Hawaiian lives changed with sudden and lasting impact when in 1778, Captain James Cook and his crew arrived. Contact changed the course of history for Hawai‘i when they made the first western contact with Hawai‘i. Cook named the archipelago the Sandwich Islands in honor of his patron, the First Lord of the Admiralty, the Earl of Sandwich.
Cook’s crew first sighted the Hawaiian Islands in the dawn hours of January 18, 1778. His two ships, the HMS Resolution and the HMS Discovery, were kept at bay by the weather until the next day when they approached Kaua‘i’s southeast coast.
On the afternoon of January 19, native Hawaiians in canoes paddled out to meet Cook’s ships, and so began Hawai‘i’s contact with Westerners. The first Hawaiians to greet Cook were from the Kōloa shore.
The Hawaiians traded fish and sweet potatoes for pieces of iron and brass that were lowered down from Cook’s ships to the Hawaiians’ canoes.
Cook continued to sail along the coast searching for a suitable anchorage. His two ships remained offshore, but a few Hawaiians were allowed to come on board on the morning of January 20, before Cook continued on in search of a safe harbor.
On the afternoon of January 20, 1778, Cook anchored his ships near the mouth of the Waimea River on Kaua‘i’s southwestern shore. As they stepped ashore for the first time, Cook and his men were greeted by hundreds of Hawaiians who offered gifts of pua‘a (pigs), and mai‘a (bananas) and kapa (tapa) barkcloth.
Cook went ashore at Waimea three times the next day, walking inland to where he saw Hawaiian hale (houses), heiau (sacred places of worship), and agricultural sites. At the time, the region was thriving with many thatched homes as well as lo‘i kalo (taro patches) and various other food crops such as niu (coconuts) and ‘ulu (breadfruit).
After trading for provisions, gathered water and readied for sail, Cook left the island and continued his search of the “Northwest Passage,” an elusive (because it was non-existent) route from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. On January 17, 1779, Cook returned to the Hawaiian Islands, sailing into Kealakekua Bay on the island of Hawai‘i. Less than one month later, on February 14, 1779, Cook and several of his men were killed in an encounter with the natives on the shoreline of Kealakekua Bay.
From the time of contact, until the end of the century, ships called at Waimea nearly every year for water and provisions. For a time it was the favored port of call on the island. However, captains learned that the exposed anchorage at Waimea was dangerous with kona (south-westerly, versus the typical north-easterly tradewinds) winds came up, threatening to ground the moored ships.
Ultimately, it was this occasional weather pattern that causes the decline of Waimea as the favored port on the Island of Kauaʻi and the rise of Kōloa Landing (Site #10) to take its place. Ships calling to Kōloa Landing steadily increased and by 1830 it became widely recognized as the major port on the island. In addition to the ability to maneuver in and out of the anchorage, whatever the wind direction, the Kōloa region had ample water and food crops to provision the ships that called.