Vancouver sailors take on monumental tasking

Captain Cook Monument in Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii

The Captain Cook Monument in Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii after undergoing restoration by the crew of HMCS Vancouver.

“Was it not for the pleasure which naturally results to a man from being the first discoverer…this service [the Navy] would be insupportable.” – Captain Cook

That true mariner spirit was undeniably felt by each sailor as we rounded Cook Point and first laid eyes upon the pristine sanctuary of Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii, also known as “pathway of the Gods.”  

As the ship came to anchor, the crew of HMCS Vancouver knew we were not here for “R and R”, but to pay tribute to one of the Royal Navy’s greatest and renowned circumnavigators, Captain James Cook.

Over a period of two days, the ship’s company was actively involved in the restoration of a monument built to honor Cook’s arrival on the Hawaiian Islands in 1778, as well as his death at the hands of a local tribe only one year later.  

Mother Nature and time had taken their toll as the memorial itself had fallen into disrepair, so Vancouver took up the monumental task of scraping and repainting the simple white marker, polishing the cannons from the ship HMS Fantome that encircle it, and clearing the surrounding park lands.

“A once in a lifetime opportunity to return a 140-year-old monument back to its former glory; a memory that will be one of the many highlights of my career,” said PO1 Don Anderson, Vancouver’s Senior Hull Technician.

This was not HMCS Vancouver’s first visit to the heritage site. Our namesake has an honored and lengthy history that goes back to 1792 when another Royal Navy navigator, Captain George Vancouver, a young midshipman on Cook’s fatal voyage, returned to Kealakekua to recover his Captain’s remains.

Fast forward to 2008 when HMCS Vancouver visited the big Island of Hawaii prior to participating in a training exercise. During that visit, several wardroom officers set out on a day trip to conduct repairs to the monument. Unfortunately, the small size of the work party meant that only minor repairs could be conducted.

“Having seen the unfortunate state of the monument when I hiked down here as Vancouver’s XO, and knowing the tradition of Commonwealth Navies accepting responsibility for its maintenance, I always wanted to come back one day to do the job right,” said Commander Dave Mazur, Vancouver’s current Commanding Officer.  “We were lucky to be presented with this opportunity and I believe the crew really enjoyed this chance to preserve history.”

The crew is proud of the hard work that was put forth and the results they were able to achieve over such a short period of time.  This effort and the Vancouver spirit have reached home and abroad – with accolades being returned to the ship daily.

SLt Gregory Kuhn, HMCS Vancouver

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  1. Ron Clark says:

    Sorry to be the one to tell you this Robert, but the monument at Kealakekua Bay is not the grave site of Captain Cook. The site is where Cook was killed, not his grave.

  2. Sidney J Reinhart says:

    Very interesting. I was in the RCNVR assigned to the Mt Robson Park a freighter as a Dems gunner. We anchored in Cooks Strait at Wellington, NZ for a month in 1945 then over to Lyttelton on South Island before heading over to Auckland on north island. Would have liked to have seen the monument.

  3. Robert Berbeck says:

    I first went to do a clean up of this grave site in 1962. HMCS New Glasgow, Sussexvale and Ste Therese anchoured and all the young ordinary seamen were volunteered. Wish I had camera for that moment to show how proud we were to have cleaned up such a sailors grave.

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