At about age 15, George Vancouver joined the navy and spent seven years under Captain James Cook when Cook commanded the first European exploring expedition to visit the Hawaiian Islands, on Cook’s second (1772-74) and third (1776-80) voyages of discovery.
Later, captaining his own expedition and charged with exploring the Pacific region of the North American continent, Vancouver surveyed what we now know as British Columbia, including Vancouver Island (named after him.)
During those expeditions, Captain George Vancouver returned to Hawaiʻi three times, in 1792, 1793 and 1794. There, he completed the charting of the Islands begun by Cook and William Bligh.
He met with Kamehameha and exchanged gifts. When Kamehameha came aboard the ship, taking Vancouver’s hand, he “demanded, if we were sincerely his friends”, to which Vancouver answered in the affirmative.
Kamehameha then said “he understood we belonged to King George, and asked if he was likewise his friend. On receiving a satisfactory answer to this question, he declared the he was our firm good friend; and according to the custom of the country, in testimony of the sincerity of our declarations we saluted by touching noses.” (Vancouver, 1798)
In the exchange of gifts, after that, Kamehameha presented four feathered helmets and other items, Vancouver gave Kamehameha the remaining livestock on board, “five cows, two ewes and a ram.”
The farewell between the British and the Hawaiians was emotional, but both understood that Vancouver would be returning the following winter.
Just before Vancouver left Kawaihae on March 9, 1793, he gave Isaac Davis and John Young a letter testifying that “Tamaah Maah, with the generality of the Chiefs, and the whole of the lower order of People, have conducted themselves toward us with the strictest honest, civility and friendly attention.” (Speakman, HJH)
During these trips, Captain George Vancouver visited Maui; he first landed in Māʻalaea Bay on the Kihei shoreline.
Vancouver described the area surrounding Māʻalaea Bay (March, 1793:) “The appearance of this side of Mowee was scarcely less forbidding than that of its southern parts, which we had passed the preceding day.”
“The shores, however, were not so steep and rocky, and were mostly composed of a sandy beach; the land did not rise so very abruptly from the sea towards the mountains, nor was its surface so much broken with hills and deep chasms…”
“… yet the soil had little appearance of fertility, and no cultivation was to be seen. A few habitations were promiscuously scattered near the waterside, and the inhabitants who came off to us, like those seen the day before, had little to dispose of. “ (Vancouver)
Fast forward to the 1960s; the 100-room Maui Lu was the only resort on Maui’s south shore. It was built by Canadian James Gordon Gibson and named after his boat (which was named after his wife, Louise.)
Gibson (November 28, 1904 – July 17, 1986 – nicknamed the “Bull of the Woods”) was a lumberman, politician, seaman, hotelier and author. In the 1920s, he and his brothers ran the Gibson Lumber and Shingle Company.
He was born in a cabin in the Yukon; at the time, his father was looking for the elusive gold. “Cash was virtually unknown to my family at this time.” (Gibson)
Gibson left school at the age of 12; “when I left school I was told I was such a dog that someone would have to feed me for the rest of my life or I would surely starve to death. It was then I determined in my mind that I would never again be at the bottom.” (Gibson)
He went to work at hand-logging, shingle milling and commercial fishing on the coast of Vancouver Island. Eventually, he made millions in lumbering. (Calgary Herald)
Later, he visited Maui and built a home in Kihei – he called it Fort Vancouver.
“As the palms grew, so did the number of guests at Fort Vancouver, as we loved to share our sunny home with our friends from the West Coast.” (Gibson) (Friends from Canada were his frequent guests.)
Planning a guest house, he arranged for sufficient lumber (5,000 board feet) to be shipped from Vancouver to Maui. When it arrived, “to my astonishment, I found not the 5,000 board feet I had expected but 50,000.” (Gibson)
This was the beginning of the Maui Lu resort. Gibson “figured that we might as well build ten guest houses, which later became known as the Maui Lu cottages in tribute to Louise. Instead of plain sloped roofs, they were built with upswung gables and peaked Polynesian eaves to salute the many Japanese Americans in Maui.” (Gibson)
By 1967, the Maui Lu Hotel was becoming very popular and Gibson built four four-plexes, naming them the Quadras as a reminder of Captain George Vancouver’s meeting on Vancouver Island with sen͂or Quadra. (Gibson)
Reportedly at his resort, Gibson had a totem pole which he had arranged to fly out from Nootka Sound, Canada to Maui. At its base was an inscription written in concrete that claimed that it was the first totem pole to fly the Pacific.
Gibson built a memorial to Vancouver near Vancouver’s reported initial Maui landing site, beachside of the entrance to the Maui Lu. (Spokane Daily Chronicle, December 19, 1969)
“The monument is an ancient boarding cannon recovered off Vancouver Island, and a giant clam shell. It is guarded by two totem poles from Vancouver Island.” (Vancouver Sun, December 19, 1969)
The totem poles are no longer at the makai memorial; they were damaged in a storm and not repairable (they were stored under one of the buildings at the hotel.)
Hilton Grand Vacations took over the Maui Lu site for the Maui Bay Villas, with work on the first phase slated for completion in the first quarter of 2021.
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