Wednesday, January 18, 2006

On this Date in 1778...

... James Cook stood on the quarterdeck of the Endeavor, and "discovered" Hawai'i.
Never mind that the actual chain of islands had been settled 15 centuries earlier by Polynesians who eventually developed a complex government of huge chiefdoms led by extraordinarily politically gifted warriors. Cook named the "new land" "The Sandwich Islands" after the incompetent Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty and gambler John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, major sponsor of Cook's voyage and popularizer of meat between two slices of bread. Luckily Viscount Falkland had been on the commission 100 years earlier, and not in the running for the name of strange lands. Sir Cloudesley Shovell and Lord Lauderdale had also retired, so Hawai'i is not sometimes known as "The Shovel Islands" or "Fort Lauderdale." (George Baillie was also a Lord of the Admiralty, but he couldn't get away from that darned savings and loan long enough to have anything named after him.)
Speaking of eating... Captain James Cook was not eaten between two slices of bread. That is to say, he wasn't eaten, as legend has it, by the natives of Hawai'i.
(Cleveley's etching of the death of Cook, depicting the scene just after Cook returned to Hawai'i. "It was all a big misunderstanding," said Third Mate of the Endeavor. "When we left, he said he was going to get sandwiches for everyone, and they said, 'You're a GOD, dude.' When he didn't refuse the title, they assumed he was God, what with the sailboat and gold buttons and all. When he came back without enough sandwiches for everyone...well...What I learned? You've got to be real careful with natives. It's their island after all.)