Discovery of the Sandwich Islands—Exploration of the Western shore of America—From thence to Behring Straits—Return to the Hawain Group—History of Rono—Death of Cook—Return of the Expedition to England.

On the 18th of January, 1778, in longitude 160° and latitude 20° north, the two vessels perceived the first islands of the Sandwich or Hawain archipelago.

It did not take long to convince the navigators that they were inhabited. A large number of pirogues left Atooi or Tavaï Island and surrounded the ships.

The English were not a little surprised at hearing these natives speak in the Tahitan language. On this account the intercourse between them was soon friendly, and next day numbers of the islanders agreed to go on board. They showed their astonishment and admiration, at the sight of so many unknown objects, by their looks, gestures, and continual exclamations. Iron they were acquainted with, and called "hamaite."

But their covetousness was soon excited by so many curiosities and precious things, and they tried to appropriate them both by honest and by illicit means.

Their cleverness and their taste for thieving was as keen as is usual with the natives of the southern seas. It was necessary to take a thousand precautions, and they were often taken in vain, to guard against their larceny. The English, when they approached the shore, under charge of Lieutenant Williamson, to sound and search for anchorage, were forced to repulse the attempts of the natives by force. The death of one of them repressed their turbulence in a measure, and gave them an exalted opinion of the strength of the new arrivals.

As soon, however, as the Resolution and Discovery had cast anchor in Ouai Mea Bay, Cook had himself taken on shore. He had scarcely touched land, when the natives assembled in a crowd upon the strand, prostrated themselves at his feet, and welcomed him with signs of the most profound respect.

Cook's reception by the natives
Cook's reception by the natives.

This extraordinary reception gave promise of a pleasant stay, for provisions appeared to be abundant; fruits, pigs, fowls, began to arrive from all parts. At the same time a party of natives assisted the English sailors in filling the casks with water, and in carrying them on board.

Anderson and the draughtsman Weller were encouraged by this friendly conduct to advance into the interior. They were not long in coming upon a moraï, similar in every respect to the Tahitian moraïs. This discovery confirmed the English in the ideas induced by the similarity of the language with that of Tahiti. An engraving in Cook's narrative represents the interior of this morai. In it two figures may be seen, standing, the top of the heads disappearing in high cylindrical hats, similar to those on the statues in Easter Island. In any case, the singular resemblance gives rise to reflection.

Cook remained two days more in this anchorage and could only extol the traffic with the natives. He then explored the neighbouring Island of Oneeheow. In spite of his great wish to explore this interesting archipelago, he set sail, and from a distance perceived Ouahou Island, and the reef of Tahoora which he designated by the general appellation of Sandwich Archipelago. This name has been superseded by the native appellation of Hawai. Strong and vigorous, although of medium height, the Hawaians are represented by Anderson as being of frank and loyal character. Not so serious as the natives of the Friendly Isles, they are less frivolous than the Tahitans.

Clever, industrious, and intelligent, their plantations showed a knowledge of rural economy, and an extensive taste for agriculture. They not only abstained from showing the childish and common curiosity which the English had so often noticed, but they inquired into their customs and evinced a certain regret for their own inferiority.

The population appeared considerable, and was estimated at 30,000 in Tavai Island alone. In their style of dress, their choice of food, their manner of preparing it, and their general habits, they conform to the customs of Tahiti. This identity of two populations separated by a large stretch of sea gave the English much food for reflection.

During his first stay Cook did not become acquainted with any chief, but Captain Clerke, of the Discovery, at last received a visit from one. He was a young and well-made man, wrapped up from head to foot. The natives testified their respect by kneeling before him. Clerke made him several presents, and in return received a vase decorated with two small figures, fairly well sculptured, which served for the "kava," a favourite drink of the Hawaians, as well as the natives of Tonga. Their weapons comprise bows, clubs, and lances, the latter made of a strong and durable wood, and a sort of poignard called "paphoa," terminating in a point at both ends. The custom of "tabu" was just as universally practised as in the Friendly Islands, and the natives were always careful to ask if things were "tabu" before they touched them.

