The Last words recorded by Captain Cook…


It is nearly half a century since Captain Cook, in search of a northern passage from the Pacific to the Atlantic, discovered a group of islands, which, in honor of his patron the Earl of Sandwich, first lord of the Admiralty, he called the Sandwich Islands. The importance he attached to this discovery may be gathered from his own words; for, when speaking of the circumstances under which the vessels anchored for the first time in Kealakekua bay, the appearance of the natives, he remarks, “We could not but be struck with the singularity of this scene; and, perhaps, there were few on board who now lamented our having failed in our endeavors to find a northern passage homeward last summer. To this disappointment we owed our having it in our power to revisit the Sandwich Islands, and to enrich our voyage with a discovery, which, though last, seemed, in many respects, to be the most important that had hitherto been made by Europeans throughout the extent of the Pacific Ocean.” These are the last words recorded in the journal of that enterprising and intelligent navigator: a melancholy event shortly afterwards occurred on the shores of this very bay, which arrested his career of discovery, and terminated his existence. On the return of the survivors, a detailed account of the islands and their inhabitants was given to the world, and excited no small degree of interest, not only in England, but throughout the continent of Europe. The descriptions which Captain Cook’s Voyages contained, of the almost primitive simplicity, natural vivacity, and fascinating manners, of a people, who had existed for ages, isolated, and unknown to the rest of the world, were so entirely new, and the accounts given of the mildness and celebrity of the climate, the spontaneous abundance of delicious fruits, and the varied and delightful appearance of the natural scenery in the Sandwich and other islands of the Pacific, were so enchanting, that many individuals were led to imagine they were a sort of Elysium, where the highly favored inhabitants, free from the toil and care, the want and disappointment, which mar the happiness of civilized communities, dwelt in what they called a state of nature, and spent their lives in unrestrained gratification and enjoyment.(Ellis)

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(These are excerpts from a book by William Ellis that has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired.)


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