On an unusually hot and sunny September 6, 2014, twenty-nine fervent admirers of Captain Cook went on a pilgrimage to see the site where Cook landed on Canada’s west coast. The trip was inspired by Randy Komar, who in March of 2014, held the first meeting of the West Coast chapter of the Captain Cook Society in Parksville.
Cook arrived on the west coast at Nootka Sound in Resolution, accompanied by Discovery. George Vancouver was serving under Cook as a midshipman, and 14 years later he was to command another Discovery and return to Nootka to negotiate a treaty with the Spanish. As a captain in the Royal Navy, Cook’s orders were to voyage up the Pacific coast for the purpose of locating the fabled Northwest Passage that, it was believed, would facilitate easier trade between Europe and the Orient. He found Nootka Sound quite unintentionally; he needed a sheltered cove where Resolution could be repaired. This unplanned stop was to have implications far beyond any he might have imagined. While there, he met Chief Maquinna, and is credited with being the first European to make contact with Maquinna’s people, the Mowachaht. As the Mowachaht were eager to trade with the sailors, this resulted in Cook being given a number of sea otter pelts which, unbeknown to him, would precipitate an avalanche of trade over the next 25 years, effectively wiping out the northwest coast sea otter population.