On this day February 14, 1779

English explorer James Cook was killed in a fight by Native Hawaiians near Kealakekua on the Island of Hawaii.

On 14 February at Kealakekua Bay, some Hawaiians took one of Cook’s small boats. Normally, as thefts were quite common in Tahiti and the other islands, Cook would have taken hostages until the stolen articles were returned.

Indeed, he attempted to take hostage the King of Hawai`i, Kalaniopu`u. The Hawaiians prevented this, and Cook’s men had to retreat to the beach. As Cook turned his back to help launch the boats, he was struck on the head by the villagers and then stabbed to death as he fell on his face in the surf.

The Hawaiians dragged his body away. Four of the Marines with Cook were also killed and two wounded in the confrontation.


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