Burial ground in Tongo, from Cook’s Third Voyage


John Webber. “A Fiatooka, or Morai, in Tongataboo.” From A Voyage to the Pacific Ocean Undertaken by the Command of His Majesty, for Making Discoveries in the Northern Hemisphere.  London: W. and A. Strahan for G. Nicol and T. Cadell, 1784.  8 3/4 x 15.  Engraving by W. Ellis.  Repaired tear in lower margin.  Else, very good condition.


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.

Tongataboo was the largest of the Tonga islands, and this image shows the fa’itoka, or burying ground there.  About this, David Samuel, the surgeon on the Discovery, wrote “The Places set apart for burying the dead are raised with Gravel about a foot or two above the level of the Ground, on which stand two or three Houses which are constantly shut up but contain nothing in them; these Ceremonies called in their Language Dano are kept very neat & clean & the Indians are generally despleased at our approaching them.”