by Fr Dan Harding
The author is an Australian Columban who worked in Chile for many years. He is now editor of The Far East, the Columban magazine in Australia and New Zealand.
On 4 June 1770 Captain Cook sailed into a passage through the Great Barrier Reef that was surrounded by beautiful continental islands. He was on his historic voyage of discovery up the east coast of Australia. These islands and the sea passage were named the Whitsunday Islands and Passage after the liturgical celebration of the day, Whitsunday (also known as ‘Whitsunday’ or ‘Whitsun’). Actually Cook had miscalculated his date and it was really the following day, Whit Monday.
Hill Inlet, Whitsunday Islanda the largest of the Whitsunday Islands
What is this liturgical celebration called Whitsunday? It is another name for the second most important day after Easter in the Church’s liturgical calendar - the great Solemnity of Pentecost. The name Whitsunday comes from White Sunday when in Medieval times, those who had been baptized seven weeks earlier at Easter donned again their white baptismal robes. Some baptisms also took place at this time.