On the 27th of February, Cook continued his course to the north, and soon fell in with the sea wrack of the rocks mentioned by the narrator of Lord Anson's voyage. On the 1st of March he steered for the east, in order to approach the American coast, and five days later he recognized New Albion, so named by Francis Drake.

The expedition, coasting at a distance, surveyed Cape Blanc, already seen by Martin d'Aguilar on the 19th of January, 1603, and near which the geographers placed a large opening, to the strait, the discovery of which they attributed to him. Shortly afterwards the latitude of Juan de Fuca was reached, but nothing resembling it was discovered, although this strait really exists, and divides the continent from Vancouver's Island.

Cook soon reconnoitred a bay in latitude 49° 15', to which he gave the name of Hope Bay. He anchored there to obtain water, and give a little rest to his worn-out crews. This coast was inhabited, and three boats approached the vessels.

"One of the savages," he says, "rose up, and with many gesticulations made a long speech, which we understood as an invitation to land. In addition, he threw feathers towards us, and many of his companions threw us handfuls of dust or red powder. The native who usurped the post of orator was clothed in a skin, and in each hand he held something which he shook, and which emitted a sound like that of a child's rattle.

"When he was tired of haranguing and exhorting, of which we did not understand a word, he rested, but two other men took up the speech in succession. Their speeches were not so long, and they did not declaim so vehemently.

"Many of the natives had their faces painted in an extraordinary way, and feathers fixed in their heads. Although they appeared friendly, it was impossible to persuade any of them to come on board. However, as the vessels had cast anchor, the captain had the sails furled, took in the topmasts, and unrigged the mizzen mast of theResolution, in order to allow of repairs. Barter with the Indians soon commenced, and the most rigorous honesty prevailed. The objects offered were bear and wolf skins, and those of foxes, deers, and polecats, weasels, and especially otters, which are found in the islands east of Kamschatka. Also clothes made of a kind of hemp, bows, lances, fish-hooks, monstrous figures, and a kind of stuff of hair or wool, bags filled with red ochre, bits of sculptured wood, trinkets of copper and iron shaped like horse-shoes, which they wore hung from the nose.

"Human ears and hands, not yet free from flesh, struck us most among the things they offered us. They made us clearly understand that they had eaten the portions that were missing, and we indeed perceived that these hands and ears had been on the fire."

The English were not long in ascertaining that these natives were as habitual robbers as any they had hitherto met with. They were even more dangerous, as, possessing iron implements, they could easily cut the cords. They combined their thefts with intelligence, and one of them amused the sentinel at one end of the boat, whilst another snatched the iron from the other end. They sold a quantity of very good oil, and a great deal of fish, especially sardines.

When the numerous repairs needed by the ships were made, and the grass required for the few goats and sheep remaining on board had been shipped, Cook set sail on the 26th of April, 1778.

He gave the name of King George's Sound to the spot where he had stayed, although it was called Nootka by the natives.

The vessels had scarcely gained the open sea when a violent tempest overtook them, during which the Resolution sprung a leak on the starboard side below the water line.

Carried away by the storm, Cook passed the spot selected by geographers as the situation of the Strait of Admiral de Fonte, though he greatly wished to dispel all doubt on the subject.

The captain therefore continued along the American coast, surveying and naming the principal points. During this cruise he had constant intercourse with the Indians, and was not slow in noticing that their canoes had been replaced by boats, of which only the framework was wood, and over which were spread seal-skins.

Prince William's Sound
Prince William's Sound.

After a stay at Prince William's Sound, where the leak of the Resolution was repaired, Cook resumed his voyage, reconnoitred and named Elizabeth and Saint Hermogene Capes, Bank's Point, Capes Douglas and Bede, Saint Augustine's Mount, the River Cook, Kodiak Island, Trinity Island, and the islands called Schumagin by Behring. Afterwards he passed Bristol Bay, Round Island, Calm Point, Newenham Cape, where Lieutenant Williamson landed, and Anderson Island, so called in honour of the naturalist, who died there of disease of the chest; later, King Island, and Prince of Wales's Cape, the most western extremity of America. Cook then passed the Asiatic coast and entered into communication with the Tchouktchis, entered Behring Strait on the 11th of April, and next week came in contact with ice.

