Engraving. Men sit in circle with two in centre, one with the dish distributing the kava, while another one sitting nearer to Paulaho in the middle of the circle, could be a servant, holding a bowl in his hand. They sit beneath a wooden framed structure.
Poulaho, King of the Friendly Islands, drinking kava

Case study: Ceremonies

Let’s look at understanding Cook’s actions through this second case study.

Observing a ceremony

“I do not pretend to dispute the propriety of Captain Cook’s conduct, but I cannot help thinking he rather let himself down.” [1]

In July 1777, the Resolution and Discovery sailed to Tonga. In her book The Trial of the Cannibal Dog, Anne Salmond narrates an occasion where Cook observed and then participated in a sacred ceremony on Tongatapu. In doing so he offended the Tongans and members of his crew.

Download and read the section from The Trial of the Cannibal Dog from the Downloads section below.


  1. Lieutenant Williamson, Beaglehole I 157 fn

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Confronting Captain Cook: Memorialisation in museums and public spaces

National Maritime Museum