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The passing of Captain Cook brought grief home to many and stung the hearts of people in land beyond his own. In his confidence, practical way, he had come to symbolize, rightly or wrongly, the humane explorer. He had taken mankind to the limits of the globe and had stirred imaginations everywhere. Captain James Cook had mapped tens of millions of square miles; he discovered intriguing new peoples; he vastly expanded the horizons of the British Empire. The legacy of Captain Cook is so rich and so vast that it is difficult to tie it together in one thought. However, many experts had suggested that the only thing comparable in impact on science and in important to the entire world since Cook's voyages has been man's landing on the moon some 200 years later.

The underlying reason why Captain James Cook was killed will never be completely known. However, many experts have suggested that one must with great caution the view that he was killed because he had been taken for the powerful fertility god, Lono. Lono's return from the sky was celebrated every year in the makahiki festival, and Cook's ships appeared from over the horizon at the right time, and they departed at the right time, seeming to set out on Lono's expected clockwise circuit of the island. Cook was greeted as and consequently called Lono, and not only the homage and reverence and honour shown by everyone, king, chiefs, priests, common people, but also the elaborate religious ceremonies of which he was made the centre, seem to demonstrate that he was assumed to be a god. But Cook was a dying god with a difference. He left at the right time but came back under circumstances that, unfortunately, led to his demise.   

The following are the final few entries
in the Journal of Captain James Cook

January, Friday 1  Before day break the Atmosphere was again loaded with heavy Clouds, and the new year was ushered in with very hard rain, which continued at intervals till past to o'clock; the Wind was southerly a light breeze with some calms. When the rain ceased, the sky cleared and the breeze freshened. Being at this time about five miles from the land, several Canoes came off with fruit and roots and at last with hogs, tho' not may. We lay to, trading with them till 3 o'clock in the after noon, when having got fruit &c for four or five days and pigs for two, we made sail, with a view of proceeding to the SW or lee side of the island to look for the Discovery. But as the Wind was at South it was necessary to stretch first to the Eastward till midnight when the wind came more favourable and we went upon the other tack. For several days past both Wind and weather was exceedingly unsettled and there fell a great deal of rain.

The Three following days were spent in running down he SE side (of the) island, for the night(s) were spent in playing and a part of each day laying to trading with the Natives who some times their goods in the Sea or the uncertainty of a Market, they never brought much with them, the Chief article we got was salt, which was extremely good.

Tuesday 5th.  The 5th in the Morning we passed the South point of the island which lies in the latitude of (18 degrees 54') and from which we found the coast to trend N 60 w. On this point stands a pretty large Village, the inhabitants of which thronged off to the Ship with hogs and women. It was not possible to keep the latter out of the Ship and no women. I ever met with were more ready to bestow their favours, indeed it appeared to me that they came with no other view. As we had now got a quantity of salt I purchased no hogs but what were fit for salting, refusing all that were under size, in general they bring no other at first, but when they found we took none but large ones, several went a shore and retuned with some, however we could seldom got one above 50 to 60 lb weight. As to fruit and roots we did not want and it was well we did not for it was very little of either they brought with them. Indeed the Country did not seem capable of producing many of either having been destroyed by a Volcano, though as yet we had seen nothing like one upon the island, but the devastation it had made was visible to the naked eye. This part of the Coast is sheltered from the reigning winds but we could find no bottom to Anchor upon, a line of 160 fathoms did not reach it at the distance of half a mile from the shore. Towards the evening all the islanders leaving us, we ran a few miles down the coast and there spent the night standing off and on.