He tried in vain to survey in various directions. The iceberg presented an insuperable barrier. On the 17th of April, 1778, the expedition was in latitude 70° 41'. During an entire month he coasted the iceberg, in the hope of finding an opening which might enable him to proceed to the north, but in vain. It was remarked that "the ice was clear and transparent except in the upper part, which was slightly porous."

"I supposed," says Cook, "that it was frozen snow, and it appeared to me that it must have been formed in the open sea, both because it is improbable, or rather impossible, that such enormous masses could float down rivers which contain too little water for a boat, and also because we perceived no produce of the earth, which we must have done if it was so formed."

Up to this date the passage through Behring's Strait had been the least used to reach the northern latitudes. Cook's observation is valuable, as it proves that beyond this aperture a vast extent of sea without land must exist. It may possibly be (this was the view held by the lamented Gustave Lambert) that this sea is open. No greater distance north has ever been attained since Cook's time, except on the Siberian coast—where Plover and Long Islands were discovered, and where at this moment, as we write, Professor Nordenskjold is exploring.1

1 [On the 5th September, 1879, a telegram from Stockholm announced that the Swedish Arctic Expedition under Professor Nordenskjold had made the North-East Passage from Europe to Japan, and that the Swedish exploring vessel, the Vega, had arrived at Yokohama by way of Behring's Straits.]—Translator.

After most careful exploration and repeated efforts to reach higher latitudes, Cook, seeing that the season was advanced, and encountering more icebergs daily, had no choice but to seek winter quarters in a more clement country, before continuing his expedition the following summer. He therefore retraced his route as far as Ounalaska Island, and on the 26th of October steered towards the Sandwich Islands, hoping to complete his survey of them during his wintering there.

An island was discovered on the 26th of November. The natives sold a quantity of fruits, roots, bread-fruits, potatoes, "taro" and "eddy" roots, which they exchanged for nails and iron implements. It was Mowee Island, which forms part of the Sandwich Archipelago. Shortly afterwards Owhyhee or Hawai was sighted, the summits of which were covered with snow.

The captain says:—

"We never met savages so liberal as these in their views. They usually sent the different articles they wished to sell to the ships. They then came on board themselves, and finished their 'trade' on the quarter-deck. The Tahitans, in spite of our constant stays there, have not the same confidence in us. I conclude from this that the inhabitants of Owhyhee are more accurate and true in their reciprocal trade than those of Tahiti, for the latter have no honour among themselves, and are thus not inclined to believe in the honour of others."

On the 17th of January Cook and Clerke cast anchor in a bay, called by the natives Karakakooa. The sails were unbent from the yard, the yards and the top-mast struck. The vessels were crowded with visitors and surrounded by pirogues, and the shore was covered by a curious multitude. Cook had never previously seen so much excitement. Among the chiefs who came on board the Resolution, a young man named Pareea was soon remarked. He said he was "Iakanee," but it was not known that was his title of office, or if it suggested a degree of relationship or alliance with the king. However, he evidently had great authority over the common people. Some presents, opportunely given, attached him to the English, and he rendered them more than one service.

If Cook on his first visit to Hawai pronounced that the natives were little disposed to robbery, he was not of the same opinion this time. Their large numbers gave them many facilities for thieving trifles, and encouraged them to think that their larceny would not be punished. It became evident at last that they were encouraged by their chiefs, for several stolen objects were found in the possession of the latter.

Pareea and another chief named Kaneena brought an old man on board, whose name was Koah. He was very thin and his body was covered with white scurf from immoderate use of "ava." He was a priest. When he was presented to Cook, he put a sort of red mantle which he had brought upon his shoulders, and gravely delivered a long discourse as he gave him a little pig. It was soon proved that it was intended as a form of adoration, for all the idols were clothed in similar stuff. The English were immensely astonished at the whimsical ceremonies of homage presented to Cook. They only understood them later, through the researches of the learned missionary Ellis. We shall give a brief account of his interesting discovery. It will make the recital of the events that followed plainer.

