Jan 18, 2008

Today in History - January 18, 1778

Captain James Cook became the first European to "discover" the Hawaiian Islands on January 18, 1778. He made initial landfall at Waimea harbour, Kauai, where he named the archipelago the "Sandwich Islands" after the fourth Earl of Sandwich, the acting First Lord of the Admiralty.

Cook returned to the islands in 1779. After a month's stay at Kealakekua Bay, on the "big island" of Hawaii, his expedition got under sail again to resume his exploration of the Northern Pacific. Shortly after leaving, the foremast of his command ship (the HMS Resolution) broke and the party returned to Kealakekua Bay for repairs. Tensions rose and a number of quarrels broke out between the Europeans and Hawaiians.

On February 14 at Kealakekua Bay, some Hawaiians took one of Cook's small boats. Cook attempted to take the Chief of Hawaii, Kalaniopu'u, as his hostage. The Hawaiians prevented this, and Cook's men had to retreat to the beach. As Cook turned his back to help launch the boats, he was struck on the head by the villagers and then stabbed to death as he fell on his face in the surf.

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