Home > 225 Years Ago: April - June 1777

225 Years Ago: April - June 1777


On 1st April, 1777 Captain James Cook in the Resolution and Charles Clerke in the Discovery were approaching the island of Atiu, one of a group of islands now collectively called the Cook Islands.

William Anderson, surgeon on the Resolution, wrote "Two or three large fires were now seen in different parts from whence we had no doubt but it was inhabited and in all probability they were made on our account."

The next day, according to Cook, "I sent two armed boats from the Resolution and one from the Discovery under the command of Lieutenant Gore to look for an anchoring and landing place, and in the mean time we plyed up under the island with the Ships. Just as the Boats were putting off, we observed several Canoes coming of from the shore; they went first to the Discovery she being the nearest Ship". John Gore was first lieutenant. Thomas Edgar, Master, on the Discovery, recorded "Lieutenant Gore… came on Board and with him Omai, who immediately enter'd into Conversation with the Indians, they perfectly understanding one another – a Bough of a Cocoa Nut Tree was brought and Omai went through many Ceremonies with the Chief repeating short Sentences after him, at which they pulled a Leaf off the Bough."

Soon, wrote Cook, "a man Came off in a Canoe with a bunch of Plantains as a present to me who he asked for by name, having learnt it from Omai". Some other people came on board and "were shewed the Cattle, the Cabbin and other parts of the Ship… The Cows and Horses they were afraid to come near, nor did they form the least conception of them, but the Sheep and Goats they conceived to be some strange birds… At 3 PM Mr Gore returned with the boats, and informed me that he had examined all the west side of the island without finding a place where a boat could land or the Ships could anchor".

The next day Cook "sent Mr Gore (accompanied by Omai with two boats and a proper assortment of Articles to trade for refreshments, and any kind of food for our Cattle, which was what we most wanted". They were accompanied by "Docter Anderson and Mr Burney of the Discovery". James Burney was First Lieutenant. They were entertained with, remarked Anderson, a "ceremony of being introduc'd to the chiefs". They spent the day "always in a croud who gaz'd at us and sometimes desir'd us to uncover parts of our skin which commonly produc'd a universal murmur of admiration. At the same time they did not miss these oppurtunitys to riffle our pockets of every thing and at last one of them snatch'd a small Bayonet from Mr Gore which hung in its sheath by his side… soon after Omaee had a dagger stole from his side".

Cook, who had stayed aboard, commented that "they were thus kept close prisoners yet no sort of insult was offered them except that of Stealing in which these people shew'd as much dexterity as any other people whatever, so that there was not one of the gentlemen but what lost something or a nother, nor could they get any redress when they complained to the cheifs." Anderson "regretted much that their behaviour prevented us making any observations on the country… It was an opportunity I had long wish'd for, to see a people following the dictates of nature without being bias'd by education or corrupted by an intercourse with more polish'd nations, and to observe them at leisure, but was here disappointed."

David Samwell, surgeon's first mate on the Resolution, was struck by "their Bodies tattawed in various places, but most of them only their Legs which makes them appear at a distance as if booted".

On the 4th Cook "stood for a small island we had discovered to the NW." It is called Takutea. "From this island… we got about 90 or 100 Cocoanuts some scurvy grass (there being hardly any other on it) and a quantity of the branhes of the Wharra tree… the Cattle eat it very will when cut up in small pieces".

The next day Samwell wrote "The light easterly winds having detained us so long & kept us so far to the westward of the Society Islands as to exclude all Hopes of being able to attempt anything to the Northward this Year". That is the attempt to find the North West Passage from the Pacific. He continued "it was judged necessary to put the Ships' Companies to two thirds Allowance of all Provisions except Spirits of which the full allowance continues to be served." Clerke noted "In the Morning serv'd Vinegar to the People & put them to 2/3 Allowance of Beef, Pork & Flower by Order of Capt Cook."

