As far as Cook is concerned, the Captain Cook Monument at Botany Bay has him setting foot a day early (on 28 April 1770 rather than on the afternoon of the 29th). When he set out on his first voyage Cook had never crossed the equator. By way of contrast the ship’s goat had circumnavigated the globe the previous year and received a silver collar engraved with a poem by Dr Samuel Johnson after its second circuit around the globe.

And then we get to Joseph Banks, a dedicated pants man, who’d planned to smuggle his mistress onto Cook’s second voyage disguised as a Mr Burnett. One could cite further examples of eccentric behaviour from a botanist who was dismissive of Portuguese gardening techniques and displayed an inclination towards fishing trips with two or three Ladies of pleasure accompanied by his mate the Earl of Sandwich, who happened to be First Lord of the Admiralty and would go on to have his name associated with the dietary staple of the Australian school lunch.

There are all sorts of other examples that could be cited, and we’re definitely getting close to spoiler territory, but one can’t help pointing out that Mary Reibey, who is portrayed on the $20 note, was a cross-dressing convict entrepreneur who built up an extensive pastoral, hotel, shipping and sealing empire and leased her house to Governor Macquarie so it could be the first branch of the Bank of New South Wales.

Macquarie, we learn, is hardly the shimming light he was presented to primary school students of my generation, and William Francis copped a seven year sentence for stealing A Summary Account of the Flourishing State of the Island of Tobago.

And, trust me, there’s plenty more detail to revel in.

One awaits the sequel with considerable interest.

© Ian Hughes 2012