Monday, February 14, 2011

Captain Cook

'...Some interesting particulars were this year communicated by a peculiar channel respecting the Tonga, or, as we were taught to call them by Captain Cook, the Friendly Islands, in the Pacific Ocean. They were taken from the deposition of William Mariner, who, in the manner to be now related, had been detained in them for several years. He had sailed in 1806 in the Port-au-Prince, a vessel destined for the southern whale-fishery. On arriving at Lefooga, a dispute between the master and crew prevented due precautions from being taken. A body of 300 natives having got on board the vessel, seized it, after massacring all the crew, except Mariner and another, who were below in the magazine. Aftermuchdismay, and seeing no hope of escape, Mariner determined to come up and get himself killed at once ; but on Ins presenting himself in an unresisting posture for that purpose, he was told that they were now masters of the ship, and that he would not be hurt. He was carried before several chiefs, and at length to I'inow, the How or king of the island, who being a man of an active and curious mind, took much pleasure in the conversation of the stranger. He was ordered, however, to deliver up his books and papers, as no witchcraft was allowed to be practised in the island. This led to an explanation of the fate which had overtaken the missionaries left there- by Captain Wilson, from the ship Duff. It ha I been from the first observed, that they built a house, in which they shut themselves up to sing and perforin ceremonies. This, however, would not have led to any serious consequence, had there not been on the island one Morgan, a convict escaped from Botany Bay. The missionaries having represented this person in unfavourable, and doubtless true colours, excited his resentment, which he gratified in the most criminal manner. He informed the natives, that these strangers had come among them with the sole view of introducing the pestilential disease, which was then raging ; that their books were instruments of magic ; and their secret assemblies held tor the purpose of carrying on incantations to produce this effect. The chiefs took these statements into serious consideration, and became more and more persuaded of their truth, from the loud noise which took place at these ceremonies, and from the care taken, we know not why, to exclude the natives. At length it was represented, that if the strangers continued singing in this manner, the whole island would soon be depopulated. Inflamed with fury, they at length rushed in and made a general massacre...'

The text above comes from the Edinburgh Annual Register, volume 10 (1817), which Walter Scott edited.  Barely 50 when he died, Captain James Cook ended up on a beach in Kealakekua Bay, stabbed and being hacked to pieces.  Cook had landed to attempt to take hostage Hawaiian King Kalaniʻōpuʻu-a-Kaiamamao, in order to settle the theft of an English boat by one of the Hawaiian tribemen.  The explorer James Cook died on February 14, 1779.

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