FEBRUARY 14, 1779

KIDNAPPING OF KING KALANI’OPU’U AND THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN JAMES COOK

In January 1778, Captain James Cook first encountered the Hawaiian Islands.  He was welcomed with honor by Native Hawaiians fascinated by the ships, Resolute and Discovery, and the use of iron.  In January 1779, he returned, anchoring in Kealakekua Bay.  Initially treated with almost adoration,native dealings with Cook soon soured.  On February 4, Cook’s ships sailed to sea, but a damaged mast forced their return.  This reception was not welcoming.  After the Hawaiians stole one of his cutters, on February 14, Cook retaliated by trying to kidnap Kalaniʻōpuʻu, the aliʻi nui (king) of the Island of Hawai’i.  He was met on the beach by a mob of natives.  Cook was stabbed fatally with a metal dagger from one of his ships.  Four Marines were also killed and the remainder of the party fled to their ship.  Cook’s ships remained another week and the ship’s cannon killed many more Hawaiians.  Yet, Cook’s remains were treated by the Hawaiians with dignity.  Some remains were later returned to his crew for burial at sea.

Sources:  Glyndwr Williams (2008). The Death of Captain Cook: A Hero Made and Unmade. Harvard University Press. p. 37. ISBN 978-0-674-03194-4.  “1779: Captain Cook killed in Hawaii,” This Day In History, History.com, 2/9/2010.  Retrieved 6/8/2019, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/captain-cook-killed-in-hawaii
Painting:  Johann Zoffany (1733-1810), circa 1795, unfinished.  Public domain.  No known copyright restrictions in U.S.  Public Domain in U.S.:  Pre 1/1/1925.  Public Domain elsewhere where copyright term is author’s life plus 100 years or less. 

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