Third Voyage

On this third and final voyage, Cook again commanded HMS Resolution, accompanied by Charles Clerke in HMS Discovery. The official purpose of the expedition was to return Omai, a Pacific Islander who had travelled to Europe aboard the Adventure in 1774 after a two-year stay in England where his charm, wit and good looks were widely celebrated, to Tahiti. 

Cook travelled to Tahiti via New Zealand, discovered a number of the Cook Islands along the way. Once Omai was back in Tahiti, Cook went north and in January 1778 made landfall in Hawaii at Waimea harbour, Kauai. He named the Hawaiian archipelago the Sandwich Islands after the acting First Lord of the Admiralty.

From there, Cook sailed north, then turned north-east to the west coast of North America's west coast, north of California. He made landfall in Oregon, unknowingly passed the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and entered Vancouver Island's Nootka Sound. The two ships remained there from 29 March to 26 April 1778, then moved north, charting the coast as far as the Bering Strait. When ice blocked further northward progress, Cook surveyed the Siberian coast, then returned to Hawaii in 1779 to winter there. 

After sailing around the archipelago for two months, his arrival at Kealakekua Bay, on the main island coincided with a Hawaiian harvest festival worshipping the Polynesian deity Lono. A series of coincidences, including Cook's clockwise route around the island, may have caused the islanders to treat Cook as an incarnation of Lono.

Shortly after the expedition set sail again a month later to resume the quest for the North West Passage, the Resolution's foremast broke, and the ships were forced to return to Kealakekua Bay to repair the damage.

In the Cook/Lono version of events, this was a departure from the supposed narrative, though there is any number of other explanations for what ensued. 

Death and Legacy

© Ian Hughes 2017