Captain Cook Spear Sells For £150,000
27 Mar 2003
A native wooden spear which killed Captain James Cook in February 1779 sold at auction for £150,000 yesterday (March 26th). Seventeen bidders from as far afield as Hawaii, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Britain vied for the relic.
The huge interest in the spear pushed up the sale price at Lyon and Turnbull auctioneers in Edinburgh from an original estimate of £2,000 to £19,000 before bidding even started. After fierce competition by telephone between collectors in America and Britain, it was eventually sold to an anonymous London buyer who said that he wanted to keep an item of such historical importance in the country. He paid a total of £156,000, including commission.
Genesis Publications has published several editions dedicated to James Cook's and other explorers' Voyages of Discovery. These volumes are illustrated facsimiles of the original ships' logs and journals, and include 'James Cook's Journal of HMS Resolution 1772-75', when Cook lost his life at the age of 50 as he anchored off Hawaii to conduct repairs to his ship. After numerous petty thefts from his ship, Cook went ashore intending to take a local dignitary hostage until the stolen items were returned. But he was met by a crowd of more than 1,000 natives on the beach at Kealakekua Bay, who clubbed him to the ground in the ensuing uproar and repeatedly stabbed him with spears. His remains were later buried at sea.
After being recovered from the beach by Cook's navigation officer Captain Bligh - later of the famously mutinous Bounty, also recorded by Genesis in 'The Mutinous Seizure of the Bounty' - the spear was fashioned into a 91 inch gold-topped walking stick in the 1800s and inscribed and given as a gift to Admiral Sir David Milne by Admiral Charles Ross.
Cook was on his third voyage to the southern hemisphere when he died. On earlier trips he had skippered the Endeavour, described in 'The Journal of Joseph Banks in the Endeavour'.
The spear remained with the descendents of Admiral Milne until they decided to sell it.