Captain Cook worshiped as a god

Cook's second visit

Returning in November from the north with the idea of wintering in the islands, Cook first sighted Maui. The natives of that island manifested the same willingness to trade that had been shown by those of Kauai and Niihau. Indeed the Englishmen found evidence that reports of their previous visit had been spread throughout the entire group. Off the coast of Maui the ships were visited by Kalaniopuu, king of the island of Hawaii, and a group of his followers, among them being Kamehameha, who remained on board all night. Nearly two months were spent in sailing along the coasts of Maui and Hawaii, without landing at any point, though a more or less continuous traffic was carried on for provisions. In the middle of January, 1779, the two ships sailed around the south of Hawaii and on the seventeenth day of that month came to anchor in Kealakekua Bay, where they were at once surrounded by a
multitude of canoes. "Besides those who had come off to us in canoes, all the shore of the bay was covered with spectators, and many hundreds were swimming round the ships like shoals of fish."

Cook worshiped as a god

The ships were immediately visited by several chiefs, among them a priest, who paid their respects to Captain Cook in a formal manner. On going ashore he was treated with religious veneration by chiefs and common people alike, being taken to the heiau of Hikiau where he was made the center of an elaborate ceremony, by which the natives meant to acknowledge him as an akua. There can be no doubt that at first the Hawaiians looked upon Cook as the incarnation of their god Lono, though this fact does not seem to have been clearly understood by the Englishmen.

The next day astronomical instruments were landed from the ships and set up in a sweet potato patch which was tapued for them by the priests. Part of the crew went ashore to fill the water barrels and others were put to work repairing the ships. The Hawaiians looked at all of these operations with much interest, helping the crew at times, frequently visiting the ships, and every day sending on board large quantities of hogs and vegetables. On the twenty-fifth of January King Kalaniopuu arrived from Maui and greeted Captain Cook in a truly royal style, presenting him with a magnificent gift of a feather cloak and helmet. Among the entertainments provided for the strangers were boxing and wrestling matches; and in return the natives were allowed to witness a display of fireworks.

Unpleasant incidents

During this time the relations between the Englishmen and the Hawaiians were on the whole very friendly, this being especially true in the case of King Kalaniopuu and Captain Cook. Lieutenant King, who had charge of the sailors on shore, also became a great favorite with the natives. Nevertheless, a number of unpleasant incidents occurred, growing in part out of some rather high-handed actions of the strangers, in part out of the natural tendency of some of the natives to take whatever suited their fancy, but more from the misunderstandings due to the imperfect knowledge each side had of the language, customs, and habits of the other. It is also likely that some of the Hawaiians came to doubt that Captain Cook was a god. But the efforts of the leaders on both sides prevented any serious trouble, and on February 4 the two ships took their departure, after Captain Cook and Lieutenant King had received from King Kalaniopuu gifts which astonished them on account of their value and magnitude.

Death of Captain Cook

A week later the ships returned to Kealakekua, a serious defect having been discovered in one of the masts which made it necessary to take it on shore for repair. At this time the ships were not received quite as cordially as before and serious quarrels very soon broke out. Finally on the night of February 13 a boat was taken from the Discovery by the natives, removed to another part of the bay, and broken to pieces for the nails which it contained. The next morning Captain Cook, considering this a serious matter, took determined measures for the recovery of the boat. He first put a blockade on the bay and then went ashore to the village of Kaawaloa for the purpose of persuading or compelling the king to go aboard the Resolution, meaning to keep him there until the boat was returned or satisfactory reparation made for it. This was a method which he had already used in the South Pacific and up to this time it had never failed to accomplish its purpose. At first it seemed that it would succeed in this case also, but Kalaniopuu's wife and several chiefs tried to keep the king on shore and this caused him to hesitate.

A quarrel quickly developed between the Englishmen and the natives, which soon led to blows. At about the same time a chief entering the further side of the bay without knowing about the blockade was killed by a shot from one of the boats. News of this came swiftly to the place where Cook was standing, surrounded by natives. One of the chiefs "seized Captain Cook with a strong hand, designing merely to hold him, and not to take his life; for he supposed him to be a god, and that he could not die. Captain Cook struggled to free himself from the grasp, and as he was about to fall uttered a groan. The people immediately exclaimed, 'He groans -- he is not a god,' and instantly slew him."

Besides Captain Cook four marines and about a score of natives were killed in this unfortunate affray. The bodies of the five Englishmen were immediately carried off by the natives and treated according to the Hawaiian custom. The bones of Captain Cook were divided among the high chiefs and priests.

In spite of the tragedy which had occurred, the policy of Captain Clerke, who succeeded to the command of the ships, was to bring about a reconciliation with the natives and to recover the bodies of Captain Cook and the marines who had been killed. In these efforts he was fairly successful, though the English sailors were eager for revenge, which made it hard to keep them under control. After the first burst of anger had cooled, the Hawaiians, with few exceptions, seem to have sincerely regretted their own part in the tragedy and did what they could to restore the former friendly relations. Most of the bones of Captain Cook were recovered and these were buried beneath the waters of the bay on Sunday, February 21, with an impressive funeral service, a tapu being placed on the bay for this occasion by the Hawaiians.

The following day final preparations for departure were made and that evening the ships sailed out of the bay. "The natives were collected on the shore in great numbers; and, as we passed along, received our last farewells with every mark of affection and good will." After brief stops at Oahu and Kauai the English ships continued their course toward the north in order to complete their explorations in that region.

No comments: