Which famous Yorkshire son suffered St Valentine's Day massacre?

Capt Cook: victim of St Valentine's day massacre
Capt Cook: victim of St Valentine's day massacre

St Valentine's Day celebrates lovers the world over ... but spare a thought for one of our county's most beloved sons.

February 14 1779 saw untimely demise of Yorkshire's legendary explorer Captain James Cook, here star of illustrated potted regional history and included in "could you survive age of exploration" quiz.

Tomorrow marks 238th anniversary of the master navigator and maritime cartographer being savagely murdered after confrontation with islanders who mistook him for a love god.

Born and bred in God's Own County, Cook discovered and charted New Zealand and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, since acknowledged as among world's most dangerous waters to navigate.

His voyages around the globe helping guide other explorers for generations, he provided first accurate map of the Pacific, while many believe he did more than anyone in history to fill the world map.

Born in 1728, he worked on Yorkshire land alongside his father until, aged 18, being offered an apprenticeship by a Quaker shipowner.

With sea-faring blood soon coursing through his veins, he joined the Royal Navy, becoming ship’s master at the age of 29.

1768 saw him take command of the first scientific expedition to the Pacific aboard famed vessel Endeavour, leading to discovery of New Zealand and Great Barrier Reef.

During Cook’s third major voyage, he became first European to set foot on Hawaii, landing Discovery at Kealakekua Bay, when his arrival coincided with annual festival in honour of fertility god Lono.

Locals had never seen white men before, nor anything like the huge sailing ship in which they arrived. The only explanation was Captain Cook must be Lono himself and, as a result, he and his men were lavished with feasts and gifts.

Soon, however, one of Cook’s sailors died from a stroke, possibly brought on by over-indulgence. Whatever the cause, Hawaiians realised their guests were not immortal after all and relationships became strained.

Any doubts were removed after Cook set sail but had to return for repairs when his mast was broken by a storm. While anchored off-shore, Cook was furious when told a cutter boat had been stolen, storming ashore to confront the Hawaiian king.

Unfortunately, Discovery crew fired cannons at another group of islanders, causing Cook to panic and flee to a waiting boat. But, staggering after being pelted by stones and struck by a club, the explorer was stabbed in the back by a warrior brandishing a knife that ironically had been a gift from Cook himself.

Stumbling into the surf, he was repeatedly stabbed and pounded with rocks. Hawaiians then ritualistically prepared Cook’s corpse as they would a king, preserving his hands in sea salt, then roasting rest of his body in a pit before cleansing his bones.


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