Proceedings of the ALIA 2000 Conference, .

Paul Turnbull, 'Omai, the Other Beyond the Exotic Stranger', in Michelle Hetherington (ed.), Omai and Cook: the Cult of the South Sea (Canberra: National Library of Australia, 2001), pp. 43-9.