Wednesday 6th. The next Morning the people viseted (us) again gringing with them the same articles as before. Being near the shore I sent MP Bligh the Master in a boat to Sound the Coast with orders to land and look for fresh Water. On his return he reported that at two cables lengths from the shore he had no soundings with a 160 fathom of line; that where he landed he found no fresh water, but rain water lying in holes in the rocks and that brackish with the spray of the sea, and that the surface of the Country was wholly composed of large slags and ashes here and there partly covered with plants. Between 10 and 11 oclock we saw the Discovery coming round the South point of the island and at 1 PM she joined us when Captain Clerke came on board and informed me that he cruzed four or five days where we were separate4d and than plyed round the East part of the island, but meeting with unfavourable winds was carri'd some distance from the coast. he had one of the islanders onboard all the time, it was his own choice nor did no[t] leave them the first opportunity that offered. 

Thursday 7th. At 1 PM the Discovery joined us, Captain Clerke came on board and informed me that he Cruzed five days where we parted, afterwards plyed round the East point of the island. He had one of the islanders aboard all the time, he came and remained on board by choise, not did he take the first oppertunity to go ashore, but remained till he met with a friend with whom he wint. At 6 Made sail and spint the night standing off and on: in the morning stood in again, at 9 being a league from the shore, brought to trade with the Natives many of whom came off to the ships. During the night the wind blew very fresh at ENE, in the morning it abaited, and during the day we had light airs from all directions, especially near the land. At noon Lat. observed 19 degrees 1 minute 15 seconds N, Long. P-T.K. 46 203 degrees 26.5 minutes E, the island extended from S 74 E to N 13 W the nearest part 2 Leagues distant.

Friday 8th. Wind from EBS to NEBE a fresh breeze and fine weather. At 6 AM made sail and spent the night plying. At day break, found that the currents had carried us considerably to windward so that we were now off the SW point of the island and where we brought the trade with the Natives. At Noon Latitude 19 degrees 1 minute 15 seconds, Long. p T.K. 203 degrees 39 minutes, the SW point of the island North 30 degrees E 2 miles distant.

At this point Cook's Journal ends. What follows is a fragment of Cook's log, also preserved in the British Library. Civil time now changed to ship time.

Saturday 9th. Wind easterly a fresh breeze, the fore and middle part clear weather, latter cloudy with rain. As soon as the natives retired ashore, we made sail and spent our time standing off and on. It happened that four men and ten women were left on board, as I did not like the company of the latter, I stood inshore towards noon with no other view than to get clear of them.

Sunday 10th. At 2 PM drawing near the shore a few canoes came off and in them we sent away our guest. At 6 the wind veered to the westward and not long after the weather cleared up. We had light airs from NW and SW and calms till 11 AM when the wind freshened at WNW and brought with it rain. 

Monday 11th. Wind at WSW, NW and NE cloudy rainy weather. AM wind westerly a fresh breeze and clear weather. At 4 AM when the wind fixed at west 1 stood in for the land in order to get some refreshments. As we drew near the shore the Natives began to come off, we lay to, or stood on and off trading with them all the day and got very little at last. Many canoes came off with not a single thing to barter, so that it appeared that this part of the island must be very poor and that we already got all they could spare.

Tuesday 12th. Plying on and off with the wind at west a fresh gale. A mile from the shore and to the NE to the south point of the island, tryed Soundings and found ground at 55 fathoms, a bottom of fine sand.

Wednesday 13th. First part light airs at SE next to a calm, in the night a small breeze at SW and SSW which at 8 AM veered to SSE. Steering to the NNW in for the land. At 9 a few canoes came along side with the few hogs but neither fruit nor roots, articles we most wanted.

Thursday 14th. PM with a small breeze at SSW we got the length of NW point of the island, where the wind veered to the westward and northward, so that before the morning we lost all that we had gained. In the morning, being of the SW point of the island, some canoes came off but they brought nothing we were in want of, we had now neither fruit nor roots and were under a necessity of making use of some of our sea provisions. At length some canoes from the northward brought us a small supply of both hogs and roots.

Friday 15th. Variable light airs next to a calm till 5 PM when a small breeze sprang up at ENE and with it steered along shore to the northward. As it was a fine pleasant day we had plenty of company and abundance of everything. We had the company of several all night and their canoes towing astern.

