Buttocks in a Bundle Recall Captain Cook’s End: Lewis Lapham

The cover jacket of "Morning of Fire: John Kendrick's Daring American Odyssey in the Pacific," by Scott Ridley. Source: Harper Collins via Bloomberg

When American Captain John Kendrick sailed into Kealakekua Bay in 1789, he was aware of what had happened to James Cook a decade earlier.

Despite an early enthusiastic reception from the residents, hostilities had soon broken out, and Cook was killed by an enraged mob. When his grieving crew asked for the body, they received a bundle containing a piece of his buttocks, all that was left.

The rest of the captain had been distributed, with the skull going to the chief, his intestines used to rope off a temple.

Kendrick’s was the fifteenth ship of record after Cook to arrive in what is now Hawaii, and his visit turned out differently. Naked women came alongside his vessel in canoes or swam out in the clear waters of the bay. Some had flowers in their hair and necklaces of shells.

Unlike the native women Kendrick’s crew had encountered in the Pacific Northwest, these women were not expecting to trade sex for trinkets. They wanted romance, and as one officer noted, they “seemed not to esteem chastity a virtue.”

With most everyone vying for the job, Kendrick left three of his men to establish a permanent American trading post in the Kona district.

I spoke with Scott Ridley, author of “Morning of Fire,” on the following topics:

1. Global Transformation

2. U.S. Weak, Divided, in Debt

3. British Stranglehold

4. Privateer John Kendrick

5. Control of Pacific Trade

To listen to the podcast, click here. To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)