A Morai, in Atooi.

Rare engraving from the official British Admiralty sanctioned edition of the accounts of Cook’s third and final voyage. Captain Cook arrived at Atooi (Kauai) on 19th January 1778 and stayed until 23rd January 1778. On the 21st January, Cook accompanied … Read Full Description

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Full Title:

A Morai, in Atooi.




In good condition.


Copper engraving.

Image Size: 

x 270mm

Paper Size: 

x 398mm
A Morai, in Atooi. - Antique View from 1784

Genuine antique



Rare engraving from the official British Admiralty sanctioned edition of the accounts of Cook’s third and final voyage.

Captain Cook arrived at Atooi (Kauai) on 19th January 1778 and stayed until 23rd January 1778.

On the 21st January, Cook accompanied by Webber, proceeded inland from their beach side anchorage to Waimea, on the south coast of Kauai. Their intention was to examine elevated objects visible from the ship. It proved to be a morai, or temple similar to ones they had seen in Tahiti and other South Pacific islands. This structure was nearly 20-feet high and covered in a thin, light-grey cloth, which likely had ceremonial significance. The temple rested on a platform and consisted of thousands of rough-edged lava rock piled in a tight, mortarless fashion. In the center is the spindly-legged oracle tower, where the priest (kahuna) might seek counsel or pray. Carved figures with tapa and leaf offerings are seen outside thatched huts topped with pili, the tall grass that grew throughout the lowlands. In his journal, Cook took particular note of several stone objects he had observed:

On 21 January 1778, Cook reported: “The Pyramid which they call Henananoo was erected at one end […] the four sides was built of small sticks and branches, in an open manner and the inside of the pyramid was hollow or open from bottom to top. Some part of it was, or had been covered with a very think light grey cloth, which seemed to be consecrated to religious and ceremonious purposes, as a good deal of it was about this Morai and I had some of it forced upon me at my first landing.On each side and near the Pyrimid, stood erect some rude carved boards, exactly like those in the Morais at Otaheite. At the foot of these were square places, a little sunk below the common level and inclosed with stone, these we understood were graves. About the middle of the morai were three of these places in line, where we were told three chiefs had been buried; before them was another that was oblong, this they called Tanga[ta] taboo and gave us clearly to understand that three human sacrifices has been buried there, that is one at the burial of each chief.” sic

From Cook & King, A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean Undertaken by the Command of His Majesty, for Making Discoveries in the Northern Hemisphere….

Beddie, M. Bibliography of Captain James Cook, RN,FRS, Circumnavigator. Sydney 1970:: 1743-33, p.341.
Joppien, R. & Smith, B. The Art of Captain Cook's Voyages; Vol. I, II & III. Melbourne 1985-1987 :: 3.172A, ill.p.419.

National Library Australia: Bib ID 2929822
National Maritime Museum Greenwich: Object ID PAI3909
Auckland Art Gallery Toiotamaki: Accession no 2007/29/10

John Webber (1752 - 1793)

John Webber was an 18th century artist, best known for his work as the official artist on Captain James Cook's third and final voyage to the Pacific in 1776-1780. He was born in London, England in 1751 and was trained as an artist. Webber accompanied Cook on his voyage as the official artist, tasked with creating drawings and paintings of the places and people they encountered. He produced many illustrations and sketches that were used to make engravings for inclusion in the official account of the voyage, published after Cook's death. Webber was required to "give a more perfect idea thereof than can be formed by written description." Webber's illustrations and engravings of the Pacific islands and their inhabitants are considered some of the most accurate and detailed depictions of the region from that time. They provide an important record of the places and people encountered by Cook and his crew, and are valuable for understanding the culture and daily life of the people of the Pacific during the 18th century. He died in London in 1793, after having returned from the voyage, but his work continues to be recognised as an important historical record of the voyage and of the art of his time. Webber's oeuvre from the voyage was the most comprehensive record of sights in the Pacific region ever produced.

View other items by John Webber

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