In the dawn hours of January 18, 1778 British explorer Captain James Cook first sighted the Hawaiian Islands. At the time of Cook’s arrival, the Hawaiian Islands were divided into four kingdoms: (1) the island of Hawaiʻi under the rule of Kalaniʻōpuʻu, who also had possession of the Hāna district of east Maui; (2) Maui (except the Hāna district,) Molokai, Lānaʻi and Kahoʻolawe, ruled by Kahekili; (3) Oʻahu, under the rule of Kahahana; and at (4) Kauai and Niʻihau, Kamakahelei was ruler.
After a month’s stay, Cook got under sail to resume his exploration of the Northern Pacific. Shortly after leaving Hawaiʻi Island, the foremast of the Resolution broke and the ships returned to Kealakekua Bay for repairs. On February 14, 1779, at Kealakekua Bay, some Hawaiians took one of Cook’s small boats. He attempted to take hostage the King of Hawaiʻi, Kalaniʻōpuʻu. The Hawaiians prevented this and Cook and some of his men were killed. Clerke took over the expedition and they left.