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An Introduction to Polynesian Anthropology



Captain James Cook made three voyages, which, with those of Byron and Wallis, covered a continuous period of British exploration in the south Pacific from 1764 to 1780.

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Cook's first expedition (1768-1771) was sent out under the auspices of the British Admiralty and the Royal Society, primarily to observe the transit of Venus from the newly discovered island of Tahiti. Cook was given command of the bark Endeavour, which weighed 368 tons and had a crew of 94. He sailed from Plymouth on August 26, 1768 and rounded Cape Horn on January 27, 1769. Sailing west, he adopted a course between those of Byron and Wallis and, unknowingly, followed the course of Bougainville. He thus encountered the three islands in the Tuamotus which were discovered by Bougainville and named them as follows: Lagoon (Vahitahi), Thrum-cap (Akiaki), and Bow (Hao). However, instead of avoiding the islands farther west which Bougainville had named the Dangerous Archipelago, Cook kept straight on and discovered the following islands: The Groups (Marokau and Ravahere), Bird (Reitoru), and Chain (Anaa). From Anaa, he had a clear run to Meetia and Tahiti, which he sighted on April 10. Friendly relations were established with the people, an observatory was set up at Point Venus, and the transit of Venus observed under a clear sky on June 3.

Cook sailed north with a native named Tupaea who had stated that there were islands in that region. Cook adopted the native names as given to him and his spellings are given here. The first island discovered was Tetiroah (Tetiaroa) which completed the windward group discovered by Wallis. Cook discovered the leeward group as follows; Huaheine (Huahine), Ulietea (Raiatea), Otahau (Tahaa), Bolabola (Borabora), and Maowrooah (Maurua). He named them the Society Islands in honor of the Royal Society, and he applied the name of Georgian Islands to the windward group in recognition of their discovery by Wallis.

He was informed by Tupaea that there were other islands some days' sail to the south, and sailing in that direction, he discovered Oheteroa (Rurutu) in the Australs. Sailing southwest, he reached the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand in the vicinity of Poverty Bay. He spent six months in making a complete survey of the coast of both islands and showed that they were separated by the strait which bears his name. He thus proved that they had no connection with Staten Land or a great south continent. After surveying the east coast of Australia, Cook sailed on to Batavia and returned to England via the Cape of Good Hope. He anchored in the Downs on July 13, 1771 after a voyage of two years and ten and a half months.

Cook's second voyage (1772-1775) was for the purpose of searching for the south continent. He had two ships, the Resolution, 446 tons, and the Adventure, 336 tons. The ships sailed to the Cape of Good Hope and then explored the Antarctic between the meridians of the Cape of Good Hope and New Zealand. Cook sailed north to New Zealand and then eastward along the parallel of 40° S. without encountering any land. He turned north into the Tuamotus and discovered three more atolls, which he named Resolution page 25(Tauere), Doubtful (Takokota), and Furneaux (North Marutea). He arrived at Tahiti and visited Raiatea, where Omai was taken on board the Adventure. The ships sailed for the Tongan group and on the way discovered the small island of Manuae, which was named Hervey Island. After visiting the Haapai and Tongatabu groups, Cook sailed east and visited Easter Island. From there he went to the Marquesas of Mendaña and discovered Fatuhuka, which he named Hood Island. From the southeast group of the Marquesas, Cook directed his course to Tahiti and thus missed discovering the northwest islands of the Marquesas. In passing south through the western end of the Tuamotu chain, he grouped the four new islands of Apataki, Toau, Kaukura, and Arutea under the name of the Palliser Islands. From the Society Islands, Cook sailed west and discovered Palmerston and Savage (Niue) Islands. He visited the New Hebrides and, on his way to New Zealand, discovered New Caledonia and Norfolk Island. He continued his search in the Antarctic between the meridians of New Zealand and Cape Horn.

Cook then sailed north and surveyed the coasts of Tierra del Fuego and Staten Land. He explored the south Atlantic, discovering South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. After passing the meridian where he had commenced his Antarctic exploration, he came to the conclusion that there was no great south continent though there might be land in the vicinity of the South Pole. He thereupon sailed home and anchored off Spithead on July 30, 1775, after a voyage of three years and 18 days which had covered between 60,000 and 70,000 miles.

Cook's third voyage (1776-1780) was for the purposes of returning Omai to his home in the Society Islands and seeking a northern passage from the Pacific to the Atlantic. The Resolution was refitted for her second voyage and the Discovery, under Captain Clerke, was added to the expedition. The ships sailed via the Cape of Good Hope to New Zealand, whence they sailed northeast. Cook discovered the two islands of Mangaia and Atiu in the Cook group and then sailed west to Tonga. From Tonga, he sailed east, and on turning north for Tahiti, he discovered Tubuai, his second discovery in the Austral Islands. Having returned Omai to Raiatea, Cook sailed north on his way to search for the northern passage to the Atlantic. He discovered an atoll on December 24, 1777 and named it Christmas Island. He continued north, and on January 18, 1778, he discovered the first islands of a group which he subsequently named the Sandwich Islands. The islands seen on this occasion were Oahu, Kauai, Niihau, and the small islands of Lehua and Kaula. The ships sailed north eventually through Bering Strait in search of the northern passage. Cook returned to winter at the Sandwich Islands and, in January 1779, discovered Maui and Hawaii. After being treated with the most lavish hospitality at Kealakekua Bay on Hawaii, Cook sailed to continue his survey of the islands. However, a storm forced him to return to Keala-page 26kekua Bay for repairs, antagonisms arose, and Cook was killed. The expedition sailed north under the command of Captain Clerke and discovered Kahoolawe, Lanai, and Molokai, the remaining Sandwich Islands. The expedition resumed its northern survey and search for a northern passage. Captain Clerke died, and the ships returned to England under the command of Captain Gore. They anchored at The Nore on October 4, 1780, after a voyage of four years, two months, and 22 days.