Posted on November 26, 2013
In 1778, James Cook was already a well known British explorer, navigator, mapmaker, and captain in the Royal Navy.
He had already surveyed and mapped the entrance to the Saint Lawrence River in Canada, and he had led an expedition to record the Venus Transit from the Pacific island of Tahiti.
He had mapped out the coast of New Zealand, become the first European to explore the east coast of Australia, and had claimed for England islands such as South Georgia and “Sandwich Land.”
He had searched and searched the South Pacific for the hypothetical Terra Australis that many scholars thought MUST exist to balance out in the Southern Hemisphere all the landmass in the Northern Hemisphere. (Cook and others before him had “discovered” Australia, but it wasn't large enough to qualify for what scholars believed must be there.) Cook was able to firmly establish that there was no such huge southern landmass.
And then there was Cook's third and last Pacific expedition. He was supposed to seek for a Northwest Passage—the long-hoped-for and expected way to sail from Europe to Asia, without having that pesky North American continent in the way.
On his way northward through the Pacific Ocean, in January of 1778, Cook became the first European to see the Hawaiian Islands. Afterwards he successfully explored and mapped the western coast of North America, from Oregon to Canada to Alaska. When he returned to the Hawaiian Islands, he may have been thought to be a god named Lono—although when he returned to the islands for repairs he and his men quarreled and fought with the Hawaiians. During one of these fights, attack, Cook was killed.
Although Cook saw Maui on this date in 1778, he didn't land on the island, because he couldn't find a good harbor. Here's what he missed:
- Haleakala is a dormant volcano, and when you stand at the top and look into the crater, you can often see swirls of subtle colors on the cinder cones inside...unless you are lucky enough to see clouds inside the crater!
- Waterfalls. Lots of waterfalls. These days, the road to the Pools of 'Ohe'o and Hana features a waterfall practically at every turn. Each one more lovely than the last. It took a long time for us to get to Hana, because we spent so much time looking and photographing and even hiking to waterfalls and the jewel-like pools below them!
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