Link #143: The First Name Of Hawaii Was Sandwich Islands!

Welcome to Hawaii
Image credit: jdnx/CC BY 2.0


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Link #143: The First Name Of Hawaii Was Sandwich Islands!

Welcome to Hawaii
Image credit: jdnx/CC BY 2.0

There are many characteristics and traits that Hawaiian Islands are associated with in people’s minds. One of these is the close relationship of Hawaiian Islands with volcanoes. The Hawaiian Islands were formed due to volcanic eruptions and, as we explained in our last post, one volcano on the islands has been erupting for more than three decades.

If you read our last article, you’ll know this to be the Kilauea volcano. There’re many other interesting facts related to the Hawaiian Islands. For example, did you know that Hawaii wasn’t even their first name? In fact, the Hawaiian Islands were first called Sandwich Islands!

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Why Hawaiian Islands Were Called Sandwich Islands?

Portrait of Captain James Cook
Portrait of Captain James Cook. Public Domain image.

Officially, Hawaiian Islands have been said to be found by James Cook, an explorer from Great Britain in the late 18th century. James Cook recorded the location of the islands and published them in Europe.

Since Cook’s expedition to Hawaiian Islands was funded by the 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, he decided to call the islands Sandwich Islands. In his publication of the location of the islands, Cook also provided the native name of the islands as Owyhee.

John Mantagu is known as the creator of the buttered toast. This is why ‘sandwich’ is still a term used for breads with butter and other items between them.

What Happened To Cook In Hawaii?

The death of Captain James Cook, 14 February 1779
The death of Captain James Cook, 14 February 1779. Public Domain image.

Cook visited the Hawaiian Islands twice with the first being in 1778. Initially, Cook was welcomed by the Hawaiians with open arms. The king of the Hawaiian Islands is said to have given Cook many gifts.

Moreover, the explorers and natives traded freely with each other too. Items exchanged included everything from water and meat to nails, coins, and muskets. Additionally, men from Cook’s ships could easily mingle with the locals including females.

Even though Cook’s relationship began well with the Polynesians, it didn’t end well. After Cook returned to the islands, there was a misunderstanding between his crew and the Polynesians.

Supposedly, the Polynesians stole some metal utensils from Cook’s ship. In retaliation, Cook took some temple idols and temple fences. The Polynesians responded to Cook’s retaliation by taking one of his boats.

The escalation continued as Cook decided to abduct the Hawaiian King. This was the final straw as the Polynesians fought back and stabbed Cook to death as his crew retreated.

Did Anyone Discover Hawaii Before Cook?

Spanish Expedition
Spanish Explorers. Public Domain image.

While not widely accepted, it’s possible that James Cook wasn’t the first European to discover the Hawaiian Islands. Some evidence suggests that Spanish explorers had discovered the islands before other Europeans and had decided to keep the information secret.

In fact, some records state that the Spanish had discovered the Hawaiian Islands way back in the 16th century on their way to Manila in the Philippines. The reason why the Spanish kept the information secret was that they didn’t want other Europeans to find their route to the Philippines. If this was to happen, then the Spanish would lose their trading monopoly with the Asian nation.

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