Today, the Hawaiian Sesquicentennial Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers when Captain Cook first discovered Maui on November 26, 1778.
An excerpt from the book, A Residence of Twenty-one Years in the Sandwich Islands, by Hiram Bingham, published in 1855:
The same year, returning from the North West coast of America, Captain Cook discovered Maui, Nov. 26, 1778.
At that time, Kalaniopuu, king of Hawaii, with his chieftains and warriors, was engaged in a hostile attempt to wrest Maui from the dominion of Kahekili, the invincible sovereign of all the group except Hawaii.
On the arrival of the ship, the natives having heard it described, seemed to recognize it, and carried off provisions to trade, from the shores of Hamakua.
Kalaniopuu and his train went on board on the 30th, to gratify their curiosity, and his nephew, Kamehameha, then a youthful warrior (but subsequently a king and conqueror), showed his manliness by remaining on board with Cook over night, while the ship stood off to keep clear of the land.
The old king is said to have supposed him lost.
He was landed in the morning, and Captain C. passed on by the eastern part of that island, and discovered Hawaii.
As he appeared off Kohala, some of the people scanning the wondrous strangers, who had fire and smoke about their mouths in pipes or cigars, pronounced them gods.
Passing slowly round, on the east and south, and up the western side of Hawaii, Cook brought his ships to anchor in Kealakekua bay, Jan. 17, 1779, amid the shouting of the multitudes who thronged the shores to gaze at the marvelous sight.
Seeing so unusual a mode of traversing the ocean, and supposing the squadron to be the vehicle of the gods, setting at naught their taboos which forbid sailing on the water just at that time, they launched their canoes, and ventured out upon the bay to reconnoiter, and applied to the commander the name of a Polynesian deity, and rendered him the homage which they supposed would please him.
The popular name of that navigator the missionaries found to be Lono, and to some extent it so continues to this day.
The following legend of one of the Hawaiian gods, professes to show the origin of the boxing-games of the Makahiki festival, and of the worship of Capt. Cook : —
In very ancient time Lono dwelt at Kealakekua with his wahine, Kaikilanialiiopuna. They dwelt together under the precipice.
A man ascended the pali and called to the woman, “O Kaikilanialiiopuna, may one dare approach you, — your paramour — Ohea — the soldier? This to join — That to flee — you and I sleep.”
Lono hearing, was angry and smote his wahine, and Kaikilanialiiopuna died. He took her up, bore her into the temple and there left her.
He lamented over her and travelled round Hawaii, Maui, Molokai, Oahu, and Kauai, boxing with those whom he met.
The people exclaimed, Behold Lono greatly crazed!
Lono replied, “I am crazed for her — I am frantic on account of her love.”
He left the islands and went to a foreign land in a triangular canoe, called Paimalau.
Kaikilanialiiopuna came to life again, and travelled all round the islands searching after her husband.
The people demanded of her, “What is your husband’s name?”
She replied “Lono.”
“Was that crazy husband yours ?”
Kaikilanialiopuna then sailed by a canoe to a foreign land. On the arrival of ships the people exclaimed, “Lo this is Lono! Here comes Lono!”
When Captain Cook moved on the shore, some of the people bowed down and worshipped him, and others fled from him with fear.
A priest approached him and placed a necklace of scarlet bark cloth upon his shoulders, then retreating a little, presented to him hogs, and other offerings, and with rapid incantation and prayer, did him homage; then led him to their sacred temple and worshipped him, as one of their long acknowledged deities.
The Hawaiian Sesquicentennial Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with an artist’s image of the natives providing an offering to Captain Cook, circa late 1700s.