A Break in Time - Death in the Sandwich Islands


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Once again canoes came out to greet the Resolve and the Discovery.


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The Hawaiian natives came aboard this time and were quite timid. Some bowed down, an action Cook felt to be appropriate. They also inquired where they should sit and if it was appropriate to spit and did not appear to have been aboard a ship before. Soon however the awe inspired by the new encounter faded and they became curious, particularly about metal objects. The Hawaiians seemed to feel they could take whatever they wanted and Cooks crew had to stay on constant guard against theft. This turned into a game of sorts for the Hawaiians and eventually a daring Hawaiian jumped overboard with a meat cleaver to a waiting canoe.

An Irishman, Lieutenant Williamson, then gave chase in the Resolves dinghy and fired shots over the thief's head frightening other nearby villagers enough so they jumped into the water. However, the thief made it to the shoreline and escaped. Lieutenant Williamson realized chasing him inland would be futile and set about landing in order to secure a supply of fresh water. Lieutenant Williamson and a team made landfall soon after the theft of the cleaver.

However a large, rambunctious crowd soon surrounded their vessel and although not hostile they almost capsized the boat. The Hawaiian villagers grabbed at everything, including the muskets of the Englishmen. Most were satisfied with a nail or two, but others were more persistent. One Hawaiian grabbed a hold of a pole with a hook on the end and refused to let go. After attempts to get him to let go for nails and attempting to tug the hook out of his hands, Lieutenant Williamson decided he had no choice but to use firearms.

He then shot the man, who was then dragged by crowd onto the beach as he bled profusely. However, this did not fully disperse the crowd and Williamson decided it would be best to return to the Resolution. Later that day Captain Cook himself decided he would go a shore with an armed contingent of marines. When he stepped ashore the Hawaiian villagers obviously recognized him as important and they began prostrating themselves.

Only after encouragement did the natives stand up and Cook got down to business.


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After making sure that fresh water was being collected Cook decided to take a tour. He walked through the village, noting their use of irrigation for cultivation of a variety of products. They cultivated taro, large yams, coconuts and stands of Kapa Trees.

Tribal Hawaiians used Kapa Trees to make their clothing and cloths. It also occurred to him that the population seemed to be below the supportable level an island with such abundant natural resources. His explanation for this was warfare; on his tour he had seen several caches of weapons. About a half mile into to his trek Captain Cook came to one of the mysterious white towers that he had first sited from the ship. It stood on a raised stone platform and although it was 50 feet tall he could see even larger ones ahead.


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  7. The tower itself was constructed of wood and covered with white Kapa cloth. At the base of it stood a long hut where nobles wear buried. Carved wooden tiki statues of Hawaiian gods stood vigil over the graves with food offerings at their feet. The kahunas present pointed out another gravesite where four sculls lay, these graves marked wear the kapu taboo sacrificial victims lay. Human sacrifice was not new to Cook; he had seen it before amongst Polynesian natives in Tahiti and the Society Islands. Human sacrifice was obviously common in Hawaii as well. After viewing the tower, graves and tiki god idols Cook returned to the village on the beach.

    Once the Hawaiians realized that theft would be ineffective they began bringing out trade goods like vegetables, fish, kapa cloth and pigs, in return pieces of iron wear traded. Metal was highly prized by the Hawaiians despite the fact that they didn't have any mining or metal working skills.

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    However, the native Hawaiian villagers new what metal was and Capt. Cook later found that the village had a few small pieces. It is possible that the tight-lipped Spaniards had landed in the Hawaiian Islands introducing metal to the ancient Hawaiians sometime in the previous years they had sailed the Pacific, but Cook found evidence to the contrary in that the Hawaiians had not been exposed to venereal diseases. No claims have emerged concerning Spaniards landing in Hawaii since.

    The metal most likely came from wrecked Spanish ships or flotsam washing up on the Hawaiian shores.

    The Hawaiians themselves reported that the two small pieces came from the sea. The Hawaiian women were fascinated with the European sailors and attempted to seduce them whenever an opportunity arose. Captain Cook felt a certain responsibility in preventing their success in this endeavor due to the fact that the Hawaiians had not been exposed to venereal disease and he did not want to be responsible for it's introduction.

    After several days of trading both parties had begun to run low on trade goods and Captain Cook decided to weigh anchor he headed out to sea. Captain Clerke waited behind and was visited while he waited a double hauled canoe approached his vessel. The arrival of the English ships had attracted people from around the island and the news had reached their Chief Alii in Hawaiian. Upon his approach the commoners either jumped off the side of the boat or prostrated themselves on the deck.

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    The chief although friendly, was accompanied by a stern group of bodyguards who would not allow him out of their site or to go below deck. He landed here and traversed the mountains to finally get help for his men after they had been stranded for many long months after their ship became trapped in ice. During a later expedition he died just off the South Georgia coast, and his body was later returned to be buried here.

    Today, other than the extraordinary wildlife, the island is home to only a British Government Office, a postmaster, some museum staff and scientists.

    Cultural History of Three Traditional Hawaiian Sites (Chapter 2)

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    A Break in Time - Death in the Sandwich Islands A Break in Time - Death in the Sandwich Islands
    A Break in Time - Death in the Sandwich Islands A Break in Time - Death in the Sandwich Islands
    A Break in Time - Death in the Sandwich Islands A Break in Time - Death in the Sandwich Islands
    A Break in Time - Death in the Sandwich Islands A Break in Time - Death in the Sandwich Islands
    A Break in Time - Death in the Sandwich Islands A Break in Time - Death in the Sandwich Islands
    A Break in Time - Death in the Sandwich Islands A Break in Time - Death in the Sandwich Islands
    A Break in Time - Death in the Sandwich Islands A Break in Time - Death in the Sandwich Islands
    A Break in Time - Death in the Sandwich Islands A Break in Time - Death in the Sandwich Islands

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