On this day in 1778, renowned British explorer Captain James R. Cook (1728–1779) discovered the Hawaiian Islands, coming ashore at Waimea on the island of Kauai. The brave captain had traveled around the dreaded Cape Horn to explore the Pacific.
Aboard the HMS Resolution with a crew of over 100 men and consort vessel HMS Discovery, Cook was en route from Tahiti in search of the mythical Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to Pacific when he unexpectedly found the islands which had been inhabited by Polynesians since 400 A.D.
"Remember, the greater the opportunity, the fewer are those who see it," he once said.
Born in the Yorkshire village of Marton, England, Cook was the son of a laborer who joined the Royal Navy at age 27. He has been called one of history's greatest explorers. He named his discovery "the Sandwich Islands" after the Earl of Sandwich, one of his sponsors in England.
Cook's discovery of Hawaii was his last of three historic voyages. His first (1768-1771), was a scientific mission to the South Pacific where he sailed to Tahiti, created the first map of the New Zealand coastline, and claimed the east coast of Australia for Britain. On his second voyage (1772-1775), Cook became the first European to cross the Antarctic Circle.
About the Aborigines, the typically tolerant Cook said, "They may appear... to be the most wretched people on earth but in reality they are far happier than we Europeans... They live in tranquility which is not disturbed by the inequality of condition."
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