Objective And Subjective Writing


Below are two passages; one of objective prose and the other of subjective poetry both describing the Great Barrier Reef as discovered by Captain James Cook in 1770.  Notice how they differ in approach and linguistic techniques.  Which one is more effective?  Why?


QUESTION 1   (10 marks)

Passage A

The Great Barrier Reef is not just a reef or a line of reefs, but a horrid huge zone of them - 80,000 square miles of the age-old remains of the too industrious, and infinitely too abundant coral polyp waiting below the sunlit surface to bite at ships. Their bite is hard and often fatal. After making the best part of a thousand miles in this sort of thing, examining, checking, surveying all the time, suddenly when she was approaching the end of the reefs area, the Endeavour struck. It was in the middle of a peacefully beautiful moonlit night, with the moon throwing brilliant light from one of the close reefed tops’ls - close-reefed to give minimum speed and still allow the ship to be manageable. There was no sign of danger. Before the leadsman could haul the lead up for another sounding she touched with the horrid, rasping sound of keel on coral, the sudden alarming shock of the floating ship upon the instant stopped and dead. Cook had just turned into the cot in his sleeping cabin. He was up in a flash, “in his drawers” taking cool and competent command.

(From: Captain Cook, the Seaman’s Seaman, by Alan Villiers).

Passage B

Flowers turned to stone! Not all the botany

Of Joseph Banks, hung pensive in a porthole,

Could find the Latin for this loveliness,

Could put the Barrier Reef in a glass box.

Stone turned to flowers

It seemed - you ‘d snap a crystal twig,

One petal even of the water-garden,

And have it dying like a cherry-bough.

They ‘d sailed all day outside a coral hedge,

And half the night. Cook sailed at night,

Let there be reefs a fathom from the keel

And empty charts. The sailors didn‘t ask,

Nor Joseph Banks. Who cared? It was the spell

of Cook that lulled them, bade them turn below,

Kick off their sea-boots, puff themselves to sleep,

Though there were more shoals outside

Than teeth in a shark’s head. Cook snored loudest himself


(From: Five Visions of Captain Cook. by Kenneth Slessor.)



  1. The main impression given by the prose paragraph is that:

(a) The sudden crash was in strong contrast with the peaceful journey.

(b) They had travelled 1,000 miles examining, checking and surveying.

(c) They were sailing at minimum manageable speed.

(d) Cook was not in command.


  1. Their bite is hard and often fatal (line 4) is an example of:

(a)     literal statement.

(b)     alliteration.

(c)     metaphor or personification.

(d)     exaggeration.


  1. The function of the last sentence in the prose passage is to show:

(a) That Cook had been off duty.

(b) A glimpse of Cook at the moment of crises.

(c) Cook’s carelessness about dress.

(d) That Cook was not fully awake.


  1. “the age-old remains of the too industrious …. polyp” (lines 2 & 3) suggests that:

(a) The polyp died from being over-worked and over-crowded.

(b) Thousands of skeletal remains formed the coral reef.

(c) The oldest polyps were the most dangerous to ships.

(d) The wrecks of old ships were covered with polyps.


  1. “the close-reefed tops’ls (line 9) means:

(a) The Endeavour sailed close to the reef

(b) The reef was clearly visible in the light thrown from the mast.

(c) The ship’s sails almost touched the reef

(d) The upper sails were tightly rolled.


  1. “abundant” (line 3) means:

(a)     threatening  (b)     lurking

(c)     plentiful        (d)     dangerous


  1. “polyp” (line 3) means:-

(a)     small creature       (b)     reef shark

(c)     giant clam              (d)     man eater


  1. “surveying” (line 6)

(a)     keeping watch for danger (b)     sailing with great care

(c)     supervising the crew       (d)     measuring and charting


  1. “leadsman” (line 11) means:

(a)     the leading seaman         (b)     the sailor testing the depth

(c)     the officer of the watch    (d)     the man in the lookout


  1. “rasping” (line 12) means:

(a)     grating         (b)     rending

(c)     screeching   (d)     frightening


  1. “competent” (line 15) means: -

(a)     complete      (b)     competitive

(c)     dignified       (d)     efficient




  1. “Flowers turned to stone” (line 1) indicates that:-

(a) the stones of the reef were shaped like flowers

(b) the reef was formed of fossil flowers

(c) the reef was formed of petal-shaped rocks

(d) the reef looked like flowers and felt like stone


  1. “pensive” (line 2) means: -

(a)     dangling      (b)     thoughtful

(c)     hopefully      (d)     firmly


  1. A man such as Joseph Banks would try to find Latin names for this scene (line 3) because Latin:


(a) was the language spoken on board ship

(b) was widely spoken in those days

(c) is the main language for classification in biology

(d) is a very poetic language


  1. “a coral hedge” (line 9) suggests that the reef was:

(a) an impenetrable wall all around Australia

(b) hedged about with many dangers

(c) a plant-like barrier

(d) literally made of plant life


16 “Who cared?” (line 13.) In explanation of this expression the rest of the poem shows that:-

(a) Cook was devoted to his crew’s welfare

(b) Cook’s men were unaware of any danger

(c) Cook was careful but his crew were not

(d) Cook’s confidence spread to his crew


  1. “the spell of Cook” (lines 13 & 14) suggests:-

(a)    Cook’s influence on the crew

(b)    Cook’s skills as a chartmaker and writer

(c)     the rest that Cook was taking below decks

(d)     obedience to Cook’s orders


  1. “Cook snored loudest himself (line 17). The point of this remark is to emphasise Cook’s:

(a)     relief                     (b)     confidence

(c)     sleeping habits      (d)     tiredness


  1. The tone of the poem is:-

(a)     solemn and dignified        (b)     argumentative

(c)     light and conversational   (d)     passionate


  1. Which one of the following is NOT true of both passages?

(a) they stress the precautions taken in navigating the reef

(b) they express admiration of Cook’s calmness

(c) they stress the dangers of the reef

(d) they indicate that Cook was not on deck in time of danger