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Captain Cook Monument

The Life of Captain Cook

Capt. Cook Monument, Big Island
No doubt, Captain James Cook was a man of great ambition.

His life’s goal, the famed voyager once wrote, was to journey not only “further than any man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for a man to go.”

Captain Cook Monument

A monument to Captain Cook stands at Kealakekua Bay. The inscription reads, “In memory of the great circumnavigator, Captain James Cook, R.N., who discovered these islands on the 10th of January, A.D. 1778 and fell near this spot on the 14th of February, A.D. 1779.”

The Life Of Captain James Cook

Born on October 27, 1728, in Marton, England, Cook began his career at the age of 18 on a coal transport ship on the Baltic Sea. During England’s war with the French in 1755, he enlisted as an Able Seaman on the Eagle. He was promoted to Master’s Mate within a month, and four years later found himself at the helm of his own ship.

Cook’s three Pacific major voyages helped provide his country with unprecedented information about the Pacific Ocean and the people who inhabited its islands. His third exploration of the Pacific resulted in his “discovery” of the Hawaiian islands.

Cook and his crew departed Plymouth on July 12, 1776, in the Resolution and the Discovery. The primary goal of the trip was to determine whether there was a northwest passage above the North American continent. Cook sailed around Africa and made stops at Australia, New Zealand, and Tahiti on the way north. He named Christmas Island and passed by the Hawaiian islands, then sailed up the Alaskan coast.

On the way back, Cook returned to the Hawaiian islands to replenish and repair his ships. He named this group of islands “The Sandwich Isles” after a friend and supporter, John Montague, the Earl of Sandwich.

Searching for a safe harbor, Cook eventually moored in Kealakekua Bay on the Kona Coast of the Big Island. Many historians believe that the Hawaiians regarded him as a representative of Lono, the god of fertility and harvest. Cook’s arrival happened to coincide with the Hawaiians’ Makahiki season, a period when all wars ceased and games were held to honor Lono. Thus, Cook was treated like a god, with natives lavishing him with gifts and holding ceremonies in his honor.

After Cook and his crew departed, a storm damaged the Resolution, forcing a return to Kealakekua. Suddenly wary, the natives could not understand how a god could have allowed this to happen. Their respect for Cook waned, and relations between the Hawaiians and the foreigners grew tense. A misunderstanding led to a fierce battle, and Cook was killed by angry natives.