Unit/ Formation: Marine Regiments
Location: Kealakekua Bay, Hawai'i
Date/s: 14 February 1779
Captain James Cook's 1779 attempted kidnapping of Kalaniʻōpuʻu, the ruling chief of the island of Hawaii and the decision to hold him in exchange for a stolen long boat (lifeboat) was the fatal error of Cook's final voyage, and ultimately led to his death Kidnapping of Kalaniʻōpuʻu by Captain James Cook.
After a month's stay, Cook attempted to resume his exploration of the northern Pacific.
Shortly after leaving Hawaii Island, however, Resolution's foremast broke, so the ships returned to Kealakekua Bay for repairs. Tensions rose, and a number of quarrels broke out between the Europeans and Hawaiians at Kealakekua Bay.
An unknown group of Hawaiians took one of Cook's small boats. The evening when the cutter was taken, the people had become "insolent" even with threats to fire upon them. Cook attempted to kidnap and ransom the King of Hawaiʻi, Kalaniʻōpuʻu.
The following day, 14 February 1779, Cook marched through the village to retrieve the king. Cook took the king (aliʻi nui) by his own hand and led him willingly away. One of Kalaniʻōpuʻu's favourite wives, Kanekapolei, and two chiefs approached the group as they were heading to boats. They pleaded with the king not to go.
An old kahuna (priest), chanting rapidly while holding out a coconut, attempted to distract Cook and his men as a large crowd began to form at the shore. The king began to understand that Cook was his enemy. 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.
Image: The Death of Captain James Cook, 14 February 1779, an unfinished painting by Johan Zoffany, circa 1795
He was first struck on the head with a club by a chief named Kalaimanokahoʻowaha or Kanaʻina (namesake of Charles Kana'ina) and then stabbed by one of the king's attendants, Nuaa. The Hawaiians carried his body away towards the back of the town, still visible to the ship through their spyglass.
Four marines, Corporal James Thomas, Private Theophilus Hinks, Private Thomas Fatchett and Private John Allen, were also killed and two others were wounded in the confrontation.