Source 2

An account by John Rickman, Lieutenant on Resolution, of the murder of Captain Cook on 14 February 1779 (ADM 51/4529)


Remarks Moored in Carracucoa Bay, Owyhee

Matters had apparently a different appearance at our return to our old Station. We were very little visited and Provisions did not flow upon us as before, and the People were shy and reserved from reasons no doubt variously assigned by us. The Resolution since our departure from this place found the head of her Foremast so much damaged as to take it out and send it on shore to be repaired which was accordingly done and had our Carpenters to assist them with a marker and a Guard of Marines from the Resolution. On the 14th our large Cutter moored at our Sml Br. Buoy was missing. Boats were manned and armed from both ships with orders from Capt. Cook to lay at the mouth of the Bay and keep the Passage, that nothing should enter or go out while he himself with three of his own Boats manned and armed went to the town on the NW side of the Harbour to secure the Chief of all the Islands at his residence there. Capt. Cook landed with the Marine officer and party of marines and visited the Chiefs house, but was opposed in his Demands upon Tireoboo the Chief and was returning to the shore where the Boats lay surrounded both him and his Guard with a vast crowd who were alarmed at his boldness and perhaps at a loss to account for his return to the Boats – or from whatever motives it was soon perceived that many of them were Armed – tho at the same time others were crowding presents upon him, which with much Anger he threw from him – some insolence was afterwards shown him and he fired some small shot at the Offender without doing any damage, this is perhaps partly nearly the situation of matters when a Skirmish ensued and the fire became general from the Boats and then from the Marines, but without any Orders from any quarter as I can

understand, for Capt. Cook turned to the boats enquired the Reason of it and was ordering them to cease firing when a Chief came behind and stabd him between the shoulders with an Iron instrument like a Dirk (a type of knife) of which they had many made by Capt. Cook by their own directions. He fell immediately at the receipt of the Blow with his face in the water but did not expire till he had recd. several other wounds in different parts of his Body – every thing was in confusion now, the Indians were elevated at their success and a Corporal and three Marines shared the Fate of their Commander before the others got on board the Boats, the Lieut. of Marines was stabd in the shoulder and others badly wounded with stones which came like hail from such a multitude.

« Return to Captain Cook in Hawaii

2. Read Source 2. You are going to research a radio programme that tries to explain why Captain Cook was killed.

  • Firstly, record your evidence of the following:
    • The poor condition of Cook’s two ships
    • That the islanders were no longer very friendly
    • The actions of Cook that angered the islanders
    • The actions of the islanders
    • What happened when Cook tried to return to his boats?
  • Use your evidence to write your radio programme script. You might like to use this framework to help you to get started:
    • In 1779 Captain Cook returned to Kealakekua Bay in the Hawaiian Islands. He had only left a week before when relations between him and the islanders had become unfriendly. Cook was forced to return because…( Insert your evidence from point 1 here )
    • On his return the islanders were no longer very friendly as Lieutenant John Rickman wrote…
      ( Insert your evidence from point 2 here )
    • There is evidence in the journals of some of his men of Cook showing unstable and violent behaviour during this voyage. When the Resolution’s large cutter was stolen he…
      ( Insert your evidence from point 3 here )
    • Cook’s actions angered the islanders. They…
      ( Insert your evidence from point 4 here )
    • When Cook tried to return to his boats…
      ( Insert your evidence from point 5 here )
    • Cook was killed on Sunday 14th February 1779 because…
      ( Look back over the evidence. Who or what do you think was most responsible for Cook’s death? Was it those who sent him to the Pacific with ships in a poor condition, the islanders, Cook’s officers and marines who failed to rescue him, or Cook himself? Now write your conclusion. )