|Captain James Cook by Nathaniel Dance-Holland, 1776|
Well, it occurs to me that today's post should be one with a little romance but I've plumped for something a little darker! It is off to Hawaii for a tale of murder and the final hours of Captain James Cook.
By February 1779 Captain James Cook was well-embarked on his exploration of the Hawaiin Islands, then known as the Sandwich Islands, and had spent an enjoyable period at Kealakekua Bay where he participated in festivities for the Makahiki, a Hawaiian celebration. However as the Resolution resumed her exploration of the ocean her foremast broke, and Cook ordered her return to Kealakekua Bay.
With their festivities concluded the islanders did not welcome the returning crew and tensions rose between the Hawaiians and their visitors that reached a head on 14th February. With thefts not uncommon, the theft of one of Cook's smallest boats was hardly unexpected, nor was the method of taking hostages that would be held as collateral for the stolen property. However, Cook decided to make a point by taking the King of Hawaiʻi, Kalaniʻōpuʻu, as hostage against the stolen boat.
|The Death of Captain James Cook, 14 February 1779 by Johann Zoffany, 1795|
The Hawaiians furiously defended their king and in the confusion a chief named Kalimu was shot dead. Pursued by the islanders, Cook and his men were forced to retreat to the beach, intending to return to their boats. However, before they could flee Cook was struck on the head by the pursuing villagers and fell to the ground, where he was stabbed to death. According to Hawaiian lore Cook's killer was a chief named Kalaimanokahoʻowaha or Kanaʻina, and following Cook's death and that of some of his men, the murdered captain's body was carried away by the islanders.
Due to their earlier respect for Cook, the Hawaiians prepared his corpse according to rituals reserved for their most illustrious people. His body was first disemboweled before being baked in order for the flesh to be removed and boned cleaned to be presented as religious icons. Some of the captain's remains were eventually presented to his crew and were buried at sea.