In January, 1778, Captain Cook was travelling from Christmas Island (“As we kept our Christmas here, I called this discovery Christmas Island” (Cook,)) heading across the north Pacific to the Oregon coast of North America, he wasn’t looking for Hawai‘i.
“On the 2d of January, at day-break, we weighed anchor (at Christmas Island,) and resumed our course to the north; having fine weather, and a gentle breeze at east, and east-south-east …”
“We continued to see birds every day … sometimes in greater numbers than others; and between the latitude of 10° and 11% we saw several turtle.”
“All these are looked upon us signs of the vicinity of land.”
“However, we discovered none till day-break, in the morning of the 18th, when an island made its appearance, bearing northeast by east (O‘ahu;) and, soon after, we saw more land bearing north (Kauai,) and entirely detached from the former. Both had the appearance of being high land.”
“On the 19th, at sunrise, the island first seen, bore east several leagues distant. This being directly to windward, which prevented our getting near it, I stood for the other, which we could reach; and not long after discovered a third island (Ni‘ihau) in the direction of west north-west, as far distant as land could be seen.”
“We had now a fine breeze at east by north; and I steered for the east end of the second island ; which at noon extended from north, half east, to west northwest, a quarter west, the nearest part being about two leagues distant.”
“At this time, we were in some doubt whether or no the land before us was inhabited; but this doubt was soon cleared up, by seeing some canoes coming off from the shore, toward the ships.”
“I immediately brought-to, to give them time to join us.” … Contact.
“They had from three to six men each; and, on their approach, we were agreeably surprised to find, that they spoke the language of Otaheite, and of the other islands we had lately visited. It required but very little address, to get them to come alongside ; but no intreaties could prevail upon any of them to come on board.”
“I tied some brass medals to a rope, and gave them to those in one of the canoes, who, in return, tied some small mackerel to the rope as an equivalent.”
“This was repeated; and some small nails, or bits of iron, which they valued more than any other article, were given them. For these they exchanged more fish, and a sweet potatoe; a sure sign that they had some notion of bartering; or, at least, of returning one present for another.”
“Seeing no signs of an anchoring place at this eastern extreme of the island, I bore away to leeward, and ranged along the south east side, at the distance of half a league from the shore.”
“As soon as we made sail, the canoes left us; but others came off, as we proceeded along the coast, bringing with them roasting pigs, and some very fine potatoes, which they exchanged, as the others had done, for whatever was offered to them.”
“Several small pigs were purchased for a sixpenny nail; so that we again found ourselves in a land of plenty; and just at the time when the turtle, which we had so fortunately procured at Christmas Island, were nearly expended.”
For the next 15-days, Cook and his crew effectively took the time to barter for provisions – water and food.
“The very instant I leaped on shore, the collected body of the natives all fell flat upon their faces, and remained in that very humble posture, till, by expressive signs, I prevailed upon them to rise.”
“They then brought a great many small pigs, which they presented to me, with plantain-trees, using much the same ceremonies that we had seen practised, on such occasions, at the Society and other islands …”
“… and a long prayer being spoken by a single person, in which others of the assembly sometimes joined. I expressed my acceptance of their proffered friendship, by giving them, in return, such presents as I had brought with me from the ship for that purpose.”
“As soon as we landed, a trade was set on foot for hogs and potatoes, which the people of the island gave us in exchange for nails and pieces of iron, formed into something like chisels.”
“We met with no obstruction in watering; on the contrary, the natives assisted our men in rolling the casks to and from the pool; and readily performed whatever we ‘required.”
Cook was concerned about his men infecting the Hawaiian women with venereal disease, “(The women) would as readily have favoured us with their company on board as the men; but I wished to prevent all connection, which might, too probably, convey an irreparable injury to themselves, and through their means, to the whole nation.”
“Another necessary precaution was taken, by strictly enjoining, that no person, known to be capable of propagating the infection, should be sent upon duty out of the ships … I had been equally attentive to the same object, when I first visited the Friendly Islands; yet I afterward found, with real concern, that I had not succeeded.”
“(A)bout seven o’clock in the evening the anchor of the Resolution started, and she drove off the bank. As we had a whole cable out, it was some time before the anchor was at the bows; and then we had the launch to hoist up alongside, before we could make sail.”
“By this unlucky accident, we found ourselves, at daybreak next morning, three leagues to the leeward of our last station; and foreseeing that it would require more time to recover it than I chose to spend, I made the signal for the Discovery to weigh and join us.”
“This was done about noon; and we immediately stood away to the northward, in prosecution of our voyage.”
“Thus, after spending more time about these islands than was necessary to have answered all our purposes, we were obliged to leave them before we had completed our water and got from them such a quantity of refreshments as their inhabitants were both able and willing to have supplied us with.”
“But, as it was, our ship procured from them provisions, sufficient for three weeks at least; and Captain Clerke, more fortunate than us, got of their vegetable productions, a supply that lasted his people upward of two months.” The Discovery and Resolution left Hawai‘i on February 2, 1778.
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