Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hidden Treasures

Captain Cook

Do you have a favourite hidden treasure in the museum? The Woolly Mammoth, I suspect, tops many lists. The train station, with its chirping crickets and rumbling locomotive, is another popular choice.

My personal favourite is a little more grisly: a celebrity murder weapon. Let me back up about 240 years to explain.

On this day in 1770, Captain Cook sailed into Botany Bay and became the first European to reach the east coast of Australia. This was part of the young captain's first major scientific expedition, but not his last. During his journeys, Cook was to lead his ships all over the Pacific Ocean: south to the Antarctic Circle, north to the Bering Strait. He has become known to us as one of the greatest of explorers.

His expeditions came to an untimely end in 1779. During a visit to the island of Hawai'i, Cook and his men quarrelled with the local inhabitants. During the fight, Cook was stabbed to death on the beach.

Fast forward to today. Tucked away on the 3rd floor of the Royal BC Museum is a life-size replica of the "HMS Discovery" – a ship that sailed with Cook on his final voyage, and later with Captain George Vancouver. In a display cabinet nearby are a variety of objects related to explorers from the age of sail. Nestled near the front is a small wooden knife. It's unassuming. Tiny. But like many objects within the museum, a small thing can link you back in time and space to world-changing events.

This is believed to be the knife that ended the life of Captain Cook in Hawai'i. There's a bit of mystery around the authenticity of the artifact, and many questions about the actual events that lead to Cook's demise. If you're interested in learning more, check out the links below or contact us directly. Better yet, come in for a visit and see the knife for yourself. While you're here, find a hidden treasure for yourself in the Royal BC Museum.


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