They gave him a little pig
"They gave him a little pig."

According to tradition, a certain Rono, who lived under one of the ancient kings of Hawai, had killed his wife, whom he tenderly loved, in a transport of jealousy. The grief and sorrow which followed upon his act, drove him mad; he ran about the island, quarrelling with, and striking everybody. At last, tired out, but not satiated, with murder, he embarked, promising to return one day, upon a floating island, bringing cocoa-nuts, pigs, and dogs.

This legend had been embodied in a national song, and became an article of faith with the priests, who added Rono to their list of deities. Confident in the fulfilment of the prediction, they awaited his coming every year, with a patience which nothing could exhaust.

Is not there a strange resemblance between this legend and that relating to the Mexican god Quetzalcoatl, who, forced to fly from the wrath of a more powerful god, embarked upon a skiff of serpent skin, promising those who accompanied him to return at some later time, and visit the country with his descendants?

As soon as the English ships appeared, the high priest Koah and his son One-La declared that it was Rono himself, fulfilling his prediction. From that moment Cook was a divinity for the entire population. As he went about, the natives prostrated themselves. The priests made him speeches or addressed prayers to him. They would have sprinkled him with incense had that been fashionable at Hawai. The captain felt that there was something extraordinary in these demonstrations, but, unable to understand it, he resigned himself for the sake of his crew and for the advancement of science to the mysterious circumstances he was unable to unravel.

He was obliged to give himself up to all kinds of ceremonies, which appeared, to him at least, ridiculous. Thus he was taken to a moraï, a solid construction of stone forty roods long and fourteen high. The summit was well built and was surrounded by a wooden balustrade, upon which were hung the ears of the captives sacrificed to the gods. At the opening of the platform were two large wooden figures with grinning faces, and bodies draped in red stuff, the heads surmounted by a large piece of sculptured wood, the shape of a reversed cone. There Koah mounted with Cook upon a sort of table, under which lay a rotten pig and a quantity of fruit. Some men brought a living pig in a procession, and some scarlet cloth in which it was wrapped. The priests then sang some religious hymns, while the assistants were devoutly prostrated at the entrance of the moraï. After various ceremonies, which it would take too long to describe, a pig, cooked in the oven, was presented to the captain, with fruits and the roots which were used in the preparation of "ava."

"The ava," says Cook, "was then handed round, and when we had tasted it, Koah and Pareea divided the flesh of the pig into several pieces, which they placed in our mouths."

"I felt no repugnance when Pareea, who is very clean, gave me something to eat," says Lieutenant King, "but Cook, to whom Koah offered the same attention, could not swallow a morsel, as he thought of the putrid pig. The old man, wishing to redouble his politeness, tried to give him pieces already chewed, and one can easily imagine that the disgust of our captain increased."

After this ceremony Cook was conducted to his boat, by four men carrying sticks, who repeated the same words and phrases as at the landing, in the midst of a kneeling host of the natives. The same ceremonies were observed every time the captain landed. One of the priests always walked before him, announcing that Rono had landed, and ordering the people to prostrate themselves.

If the English had reason to feel satisfied with the priests, who loaded them with attentions and presents, it was otherwise with the "carees," or warriors. The latter encouraged the robberies which were perpetrated daily, and in other ways exhibited disloyalty. Still, up to the 24th of January, 1779, no important event occurred. Upon that day the English were surprised to see that none of the pirogues left the river to trade with the ships. The arrival of "Terreoboo" had made the bay "tabu," and prevented any communication with the strangers. Upon the same day, the chief, or rather king, went without ceremony to the ships. He had but one pirogue, in which were his wife and children. On the 26th, Terreoboo paid a second visit, which was official.

"Cook," says the narrative, "noticing that the prince landed, followed him and arrived about the same time. He conducted them to the tent; they were scarcely seated when the prince rose, and in a graceful manner threw his mantle over the captain's shoulders. He further placed a hat of feathers upon his head, and a curious fan in Cook's hands, at whose feet he also spread five or six very pretty mantles of great value."

