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Caps of Natives of Oonalashka


Object connections:

Gallery locationNot on display
PeopleArtist: Webber, John
Artist: Record, James

Object details:

Object ID PAI3925
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. The Resolution and the Discovery had a second visit to Samgoonoodha, English Bay, Unalaska between October 3-26, 1778. 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." In this engraving, two caps of triangular and oval shape are shown. They do not appear to have been described in the journals. Samwell probably comes nearest when talking about the women’s dexterity with the needle: “The Women make very curious Baskets of different kinds variously ornamented & beautiful Matts, some of their Baskets are worked so close with Straw that they will hold Water; they have Tobacco pouches & other little articles such as small Bags & made of Skins which they ornament very pretty with their Needles.’ Loosely bound in album with PAI3893-PAI3924, PAI3926-PAI3936.; Plate No.56.
Date made 1779

Artist/Maker Webber, John
Record, James
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials etching
Measurements Plate: 275 x 205 mm; Sheet: 535 x 390 mm
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