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.