AUSTRALIA-Queensland-NORTH COAST-Cairns: Captain Cook Statue on Captain Cook Highway / Morning

Walter Bibikow/Getty

You won't be able to miss this mammoth statue, one of Australia's most controversial 'Big Things'. Looming over the city's main road since 1972, the 10m-high concrete likeness of Captain James Cook – depicted with his right arm extended and outstretched hand palm-down – evokes a whirlwind of sentiment from both visitors and locals. Some feel it's disrespectful to local Indigenous people, while others claim it's a city icon. Pretty much everyone wonders why he's doing that salute.

The statue was built nearly 50 years ago as a roadside gimmick promoting the now-demolished Captain Cook Motel. Local lore has it that permission to build the hulking Cook was accidentally given – apparently the Council mistook the planned statue's dimensions (given in metres) for Imperial measurements.

In January 2017, the statue was hung (by folks unknown) with a giant sign reading 'SORRY', in apparent reference to Invasion Day (or Australia Day). That same year, Aboriginal artist Munganbana Norman Miller suggested a giant boomerang be given to Cook to hold.

Debate rages on as to the statue's future.

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