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Canoes of Oonalashka (in Alaska)


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Gallery locationNot on display

Object details:

Object ID PAI3922
Description This engraving is after a drawing by John Webber from John Hawkesworth's account (1773) of the voyages of Captain James Cook, Joseph Banks and Captain John Byron. Captain James Cook (1728-1779) made three separate voyages to the Pacific (with the ships Endeavour, Resolution, Adventure, and Discovery) and did more than any other voyager to explore the Pacific and Southern Ocean. Cook not only encountered Pacific cultures for the first time, but also assembled the first large-scale collections of Pacific objects to be brought back to Europe. He was killed in Hawaii in 1779. John Webber was the artist on Cook’s third voyage from 1776-1780. Cook's first traveled to Samgoonoodha (English Bay), (Unalaska) between June28-July 2, 1778. He saw the island of Unalaska on June 27, 1778. This stay was very worthwhile for the voyagers. The people encountered were ready to trade and invited the English into their houses. The countryside provided many herbs such as wild peas or celery and plenty of fowl. Most of Webber's field drawings of Alaskan subject matter can be dated to Cook's first stay at Samgoonoodha harbour. With his portraits, Webber concentrated on the physiognomy, the broad cheek bones and slanting eyes, bringing out some of the facial characteristics of Mongolian people. Concerning the appearance and dress of the Unalaskans, Cook says: "These people are rather low of stature, but plump and well shaped, with rather short necks, swarthy chubby faces, black eyes, small bears, and straight long black hair, which the men wear loose behind and cut before...their dress...both, men and womens are made alike, the only difference is in the materials, the womans frock is made of Seal skin and the Mens of birds skin and both reach below the knee...some of them wear boots and all of them a kind of oval snouted cap..." Samwell provides a longer description of the Aleut women than Cook: "They are of a copper complexion with a strong red in their Cheeks, their hair is black and coarse which they tye behind in a large Club; they have their Cheeks and chins tattawed or marked and likewise their arms, their cheek bones are high like a Scotchman's with this difference that they are all well covered with Flesh, which makes their faces broad & plump; their eyes are black & small and not at right angles with the Nose but slanting obliquely upwards. They are all cloathed in a seal skin Frock which reaches from their Necks down to their Feet & the Sleeves reach to the Hand, so that they are entirely covered except their Faces and hands, they wear nothing on their Heads. They sometimes wear boots & have always a piece of Seal Skin tyed round the small of their Legs." This engraving shows three Aleuts in their kayaks. Loosely bound in album with PAI3893-PAI3921, PAI3923-PAI3936.; Plate No.50.
Date made July 1778

Artist/Maker Webber, John
Angus, William
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials etching
Measurements Plate: 210 x 263 mm; page: 390 mm x 535 mm
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