Terreoboo and the principal chiefs of his suite asked many questions of the English as to the time of their leaving. The captain wished to ascertain the opinion the Hawaians had formed of the English; but he could only learn that they supposed them to be the natives of a country where provisions were scarce, and that they had simply come there "to fill their stomachs." This conviction arose from the emaciated appearance of some of the sailors, and from the desire to ship fresh victuals.

There was no fear, however, of exhausting their provisions, in spite of the immense quantity which had been consumed since the English arrived. It is very likely that the king wished for time to prepare the present he intended to offer the strangers upon their leaving; and, accordingly, the day before the one fixed upon, the king begged Captains Cook and Clerke to accompany him to his residence. Enormous heaps of every kind of vegetable, parcels of stuffs, yellow and red feathers, and a herd of pigs were collected together.

All this was a gratuitous gift to the king from his subjects. Terreoboo chose about a third of these articles, and gave the rest to the two captains—a more valuable present than they had ever received either at Tonga or Tahiti.

On the 4th of February the vessels left the bay, but the damage received by the Resolution forced her to put in again in a few days. The vessels had scarcely cast anchor before the English noticed a change in the conduct of the natives. Still all went on peaceably until the afternoon of the 13th. Upon that day several chiefs wished to prevent the natives from assisting the English in filling their casks. A tumult ensued. The natives armed themselves with stones, and became threatening.

The officer in command of the detachment was ordered by Cook to draw upon the natives, if they persisted in throwing stones, or became insolent. Under these circumstances, a pirogue was fired into, and it was soon apparent that a robbery had been committed by its crew.

At the same time a still more serious dispute arose. A sloop belonging to Pareea was seized by an officer, who took it to the Discovery. The chief hastened to claim his belongings, and to protest his innocence. The discussion grew animated, and Pareea was overthrown by a blow from an oar.

The natives, who had hitherto been peaceable observers, armed themselves with stones, forced the sailors to retire precipitately, and took possession of the pinnace which had brought them. Pareea, forgetful of his resentment at this moment, interposed, and restored the pinnace to the English, together with several things which had been stolen.

"I am afraid the Indians will force me to violent measures," said Cook, upon learning what had passed. "We must not allow them to believe that they have gained an advantage over us."

The boat of the Discovery was stolen upon the 13th or 14th of February. The captain determined to possess himself of the person of Terreoboo, or some others of the leading persons, and to keep them as hostages until the stolen objects were restored to him.

He therefore landed with a detachment of marines, and pursued his way to the king's residence. He was received with the usual marks of respect on the road, and perceiving Terreoboo and his two sons, to whom he said a few words on the theft of the sloop, he decided to pass the day on board the Resolution.

The matter took a happy turn, and the two young princes embarked upon the pinnace, when one of Terreoboo's wives begged him with tears not to go on board. Two other chiefs joined her, and the natives, frightened by the hostile preparations they saw, began to crowd round the king and captain. The latter hurried to embark, and the prince appeared willing to follow him, but the chiefs interposed, and used force to prevent his doing so.

Cook, seeing that his project had failed, and that he could only put it into execution by bloodshed, gave it up, and walked quietly along the shore to regain his boat, when a rumour spread that one of the principal chiefs had been killed. The women and children were therefore sent away, and all directed their attention to the English.

A native armed with a "pahooa" defied the captain, and as he would not cease his threats, Cook discharged his pistol. The native, protected by a thick mat, did not feel himself wounded, and so became more audacious. Several others advanced, and the captain discharged his gun at the nearest and killed him. This was the signal for a general attack.

The last that was seen of Cook was his signing to the boats to cease firing, and to approach, that his small troop might embark. In vain! The captain was struck and fell to the earth.

"The natives," says the narrative, "uttered cries of joy when they saw him fall. They at once dragged his body along the shore, and taking the poniard one after the other, they all attacked him with ferocious blows until he ceased to breathe."

Thus perished this great navigator, assuredly the most illustrious produced by England. The boldness of his undertakings, his perseverance in carrying them out, and the extent of his knowledge, all made him a type of the true sailor of discovery.

