How Did James Cook Die?

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James Cook died on Feb. 14, 1779, after he was clubbed on the head and speared by a native Hawaiian. His death occurred in a battle on the beach at Kealakekua Bay.

Upon discovering that the cutter boat from the Discovery was stolen, Cook and his men went ashore to try to take a hostage — Terreeoboo, the king of Hawaii — to make the Hawaiians return the cutter. During this attempt, a high-ranking chief was shot, and the mob on the shore overran Cook and his men and attacked them. Cook’s party attempted to escape to the Resolution, but Cook was killed after he shot a Hawaiian warrior. According to the diary of James Burney, the first lieutenant on the Discovery, “the whole affair, from Capt’n Cook leaving the Resolution to the return of the boats, happened in the short space of one hour.”