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Archive for March 2012

Captain Cook in Google Earth: The Society Isles

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Click here to load the tour in Google Earth => Tahiti To New Zealand or click the following link to view Cook’s journal and access other Google Earth tours => journal of the first voyage round the world


Huaheine, 17Jul1769

Huaheine, 17Jul1769

After an extended visit to Tahiti, during which successful observations of the transit of Venus were made, Cook embarked on the second phase of his exploration of the Pacific. His instructions were to search for a possible southern continent. He started by visiting the small group of islands to the north and west of Tahiti, the so-called Society Isles. He arrived at Huaheine on 17Jul1769 and stayed until the 20th.

He exchanged gifts with Oree, the chief of the people living on the island, and traded with him for fresh food.

Inside the reef on Ulietea, 24Jul1769

Inside the reef on Ulietea, 24Jul1769

A short distance to the west of Huaheine lie the islands of Ulietea and Otaha, with Bolabola (Bora Bora) and Tubai just beyond.

At Ulietea, Cook found safe anchorage:

This harbour, taken in its greatest extent, is capable of holding any number of shipping in perfect security, as it extends almost the whole length of this side of the island, and is defended from the sea by a reef of coral rocks.

Bora Bora

Bora Bora, 29Jul1769

On the 29th, Endeavour was passing Bolabola (Bora Bora) but making little headway against strong winds and a heavy swell from the south. Cook decided that the ship needed more ballast so that the ship could carry more sail in strong winds, therefore they sailed down to the west coast of Ulietea and found another safe harbour on this side of the island.

Raotoanui Harbour, Ulietea

Raotoanui Harbour, Ulietea

The ballast was taken aboard along with fresh water. The local customs were followed and ceremonies performed appropriate to landing on another’s territory in a peaceable manner. Cook also observed the local music, dancing, and drama:

The music consisted of 3 drums, and the dancing was mostly performed by 2 young women and one man…they made very little use of their feet and legs in dancing, but one part or another of their bodies were in continual motion and in various postures, as standing, sitting, and upon their hands and knees, making strange contortions. Their arms, hands, and fingers they moved with great agility and in a very extraordinary manner, and although they were very exact in observing the same motion in all their movements, yet neither their music or dancing were at all calculated to please a European.

Endeavour left Ulietea on Wednesday, 09Aug1769 with the firm intention of heading south, and Cook was content that the ship was now well stocked:

Since we have been about these islands, we have expended but little of our sea provisions, and have at this last place been very plentifully supplied with hogs, fowls, plantains, and yams, which will be of very great use to us in case we should not discover any lands in our route to the southward, the way I now intend to steer.


Today, I added two legs of Cook’s exploration of the Pacific Ocean to my Google Earth tour which presents his first voyage round the world. From Tahiti, I leapt ahead to show Cook’s circumnavigation of New Zealand and the exploration of the east coast of Australia. Now, I’ve returned to fill in the gaps.

Copyright © Colin Hazlehurst, 2012
Images of Earth © Google and others

If you would like to follow Cook’s voyage, you will need to install the latest version of Google Earth on your computer; then go to the Captain Cook blog  and click on the links on the right-hand side of the page, under the ‘Google Earth’ heading. After the animation is loaded in Google Earth, you need to expand an entry in the Table of Contents. You will see a ‘Play’ icon which you double-click to start the animation. Don’t forget to enable your speakers to hear the spoken journal.

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