Earlier Discoveries of Cook Re-visited

"Early in the morning" of the 6th, wrote Samwell, "we saw Hervey's Isles… discovered by the Resolution and Adventure in 1773… Several canoes came off to us full of Men… They made an attempt to carry away a Man who was boatkeeper alongside the Discovery, but the most curious robbery of all was their taking a piece of Beef belonging to the Officers of that ship which was towing over board in a Net & bringing it to the Resolution to sell. Captn Cook bought it off them & had it dressed for his dinner." Cook wrote "I sent Lieutenant King with two armed boats to sound and reconoitre the Coast". James King was second lieutenant on the Resolution. However, as Samwell recorded "The Boats found a landing place but no anchorage for the Ships… so in the Afternoon we set sail & without any remarkable occurrence intervening on Sunday April 13th at 7 in the Morning we saw Palmerston's Islands from the Mast head".

Clerke, on the Discovery, noted on the 9th "Sailmakers making a Windsail to throw some wind into the fore part of the Ship about the Coal Hole, where the air is so confin'd and foul that a Candle will not burn in it 10 seconds."

"Palmerstons island", wrote Anderson, was "discover'd by Captn Cook in 1774". Cook was now "under an absolute necessity of procuring from this island some food for the Cattle otherwise we must lose them… In the evening I went ashore in a small boat accompaned by Captain Clerke; we found every body hard at work… After the boats were laden I returned on board leaving Mr Gore with a party on shore, in order to be ready to go to work early the next Morning, being the 15th". The next day he returned and "Omai who was with me, caught with a scoop net in a very short time as much fish as served the whole party for dinner". John Williamson, third lieutenant on the Resolution, recorded that he "was left on shore for the Night, with a small Boat, a Lieutt from the Discovery also staid with me. Captn Cook gave me a few pieces of English Coin in a Bottle well cork'd, which I left fixt upon a pile of Stones I had erected for the purpose."

In the evening of 17th, Cook "hoisted in the boats and made sail to the Westward". Edgar, on the Discovery, noted "At ½ past 7 sent the boat on shore for 4 Musquets that were left behind thro Neglect at the same time sent the small Cutter to aquaint the Resolution with our delay." According to Samwell "the Friendly Isles had been fixed upon as the most likely place where we shou'd meet with Supplies".

On 23rd Anderson remarked "there is not yet a single person sick from the constant use of salt food or vicissitude of climate." The next day William Griffin, cooper on the Resolution wrote "Philip Woodfied Carpenters mate whilst in the execution of his duty on deck fell down and broke his leg." Burney said Woodfield, carpenters mate on the Discovery, fell under the tiller. The same day, according to Anderson, they passed "Savage island discovered by Captn Cook in 1774" The island is now called Niue.

Arrival at the Tongan Islands

On 29th, wrote Samwell, "we came in Sight of the Island of Anamooka, called by Tasman who first discovered it Rotterdam." It is now known as Nomuka. Cook "sent Lieutenant King with two boats to Comango to procure refreshments", the island now known as Mango.

The next day they arrived at Nomuka. Cook remarked "during the whole day, the Indians would hardly part with any one thing to any body but me, Captain Clerke did not get above one or two hogs. Knowing from experience, that if every body was allowed to traffick with the natives according to thier own caprice, perpetual quarrels would essue, to prevent this I ordered that particular person[s] should manage the traffick both on board and ashore, and prohibited the trade to all others. I also ordered that no curiosities should be purchased till the Ships were supplyed with Provisions".

Williamson noted "The Natives soon gave us a specimen of their happy genius in the art of pilfering, by stealing a hatchet out of the galley, for which, Richd Young a quiet and good man was punished with twelve lashes." According to William Charlton, midshipman on the Resolution, Richard Young, cook's mate, was punished with 6 lashes for neglect of duty.

On 1st May, Cook "hoisted out a boat and sent the Master to Sound the SW side of Anamocka where there appeared to be a harbour… when the Master returned he reported he had Sounded between great and little Anamocka… the place was very well sheltered from all winds but there was no fresh Water… For this reason only I determined to anchor at the old place on the north side of the island". The master was William Bligh.

