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The First Encounter

In 1768, James Cook, was a surveyor for the Royal Navy of England and was a commissioned lieutenant in command of the HMS Endeavor. His first expedition led a group of British scientists to Tahiti in order to chart the planetary course of Venus through the night sky. Cook returned to England three years later having also explored the coast of New Zealand and Australia. Beginning in 1772, he commanded a major mission to the South Pacific for 3 years exploring the Antarctic region. Then in 1776, he sailed as captain and commander of the HMS Resolution and Discovery finally reaching the Hawaiian Islands for first contact with the native population.

The crews first sighted the Hawaiian Islands of Oahu and Kauai on January 18, 1778. Cook’s ships approached Kauai’s southeast shores the next day and were greeted by the native Hawaiians in canoes. This first encounter took place in the waters near Kipu Kai in which food, such as local fish and fruits and vegetables, were traded for metal. Captain Cook continued to sail along the coast until they finally came to Waimea River and anchored off. As the British sailors stepped onto land they were greeted by hundreds of Hawaiians and were given many gifts.

The crew continued to trade iron and other items for various foods. Cook went ashore and made logs and descriptions of Hawaiian customs, language, temples, homes, and agricultural fields. However, the time to continue the expedition to the find a Northern passageway from the Pacific to the Atlantic had come so the ships departed. Captain Cook named the islands the Sandwich Islands in honor of his patron John Montague, the Earl of Sandwich.

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