Saturday, February 23, 2019

A Valentine for Captain Cook...?

February is the romantic month in the calendar with Valentine's Day falling on the 14th of the month.  On Valentine's Day 1779, two hundred and forty years ago this month, Captain Cook's "Invasion / Exploration" of Hawaii would come to a tragic end.  Two hundred and forty years ago Captain Cooks' goose was cooked by the Native Hawaiians many of whom did regard him as an Invader.

We wrote about this in the Hawaii chapter of America Invaded: A State by State Guide to Fighting on American Soil (

"In 1778, with the arrival of Captain Cook at Waimea Bay on the island of Kauai, two warrior cultures collided in mutual misunderstanding.

Captain Cook of Britain’s Royal Navy was on his third voyage of exploration. His preferred technique for dealing with native populations was a combination of bluff, hostage taking, and firepower.

In his Journals, Cook explicitly described how his exploration method could be construed or misconstrued as an invasion:

Cook Plaque Westminster Abbey, London
We attempt to land in a peaceable manner, if this succeeds its well, if not we land nevertheless and maintain the footing we thus got by the Superiority of our  firearms, in what other light can they than at  first look upon us but as invaders of their Country; time and some acquaintance with us can only convince them of their mistake.

At  first the Hawaiians regarded Cook with reverence. Many prostrated themselves at his feet, and some may have taken him for the god Lono. Some of the women were eager to trade sex for nails. His two ships were restocked with fresh water, fruits, and vegetables. Cook christened Hawaii the Sandwich Islands in honor of his patron, the Earl of Sandwich.

Cook departed the islands to voyage north to Alaska, but returned to Kealakekua on the Big Island in February of 1779. His ship, the Resolution, had a broken mast that needed repairing. Cook described the native Hawaiians in glowing terms: “these people trade with the least suspicion of any Indians I ever met ... It is also remarkable that they have never once attempted to cheat us in exchanges or once to commit a theft.”

Cook Monument, Big Island of Hawaii

The death of Cook on February 14, 1779, in Hawaii remains something of a mystery to this day. His crew had earlier taken some sacred wooden palings from the Hawaiians for use as firewood.  This distressed the native people. Cook’s attempt to seize a local priest mis red badly.  A mob of Hawaiians gathered. Cook  red his two pistols. He was stabbed with an iron dagger, which must have been procured or stolen from one of his ships. Four royal marines were also killed in the skirmish. Cook’s body was seized by the Hawaiians, mutilated, and partially devoured. Today, a white obelisk commemorates the spot near where Cook fell."

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