The next day Cook "went ashore accompaned by Captain Clerke and some of the officers, to fix a place to set up the observatories and to keep a guard... I returned on board leaving the Command on shore to Mr King." King found "Omai is of great use to us, not only as an interpreter, but in keeping up a good understandg between us & the Natives, for they pay him great attention & listen to the stories he tells them about Britannee, which doubtless tends to keep up our consequence, too apt to be lessn'd by the familiarity of our intercourse; & from which we find out that the Venereal disorder has been left among them; so it is, that wherever we go, we spread an incurable distemper which nothing we can do can ever recompence."

William Bayly, astronomer on the Discovery, "Went on shore to look for a convenient place to observe in where I met Capt Cook who objected to my going ashore with my Insts on account of the insufficiency of the Guard." The next day he "Received an invitation from Capt Cook to dine with him, when he proposed my going on Shore with my Astronoml Quadt only but not to carry my observatory, or at most to have only one between Mr King & me". According to Cook "Mr King and Mr Bailey began to observe equal altitudes of the sun in order to get the rate of the time keepers."

On 4th Anderson noted "The Discovery lost her small bower anchor not from any wind or sea but the foul ground which is probably coral rock." The next day "several of the party who were wooding sufferd greatly from the juice of the trees which they cut down, as it is so acrid that when they wip'd their face with their hands it inflam'd their Eyes so as to make them incapable of working & had the same effect on some other parts… The Discovery found her anchor again". According to Samwell "a Market was established before the House under the Management of the Gunners of each Ship, who were the sole Persons employed to traffick with the Indians or Provisions, all other trade being strictly prohibited; a large Ring was made before the House where those who had any thing for marketéxposed them to sale." The gunner on the Resolution was Robert Anderson and on the Discovery was William Peckover.


 A VIEW at  ANAMOOKA by John Webber
A VIEW at ANAMOOKA by John Webber

Samwell continued "Captn Cook was visited by the King of the Island whose Name is Toobow [Tupou], about 30 years of age, stout and well made & of a very agreeable open Countenance… We had been at Anamooka about a Week when there arrived from one of the neighbouring Isles a Chief whose authority was acknowledged to be superior". According to Cook he was "Feenough [Finau]". On 11th wrote Bayly "in the morning I carried the quadrant & Watch on board as pr order from Capt Cook." The same day Anderson noted "we got off the horses and in the evening the other things with the party of Marines, three of whom were punish'd on shore for negligence."


The Ha'apai Group of Islands

Clerke recorded in his journal "On the 14th Instant, by the invitation and desire of Feenow, we got under way to make a visit to the Arpi Isles [Ha'apai], where he assur'd us of abundance of every thing that was good: the passage there is rather disagreeable, upon account of the various Isles and reefs… that a good deal interrupt and impede your Navigation; however we anchor'd off them very well on the 17 Instant." The island was Lifuka. According to Cook "by the time we had anchored the Ships were filled with the Natives and surrounded by a multitude of Canoes". The next day 18th Edgar wrote "at Noon the Indians returned two Catts they had stolen from us."


 The  RECEPTION of CAPTAIN Cook in HAPAEE by John Webber
The RECEPTION of CAPTAIN Cook in HAPAEE by John Webber
Cook described the scene of entertainment depicted by Webber here. "The Multitude… formed a large circle… a number of men entered… armed with Clubs made of gthe green branches of the Cocoanut tree… but soon after went to single Combat". Burney thought "they wrestle much like our Cornish men, and are very expert and active at it… in wrestling with them our people were almost constantly worsted".

Their boxing was also "different from the English method, induced some of our Men to enter the ring against them… of 4 or 5 who tried, not one escaped being knockd down". "But what struck us with the most surprise" wrote Cook "was to see a couple of lusty wenches step forth and without the least ceremony fall to boxing, and with a[s] much art as the men." On the 20th "Fenough… expressed a desire to see the Marines go through their exercize and being willing to gratify him I ordered them all ashore from both ships… After they had… fired several Volleys, the Cheif entertained us again in his turn with a sight intirely new. It was a kind of dance, performed by men and youths of the first rank; but so much unlike any thing I know of in any other part of the World… a Song in which every one joined as with one voice".

