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Explorers of the Pacific: European and American Discoveries in Polynesia

Portlock and Dixon

Portlock and Dixon

1785 to 1788

On Cook's last voyage, a number of furs were obtained on the north-west American coast and sold for good prices in China when the Resolution and Discovery called at Macao on their way back to England. The crews almost mutinied in their desire to return to the north-west coast for more furs. The reports spread in England in 1780 opened up the possibility of a new source of wealth, and in the spring of 1785 the South Sea Company was formed and obtained a charter to trade for furs on the northwest coast of America and dispose of them in China. Two vessels were bought by the company, the King George and the Queen Charlotte, and were placed under the commands of Nathaniel Portlock and George Dixon. These men, besides being able navigators, had served on Cook's third voyage and were acquainted with the country where the furs were obtained. The ships sailed together over the period of 1785 to 1788. Hawaii was a convenient place for obtaining provisions, and both Portlock and Dixon recorded useful information concerning the native inhabitants. Some of the Hawaiian implements figured by Portlock have been of value in identifying museum artifacts concerning which no details had been recorded.