British explorer Captain Cook's pistol up for auction

SYDNEY Fri Jan 25, 2013 5:59am GMT

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - A pistol owned by British explorer Captain James Cook, who first claimed Australia for Britain nearly two and a half centuries ago, will go on the auction block next month in Melbourne.

The brass pistol, an early 18th century Continental Flintlock holster pistol with a 13-bore barrel made by Dutch gunmaker Godefroi Corbau Le Jeune, is expected to fetch between A$100,000 to $200,000 (126,807 pounds to 666,180 pounds at the Feb 14 sale.

One of a rare handful of personal effects remaining from the explorer, who claimed Australia for Britain in 1770, the gun - handed down through generations of Cook's family - is a symbol of his relationship to the vast continent, said auctioneer Leski Auctions.

"We've got bits of his ship, and bits of this and bits of that, but for a sea captain to accumulate things was unusual and in his case very little survived that was returned to the family," said Charles Leski, Leski's founder.

"This particular pistol because it was specifically willed to his sister and stayed in the family for all those generations - we are lucky enough to be able to draw this direct link between our founding father, so to speak, and this gun."

He said there is no way of knowing if Cook was carrying the pistol when he first stepped on Australian soil, although it appears he did not use it much.

Cook reached the coast of Australia in April 1770, the first recorded European to encounter the continent's eastern coast, after mapping the coastline of New Zealand. In August, he planted the British flag on Possession Island in northern Queensland.

Cook made two later exploratory expeditions to the Pacific and was killed in Hawaii in 1779.

The pistol remained in the Cook family for more than 200 years before being purchased by former Melbourne Lord Mayor Ron Walker at auction in Edinburgh in 2003.

(Reporting By Thuy Ong, editing by Elaine Lies)

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