A visit in 1806 was recalled in An Account of the Natives of the Tonga Islands… from the extensive communications of Mr William Mariner produced by John Martin. Mariner gathered from the chiefs who had been present 30 years earlier and Finau's son that Cook and his officers were to be attacked "on the occasion of a grand entertainment… and after they were all destroyed, the men, who would naturally come in search of him, were to be conducted to the further part of the island under pretence that he was there, and they were then to be destroyed… Thus the two ships, their crews being so weakened, might be taken (as they supposed) with ease… however, a little before the appointed time… most of the chiefs expressed their opinion that the night-time would have been better than the day, and Finow, finding that the majority were of this opinion, was much vexed, and immediately forbade it to be done at all."

The next day Clerke "punish'd Chrisr Kervin with 12 lashes for losing his ramrod (which I believe the Indians stole) during the Time he was Centinel, purposely to prevent their committing any thefts." The next day he punished Thomas Stretcher with 6 "for suffering the Indians to steal his Boathook". Christopher Kerwin was a marine, and Thomas Tretcher an AB; both on the Discovery.

On 23rd John Henry Martin a Midshipman on the Discovery, wrote "Punished one of the Indian chiefs with 15 Lashes for Theft. Had we made an Example of every one of these people that deserved it, Punishments woud have been Endless, for their Skill in Pilfering is almost past Conception, & had any man of less Humanity than the Captns Cook & Clerke Commanded, many of these people must have lost their life, from the daring attempts they were hourly making on us."

On 26th wrote Samwell "we got under sail & stood along shore to the Southward keeping a boat a head sounding". "As soon as we had landed" wrote Cook "I sent Mr Bligh to Sound the bay in which we lay… We were conducted to two wells and found the Water bad in both". According to Gilbert "but the milk of the cocoanuts in a great mesure made up for the badness of it; as they were so plentifull that we seldom drank anything else".


The next day "About Noon a large sailing Canoe came under our Stern in which the Indians on board told us was Fattafee Polaho [Fatafehi Paulaho] King of all the Isles. He brought with him as a present to me two good fat hogs, though not so fat as himself, for he was the most corperate plump fellow we had met with. I found him to be a Sedate sensible man… I asked him down into the Cabbin, some of his attendants objected to this, saying if he went there people would walk over his head and this was never done. I desired Omai to till them I would remove that objection by giving orders that no one should walk on that part of the deck" but the chief "waved the ceremony and walked down with me without any more to do."

On 28th Bayly remarked "we have purchased almost all their commodities; they having very few things to dispose of except their young Girls which seems to be almost the only trade at present, & indeed is very advantageous to the men, for they are paid a hatchet for every nights lodging, or a Shirt."


Back at Nomuka

According to Clerke "We weigh'd and stood again for Anamooka, where we anchor'd on June the 6th." The next day Bayly "went on Shore with my Astronomical Quadt & the watch & observed equal altitudes of the Sun in order to determine its Error from mean time". According to Cook "At 8 oClock the next Morning we wieghed and steered for Tongataba having a gentle breeze at NE and about fourteen or fifteen sailing vessels in company every one of which considerably out run us."

At Tongatapu

On 9th wrote Anderson "we saw Amsterdam or as the natives call it Tonga'taboo though much oftener simply Tonga, and some small isles that lye off it, but we had made little progress in the night". The next day according to Samwell "Both Ships moored in a fine safe Harbour… on coming in both Ships struck lightly on a patch of Choral Rock but received no Damage." The next day "The Tents with the 2 Astronomers' Observatories were erected on shore under a Guard of Marines, & all our live Stock was landed which consisted of 4 Horses, several head of Cattle, Sheep, Goats & Hogs with Peacocks, Turkies & Geese… In the night the Guard was alarmed with the Cry of Murder help &ca. A file of Marines went directly to the place where the Cry was heard, where they found one of our people who informed them that he had been attacked by two Indians who had knocked him down & stripped him of his Cloaths; he had been rambling in search of a mistress when some difference arose between the contracting parties which ended in the above manner, he was severely reprimanded & strict orders were given by the Officers ashore to prevent such quarrels for the future."