Itinerary of the principal voyagers during the 18th century, after Cook
Gravé par E. Morieu.
(Fac-simile of early engraving.)

What immense service he has rendered to geography! In his first voyage he reconnoitred the Society Islands, proved that New Zealand is formed of two islands, explored the strait that separates them, and surveyed its coast, and lastly he visited the entire eastern coast of New Holland.

In his second voyage he proved the chimerical character of the long-talked-of Antarctic continent, the dream of stay-at-home geographers. He discovered New Caledonia, Southern Georgia, the Sandwich Islands, and penetrated farther into the southern hemisphere than any one had done before him.

In his third expedition he discovered the Hawaian archipelago, and surveyed the eastern coast of America, to the forty-third degree, that is to say, an extent of 3500 miles. He passed through Behring Straits, and ventured into the Arctic Sea, which was the horror of navigators, until the icebergs opposed an impenetrable barrier to his progress.

It is needless to praise his qualities as a seaman; his hydrographical works remain, but above all his careful treatment of his crews deserves to be remembered. To it was due their ability to bear the long and trying voyages, which he made with so little loss of life.

After this fatal day the English folded their tents and returned on board. Their offers for the recovery of the body of their unfortunate captain were in vain. In their anger they were about to have recourse to arms, when two priests, friends of Lieutenant King, brought a piece of human flesh at the instance of the other chiefs, which weighed from nine to ten pounds. It was all, they said, that remained of Rono's body, which had been burnt according to custom. This sight of course made the English still more anxious for reprisals, and the natives on their side had to avenge the death of five chiefs and a score of men. Every time the English landed at their watering place they found a furious crowd armed with stones and sticks. In order to make an example, Captain Clerke, who had taken the command of the expedition, set fire to the abodes of the priests, and massacred those who opposed them.

On the 19th of February, however, an interview was arranged, and the remains of Cook, his hands, recognizable by a large scar, his head, stripped of flesh, and various other débris, were made over to the English, who three days later paid them the last honours.

After that, barter was resumed as if nothing had happened, and no other incident occurred during the remainder of the stay in the Sandwich Islands.

Captain Clerke had relinquished the command of the Discovery to Lieutenant Gore, and hoisted his flag upon the Resolution. After completing the survey of the Hawaian Islands, he set sail for the north, touched at Kamschatka, where the Russians made him heartily welcome, passed through Behring Strait, and advanced as far as latitude 69° 50' north, where his further progress was barred by icebergs.

On the 22nd of April, 1779, Captain Clerke died of pulmonary phthisis, aged thirty-eight.

Captain Gore then assumed the command in chief, put in again at Kamschatka, again at Canton, and at the Cape of Good Hope, and anchored in the Thames on the 1st of October, 1780, after more than four years' absence.

The death of Captain Cook caused a general mourning throughout England. The Royal Society of London, of which he was a member, struck a medal in his honour, the cost of which was covered by public subscription, to which persons of the highest rank subscribed.

The Admiralty petitioned the king to provide for the family of the deceased captain. The king granted a pension of 200l. to his widow, and 25l. to each of his three sons. The charts and drawings relating to his last voyage were engraved at the expense of the government, and the proceeds of their sale divided among Cook's family, and the heirs of Captain Clerke and Captain King.

Although the family of the great navigator is extinct, a proof of the esteem in which his memory is held was given in the solemn meeting of the French Geographical Society on the 4th of February, 1879.

A large number assembled to celebrate the centenary of Cook's death. Amongst them were many representatives of the Australian colonies, which are now so flourishing, and of the Hawaian Archipelago, where he met his death. A quantity of relics belonging to the great navigator, his charts, Webber's magnificent water-colours, and the instruments and weapons of the Oceanic islanders decorated the walls.

This touching homage, after the lapse of a hundred years, was accorded by a people whose king had bidden them not to thwart Cook's scientific and civilizing mission, and was well calculated to awake an echo in England, and to draw yet closer the bonds of that good fellowship which exists between England and France.