Saturday 16th. First and middle parts had variable winds with some showers of rain, the latter part of the wind was easterly and attended with fair weather. Plying to the northward. At day break seeing the appearance of a bay, sent Mr. Bligh with a boat from each ship to examine it being at the time 3 Leagues off. Canoes now began to come off from all parts, so that before 10 o'clock there were not less than a thousand about the two ships, the most of them filled with people, hogs and other productions of the island. Not a man had with him a weapon of any sort. Trade and curiosity alone brought them off. Among such numbers we had at times on board, it is no wonder that some betrayed a thievish disposition, one man took out of the ship a boat's ruther, he was discovered but too late to recover it. I thought this is a good opportunity to show them the use of fire arms, two or three muskets and as many four pound shots were fired over the canoe which carried off the ruther. As it was not intended that any of the shots should take effect, the Indians seemed rather more surprised than frightened.

Sunday 17th. Fine pleasant weather and variable faint breezes of wind. In the evening Mr. Bligh returned and reported that he had found a bay in which there was good anchorage and fresh water tolerable easy to come at, into this bay I resolved to go to refit the ships and take in take in water. At the night approached the Indians retired to the shore, a good many however desired to sleep on board, curiosity was not their only motive, at least not some of them, for the next morning several things were missing which determined me not to entertain so many another night.  At 11 AM anchored in the bay in 13 fathom water over a sandy bottom and a quarter mile from the NE shore. The ships very much crowded with Indians and surrounded by a multitude of canoes. I have nowhere in the sea seen such a number of people assembled at one place, besides those in the canoes all the shore of the bay was crowded with people and hundreds were swimming about the ships like shoals of fish. We should have found it difficult to keep them in order had not a chief exerted his authority by turning or driving them all out of the ships. Among our numerous visitors was a man named Tou-ah-ah, who we soon found belonged to the church, he introduced himself with much ceremony, in the course of which he presented me with a small pig, two coconuts and a piece of red cloth which he wrapped around me: in this manner all or most of the chief or people of note introduced themselves, but this man went farther, he brought with him a large hog and a quantity of fruits and roots all of which he included in the present. In the afternoon I went ashore to view the place, and as soon as we landed Tou-ah-ah took me by the hand and conducted me to a large Morai, the other gentleman and four or five more of the natives followed.

Whatever else Cook wrote has not survived. His log breaks off at a moment of considerable importance, the ceremony of the Morai was a long and elaborate one during which time Cook allowed himself to be led around the images of the gods, especially the primal god Ku after which he prostrated himself before and kissing the image of Ku. Two days later Cook was the centre of a second ceremony, also involving the sacrifice of pigs and the drinking of kava.

The circumstances over the following days which led to the death of Captain James Cook are not entirely clear as there was much dissatisfaction among the Hawaiian people. One Hawaiian man who stole the armourer's tongs in the Discovery was flogged with forty lashes and tied to the ship's main shrouds. At this time the Hawaiians armed themselves with stones and hindered a party that have gone ashore to collect water. The armourer's tongs were again stolen and, in the fracas that followed, the crews of two boats were stoned. When Cook went ashore, he encountered a very hostile crowd and this trip was his last.

Most commentators agree with the view that, for whatever reason, Captain James Cook was less patient and tolerant, more given to anger, more severe in his punishment, both in regard to his own men and the people they encountered during this last voyage. His measures to secure the relationship with indigenous people which he required had never really failed, but there probably had to be point when they would be resisted. The Hawaiians on his second visit to Kealakekua Bay were the first to meet his challenge and repudiate his conditions for coexistence. They would not allow their king to be taken into custody, and they were not deterred by musketry. They won the skirmish, and Cook paid the price of his high-risk strategy with his own life.

Oceania-The Last Voyage of Captain Cook

Captain James Cook - The First Voyage

Tonga - Recollections of an Early Visitor

Jane Resture's Oceania Page

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