We always recall that Captain James Cook died at Kealakekua Bay on the Big Island, but often overlook that the first reported contact by the white man in the islands occurred in Waimea, Kaua‘i.
Hawaiian lives changed with sudden and lasting impact when in 1778, Cook and his crew arrived. Western contact changed the course of history for Hawai‘i.
Cook named the archipelago the Sandwich Islands in honor of his patron, the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Earl of Sandwich.
Cook’s crew first sighted the Hawaiian Islands in the dawn hours of January 18, 1778. His two ships, the HMS Resolution and the HMS Discovery, were kept at bay by the weather until the next day when they approached Kaua‘i’s southeast coast.
On the afternoon of January 19, native Hawaiians in canoes paddled out to meet Cook’s ships, and so began Hawai‘i’s contact with Westerners. The first Hawaiians to greet Cook were from the Kōloa south shore.
The Hawaiians traded fish and sweet potatoes for pieces of iron and brass that were lowered down from Cook’s ships to the Hawaiians’ canoes.
Cook continued to sail along the coast searching for a suitable anchorage. His two ships remained offshore, but a few Hawaiians were allowed to come on board on the morning of January 20, before Cook continued on in search of a safe harbor.
On the afternoon of January 20, 1778, Cook anchored his ships near the mouth of the Waimea River on Kaua‘i’s southwestern shore.
As they stepped ashore for the first time, Cook and his men were greeted by hundreds of Hawaiians who offered gifts of pua‘a (pigs), and mai‘a (bananas) and kapa (tapa) barkcloth.
Cook went ashore at Waimea three times the next day, walking inland to where he saw Hawaiian hale (houses), heiau (places of worship) and agricultural sites.
At the time, the region was thriving with many thatched homes as well as lo‘i kalo (taro patches) and various other food crops such as niu (coconuts) and ‘ulu (breadfruit).
After trading for provisions, gathering water and readying for sail, Cook left the island and continued his search of the “Northwest Passage,” an elusive (because it was non-existent) route from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean.
On January 17, 1779, Cook returned to the Hawaiian Islands, sailing into Kealakekua Bay on the island of Hawai‘i. Less than one month later, on February 14, 1779, Cook and several of his men were killed in an encounter with the Hawaiians on the shoreline of Kealakekua Bay.
The image of Discovery & Resolution along Kauaʻi’s South Shore drawn by William Ellis – 1778 (it is believed to be the first image by a Westerner of Hawaiʻi.)
In addition, I have added other images related to Cook and Waimea, Kauaʻi (these images are some of the earliest images of Hawaiʻi, depicting some of the people and places at the moment of contact.) in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook page.