The missionaries in the Society Islands had, by means of some Sandwich islanders, been long acquainted with the circumstance of some of Captain Cook’s bones being preserved in one of their temples, and receiving religious worship; and since the time of my arrival in company with the deputation from the London Missionary Society, in 1822, every endeavour has been made to learn, though without success, whether they were still in existence, and where they were kept.
The best conclusion we may form is, that part of Captain Cook’s bones were preserved by the priests, and were considered sacred, by the people, probably, till the abolition of idolatry in 1819: that, at that period they were committed to the secret care of some chief, or deposited by the priests who had charge of them, in a cave, unknown to all besides, themselves. The manner in which they were then disposed of, will, it is presumed, remain a secret, till the knowledge of it. is entirely lost. The priests and chiefs always appear. Unwilling to enter into conversation on the subject, and desirous, to avoid the recollection of the unhappy, circumstance. From the above, account, as well as, every other statement given by the natives, it is, evident that the: death of Captain Cook was unpremeditated, and resulted from their dread of his anger; a sense of danger, on the momentary impulse of passion, exciting them to revenge the death of the chief who had been shot, Few intelligent visitors leave Hawaii without making a pilgrimage to the spot where he fell. We have often visited it, and, though several natives have been our guides on different occasions, they have invariably conducted us, to the same place. A number of cocoa-nut trees grow near the shore, and there are perforations through two of them, which the natives, say, were produced by the balls fired from the boats on the occasion, of his death, We have never walked over these rocks, without emotions of melancholy interest. The mind invariably reverts to the circumstances of their discovery;, the: satisfaction of the visitors; the surprise of the natives; the worship they paid to their discoverer; and the fatal catastrophe which here terminated his days; and, although in every event we acknowledge an over-ruling Providence, we cannot but lament the untimely end of a man whose discoveries contributed so much to the advancement of science, and led the way for the philosopher in his extended researches, the merchant in his distant commerce, and the missionary in his errand of mercy. (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.)