Captain Cook's Travels

Omai the Able Seaman

This is a Yorkshire World Collections object, one of 100 chosen by young people aged 16-24, as part of the London Cultural Olympiad programme Stories of the World.

Omai was from the island of Raiatea in the Society Islands. He met Captain Cook’s party in Tahiti on his first voyage to the Pacific. When Cook returned in 1773 he accepted the proposal of Captain Furneaux, James Cook's second in command, that he should go back to England with them on the Adventure. He did this and was listed on the muster as Able Seaman 'Tetuby Homy'. During the voyage he was taught English.

In Britain, Omai's exotic appearance, good humour and charming manners made him a favourite with society. He is shown wearing barkcloth and carrying a stool. Not long after his arrival in England, in the care of Joseph Banks and Dr. Solander, he was presented to King George III and Queen Charlotte at Kew, apparently saying, “How do, King Tosh!”.

Discussion Ideas:

  • How do you think Omai might have been treated in England at that time?
  • Why do you think Omai might have wanted to leave the Pacific Islands to go to England?

Activity Ideas:

  • Do some of your own research to find out how long Omai stayed in England
  • Zoom in and out of this map to appreciate how extremely remote the island of Raiatea is, where Omai came from.

Document icon Learning article provided by: Captain Cook Memorial Museum | 
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