Anyone looking backwards upon the history of Australia cannot fail to be impressed by one peculiar feature, which is the more distinctive, too, because it is in striking contrast with all else. It is the more noteworthy also, because it affects each individual inhabitant of this island continent, and has a direct bearing on the daily life of every person in the community. Thus, on the one hand, while we are nearing a maximum of progress - or, at any rate, attaining to a high level of success - in political matters, in commercial affairs, and in athletic prowess, yet, on the other, there is unfortunately an apathetic indifference in all that concerns our public and family food habits, which after all constitute the national characteristics of any people. It is true that we have gained the dignity of responsible government, that our wool and frozen meat are entering the markets of the world, and that in the athletic arena our fame is spread both far and wide. Yet it must be confessed that our national food-life has not conformed to climatic requirements in the slightest degree since the memorable day on which Captain Cook set foot on these shores. As those on the Endeavour lived then, so live we now. On the continent of Europe it will be found that the manners and customs, even of contiguous countries, are as widely different as it is possible to imagine. Surely then, it is, to say the least of it, curious to see the inhabitants of a semi-tropical country like Australia living in wilful contradiction to their climatic necessities, and eating the same kind of food as did their fathers in the old land, with its dampness, its coldness, its ice, and its snow.
Yet, notwithstanding the fact that reflections of this kind are interesting in the highest degree, I propose to do no more than consider the matter exclusively from the standpoint of the subject heading of this chapter. Here, again, we are directly confronted with an inexplicable anomaly - I refer to the want of enterprise shown in developing the deep-sea fisheries of Australia. Now, if the dwellers of this land had sprung from an entirely inland race, this would not, perhaps, have been so difficult to understand; but arising, as we do, from a stock the most maritime that the world has ever seen, such a defect redounds not to our credit as inheritors of the old traditions. At our present rate of fisheries development it will take centuries before we will be able to produce anything to even approach the International Fisheries Exhibition of the old country in 1883. At that memorable exposition His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, in the course of his conference paper, gave expression to the following stirring words : - " From "the earliest ages the inhabitants of the coast of the British "Islands have made the sea contribute to their food. This "pursuit has produced a race of men strong, inured to hard-"ship and exposure, patient and persevering in their calling, "brave, prompt, and full of resource in the face of danger; "intelligent and amenable to discipline, from the daily habit "of subordinating their own wills to that of anyone whom "they know is placed in authority over them for the purpose "of directing their labours and working with them for the "common benefit; accustomed to co-operate with others for "the attainment of a certain end. These qualities are not "only exercised from early youth, but are inherited and in-"tensified from generation to generation. The foundations "of the great position which this kingdom has attained "amongst the nations of the world must, in some measure, "be attributed to our fishermen, for they were our first sea- "men; and, from small beginnings, our seamen increased "in number and in skill, until the whole nation was leavened "with that love of maritime adventure which has resulted in "peopling the uttermost parts of the earth with our race, "and in establishing that empire upon which the sun never "ceases to shine. In earlier times our first maritime com-"merce must have been conducted by our fishermen, who "also manned our fighting navies. The fisheries of the "West of England were the nurseries of the sailors who "enabled Drake to circumnavigate the world, and, as he "said, to 'singe the King of Spain's beard' on more than "one memorable occasion."