This print is an engraved image from the official account of James Cook’s third expedition, his last voyage. The ostensive purpose of the voyage was to return home a Society Islands native, Omai, who had spent two years in Europe after hopping a ride on an English ship in 1773. However, the true purpose was to explore for the long sought-for Northwest Passage. Cook sailed around the Cape of Good Hope and into the Pacific, stopping at among other places Tasmania, New Zealand, Tonga, and the Society Islands. He then discovered the Hawaiian Islands, which he named the Sandwich Islands. Cook then sailed up the northwest coast of America through the Bering Strait, before being stopped by pack ice. Returning to Hawaii, Cook was killed in an otherwise insignificant skirmish. John Webber was the official artist for the voyage, taken along to “give a more perfect idea thereof than can be formed by written description.” Upon the expedition’s return he prepared images for the report which was published in 1784, the most comprehensive picture of the Pacific region from the early days of exploration.
This print shows a burying ground on the island of Kauai (called by Cook Atooi) When anchored at Waimea, on the south coast of Kauai, Cook and Webber decided to explore to see the nature of a tall object they could see inland. They came across this burial enclosure, similar to the morai they had seen on Tahiti. The tower was nearly 20 feet high.