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The 18th century in Western Europe ushered in the Age of Reason, when philosophers and scientists stressed the value of global discovery, of learning more about the Earth and in collecting unusual flora and fauna from around the world. These inquiries fit well with Britain's growing power as a maritime empire.
In 1768 Captain James Cook left England on a three-year expedition to the Pacific that also took him to Australia. Cook landed at Botany Bay on the eastern coast. He charted the region and named it New South Wales. It was he and his staff, including botanist Sir Joseph Banks, who later supported settlement in Australia. Cook's two additional voyages in the 1770s added information on the Australian landmass and cemented Britain's claims to the continent.