Captain Cook spent the month of December beating around the eastern and southern sides of Hawaiʻi, and finally anchored in Kealakekua Bay January 17, 1779 – having returned to make repairs to a broken mast. (Alexander)
Cook’s reception this time presented a striking contrast to his last. An ominous quiet everywhere prevailed. No one greeted them. A boat being sent ashore to inquire the cause, returned with the information that the king was away, and had left the bay under a strict taboo. (Jarves)
During the king’s absence the chiefs Palea and Kanaʻina kept order among the people. After Cook’s ships had anchored, the chiefs came on board and informed Cook that Kalaniopuʻu would be back in a few days.
Another prominent man, Koa, was apparently the highest officiating priest of the place (in the absence of the high-priest who accompanied Kalaiopuʻu.) (Alexander)
“Being led into the cabin, he approached Captain Cook with great veneration, and threw over his shoulders a piece of red cloth, which he had brought along with him. Then stepping a few paces back, he made an offering of a small pig which he held in his hand, while he pronounced a discourse that lasted for a considerable time.”
“This ceremony was frequently repeated during our stay at Owhyhee, and appeared to us, from many circumstances, to be a sort of religious adoration. Their idols we found always arrayed ill red cloth in the same manner as was done to Captain Cook, and a small pig was their usual offering to the Eatooas.” (King; Cook’s Journal)
“That same afternoon Captain Cook landed and was received by Koa, Palea, and a number of priests, who conducted him to the Heiau (Hikiʻau,) just north of the Nāpoʻopoʻo village and at the foot of the Pali. Here the grand ceremony of acknowledging Cook as an incarnation of Lono, to be worshiped as such, and his installation, so to say, in the Hawaiian Pantheon took place.” (Fornander)
The next day (Friday) the damaged masts and sails and the astronomical instruments were landed at the former camp, and the friendly priests tabued the place as before.
On Saturday afternoon, matters rapidly went from bad to worse.
Some of Palea’s retainers stole a pair of tongs and a chisel from the armorer of the ‘Discovery,’ leaped into their canoe, and paddled with all haste to the shore. Several muskets were fired after them in vain, and a boat was sent in chase.
Palea, who was on board, offered to recover the stolen articles, and followed in another canoe. The thieves reached the shore first, beached their canoe, and fled inland.
Mr Edgar, the officer of the boat, undertook to seize this canoe, which belonged to Palea, who refused to give it up, protesting his innocence of the theft. A scuffle ensued between them, in which Edgar was worsted, when a sailor knocked Palea down by a heavy blow on the head with an oar.
Upon this the whole crowd of natives looking on immediately attacked the unarmed seamen with stones, and forced them to swim off to a rock at some distance.
Palea, however, soon recovered from the blow, dispersed the mob, called back the sailors, and restored the missing articles as far as he could.
The following night the large cutter of the ‘Discovery’ was stolen by Palea’s people, taken two miles north, and broken up for the sake of the iron in it. (Alexander)
“This was the same Palea who from the first had been the constant, kind, and obliging friend of Captain Cook and all the foreigners, and who, only the day before Cook’s death, had saved the crew of the pinnace of the ‘Resolution’ from being stoned to death by the natives, exasperated Palea himself.”
“The boat had been at the brutal and insolent manner in which Palea had been treated by an officer of the ‘Discovery.’”
“It was during the night after the above fracas, the night of the 13th February, that the cutter of the ‘Discovery’ was stolen from her mooring, as King himself admits…”
“… ‘by Palea’s people, very probably in revenge for the blow that had been given him,’ and not by Palea himself. The boat had been taken to Onouli, a couple of miles higher up the coast, and there broken to pieces.” (Fornander)
Captain Cook commanded Kalaniopuʻu, the king of the island, to make search for the boat, and restore it. The king could not restore it, for the natives had already broken it in pieces to obtain the nails, which were to them the articles of the greatest value.
Captain Cook came on shore with armed men to take the king on board, and to keep him there as security till the boat should be restored. (Dibble)
On February 14, 1779, Cook was killed. (The image shows a drawing of Palea by William Ellis.)