The Death of Captain Cook at Owhyhee, one of the Sandwich Islands, in the North Pacific Ocean.


John Webber (1752 - 1793)

$A 225

In stock

Full Title:

The Death of Captain Cook at Owhyhee, one of the Sandwich Islands, in the North Pacific Ocean.




John Webber (1752 - 1793)


In good condition.


Hand coloured copper engraving.

Image Size: 

x 125mm

Paper Size: 

x 205mm


A reduced sized engraving of this famous scene, depicting the death of Captain James Cook.

Cook had discovered the Hawaiian Islands on 19 January 1778, sighting the coast and anchoring in Waimea Bay and naming them the Sandwich Islands after the Earl of Sandwich. He then departed in search of a north west passage but returned to Kealakekua Bay (Hawaii) on 17 January 1779. His ships sailed north again on 4 February 1779 only to return to anchor in the same bay with a damaged foremast a week later. On the 11th Feb they spent two days removing the mast and taking it on shore and from that time a number of incidents occurred that would escalate in Cooks death.

Cooks strategy after the loss of a cutter was to go on shore and take King Terreoboo hostage on board the Resolution, as he had done before on other islands. Cook now gave up all thoughts of taking the King on board with the following observation, ‘We can never think of compelling him to go on board without killing a number of these people’, and as retold by Clevelly the carpenter on board the Resolution who was an eyewitness to the events unfolding from safety of the ship stated,

‘I believe he was just going to give orders to embark, when he was interrupted by a fellow arm’d with a long Iron Spike (which they called a Pah’hoo’ah) and a Stone and threatened to throw his stone upon which Captain Cook discharg’d a load of small shot… the Capt then fir’d a ball which kill’d a Man they now made a general attack and Capt gave orders to the Marines to fire and afterwards called out “Take to the boats”. I fired just after the Capt and loaded again whilst the Marines fir’d…’ “A general attack with stones immediately followed, which was answered by a discharge of musquetry from the marines, and the people in the boats. The islanders, contrary to expectations of every one, stood the fire with great firmness; and before the marines had time to reload, they broke in upon them with dreadful shouts and yells. What followed was a scene of utmost horror and confusion. …Our unfortunate Commander, the last time he was seen distinctly, was standing at the water’s edge, and calling out to the boats to stop firing, and to pull in. …having turned about, to give his orders to the boats, he was stabbed in the back, and fell with his face into the water. On seeing his fall, the islanders set up a great shout, and his body was immediately dragged on shore, and surrounded by the enemy, who, snatching the dagger out of each other’s hands, showed a savage eagerness to have a share in his destruction. Thus fell our great and excellent Commander!’

Clevelly also stated that the Hawaiians had of recent times increasingly traded iron spikes; ‘On our first arrival, the best articles of Trade were Beads or Buttons sewed on clips of cloth to wear about their wrists, and Iron wrought into small Adzes in imitation of their own. latterly Iron Spikes from 18 inches to 2½ feet long, worked in the form of their own wooden Daggers, were given. these were called Pahooah: and a few things that we set any value upon could be procured without them.’ ‘far the major part of these Pah’hoo’ahs with which many of the Arees are now arm’d and is their most deadly weapon, were furnish’d them by ourselves–the Arees ever seem’d very desirous of them and we troubled ourselves very little about the use they purpos’d them for.’

The attack saw the death of Cook and four marines (Corporal Thomas, and Privates Hinks, Allen and Fatchett). Second Lieut. Molesworth Phillips and Private Jackson were wounded but escaped in the boats. The boats covering the landing party include the Resolution’s cutter and pinnace, the latter under the Master’s mate Henry Roberts, which made the most concerted attempts to take the men off, the launch under Third Lieutenant Williamson (who, controversially, interpreted Cook’s signal to retreat and pulled his launch further offshore), and Lanyan’s small cutter which came to assist, keeping up a fire on the beach from 30 yards offshore.

References: Beddie 2625

National Library of Australia:  Bib ID2118070


James Cook (1728-1779)

Cook was the most important navigator of the Age of Enlightenement, a period that saw the mystery of the Southland resolved, the discovery of New Zealand, Hawaii, numerous Pacific Islands and confirmation that a northwest passage did not exist.

Cook was born in Yorkshire, England, the son of a Scottish labourer and apprenticeship for three years under John Walker, a Quaker coal-shipper of Whitby. In 1755 Walker offered him a command, but instead Cook joined H.M.S. Eagle and within a month was master’s mate. After two years on the Channel service, he was promoted master of the Pembroke, and in 1758 crossed the Atlantic in her and took part in the siege of Louisburg and the survey of the St Lawrence River that led to the capture of Quebec.

Returning to England in 1762 he married Elizabeth Batts (1742-1832?) of Shadwell, whom he was to rarely see in the ensuing years at sea.

Cook then famously commanded three voyages that ended with his death on the island of Hawaii on 14 February 1779.

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