The Big Captain Cook In Cairns

the big captain cook - a large statue representing captain James Cook
The Big Captain Cook statue in Cairns (Souce: Creative Commons)

The Big Captain Cook

The enormous statue, depicting an Australian explorer called Captain James Cook, was erected off the Cook Highway, Cairns, Queensland, in 1972. The sculpture once accompanied The Captain Cook Motel that has since been demolished, leaving the landmark standing lonely and the locals divided about its fate. 

The locals are undecided about whether the sculpture should be refurbished or relocated. In 2006, students from James Cook University petitioned to have the famous statue adopted by the university.

The 10-metre-tall Captain Cook statue stands with his right arm stretched out, with the palm facing down. The statue’s hand gesture also sparks a lot of debate and controversies among locals and visitors.

Some people find it disrespectful to the Aboriginal population of Australia, while others believe that it was a mascot for the demolished hotel. The statue’s controversial salute has also been likened to Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Salute as a tribute to the former leader of Germany. 

Following the worldwide ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, over 10,000 people signed an online petition to push for the removal of the statue because of the history of slavery during Cooks’ era. However, some historians argue that the sculpture’s gesture shows Captain Cook raising his arm at a group of Aborigines attacking him with spears during his exploration. One Aboriginal artist suggested adding a Boomerang to the Captain’s statue to shield himself from the apparent attack.

Senior locals also have different stories about the sculpture and the reason behind its construction. However, many people tend to associate the gestures with the era of slavery and discrimination. 


In 2022 the land on which The Big Captain Cook stands on was sold to the James Cook University. The university plans to build a teaching hospital on the block of land.

A man by the name of Martin Anton who is an owner of a demolition company purchased the rights to dismantle and remove the controversial statue stating “I just didn’t want it bulldozed by somebody”.

The statue was removed on 24th May 2022.

Other Big Things in Queensland

Queensland is home to numerous historic Big Things. Here are some notable few we’ve covered so far. 

  • Big Marlin in Cairns
  • Big Scout Hat in Cairns 
  • Big Sausage King in Toowoomba
  • Big Red Elephant in Hatton Vale
  • Big Peanut in Tolga
  • Big Pelican in Noosaville

For a more comprehensive list of iconic Big Things in Queensland, please visit the Queensland section on our blog.

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