Cook "heard of other great men which we had not yet seen particularly one Mariwaggy [Maealiuaki], who we understood was… the first man on the island, but that he was an old man and would not visit us; some even hinted, that he was too great a man to be seen by us, at least so Omai interpreted it." On 13th "this Mariwaggy we had heard so much of actually came, and with him a very considerable number of people of all ranks. In the after noon a party of us… went to pay him a visit". The next morning "Mariwaggy visited our people ashore and Mr King shewed him every thing we had there".

Cook continued "The 17th was the day fixed for Mariwaggy to give a grand Haiva or entertainment to which we were all invited. The dancing and Singing began about 11 o'clock and continued till three or four… The Evening was ushered in with singing and dancing… The drawings which Mr Webber has made of these performances will give a very good idea of the order in which they range themselves but neither pen nor pencil can discribe the numerous actions and motions they observe".

The next day according to Nathaniel Portlock, master's mate on the Discovery "Captain Cook has order'd the marines from boath ships, on shore with their Arms and dress'd in their Regimentals – on their landing they were marched up some distance from the beach with Drums beating french horns playing and coulours flying and where receivd by Captain Cook and the other Officers attended by a vast multitude of the natives who where vastly please[d]".

On 19th King "the Sailmakers & carpenters have been all the time on shore & fully employ'd, & in spight of our endeavours they lose daily their tools, or something is stolen out of the tent, & often very audaciously". Burney added "they have made shift to steal 6 Cats since the affair of the Cats at Happi, and which can be but ill Spared from Ships so overrun with rats as ours."

On 22nd Cook noted "Some of the officers belonging to both Ships who had traveled into the island unknown to me or indeed any body else and had been absent two days returned this evening. They took with them their Muskets with the necessary ammunition and several small articles all of which the Natives found means to get from them in the Course of their expedition."

By 25th Cook had "completed the Ships with Wood and Water, and finished the repairs of our sails, and had little more to expect from the Inhabitants. However as an Eclipse of the Sun was to happen on the 5th of the next Month, I resolved to wait till that time was elapsed to have a chance of Observing it." According to Williamson, he was one of them and another was "Mr Bligh master".

In May 1777 James Cook's book about his Second Voyage was published: A Voyage Towards the South Pole and Round The World Performed in His Majesty's Ships the Resolution and Adventure, in the Years 1772, 1773, 1774, and 1775. Written by James Cook, Commander of the Resolution. In which is included, Captain Furneaux's Narrative of his Proceedings in the Adventure during the Separation of the Ships. In two volumes. Illustrated with Maps and Charts, and a Variety of Portraits of Persons and Views of Places, drawn during the Voyage by Mr. Hodges, and engraved by the most eminent Masters.

Printed W. Strahan and T. Cadell in the Strand, London, it comprised two quarto volumes with 396 pages, illustrated "with 64 copper- engraved plates of maps, charts, views, portraits, etc., incl. frontispiece, many of them folding". The price was two guineas, 225 years ago.

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 1949, volume 25, number 2 (2002).

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Lavakeiaho, Capt. Cook wrote extensively about Tonga after visiting several islands. He recorded details of the people, their houses, their food and customs. His observations can all be found in published accounts of Captain Cook's Journals, edited by J C Beaglehole. Cook wrote only a few paragraphs about his visit to the King at Tongatapu and the Kava ceremony, but there is no mention of the tree - Malamu o Fulilangi.
By Cliff Thornton on 12/14/2016 11:25:48 AM Like:0 DisLike:0
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I want to know what Captain Cook write about Tonga in his visit the Malumalu o Fulilangi
By Lavakeiaho 'Enosi Tu'ipulotu on 12/12/2016 2:32:00 AM Like:0 DisLike:0
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Thank you for sharing information from Captain Cook's journals. I'm Tongan-German and have been rebuilding my Tongan genealogy. Poulaho, the Tui Tonga [King of Tonga] whom Captain Cook met is my 2nd cousin 5 times removed. To find a portrait of him on your site was a plus. Thank you for your work.
By caroline wolfgramm irwin on 1/26/2015 3:14:01 AM Like:0 DisLike:0

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