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ISLAND HISTORY: Scottish sailor, John Nicol, visited Kaua‘i in 1786 and 1787

While serving aboard English Captain Nathaniel Portlock’s “King George” as steward and cooper, Scotsman John Nicol (1755-1825) visited Kaua‘i twice in 1786 and once in 1787, during Portlock’s whaling and fur collecting voyage of 1785-88 in the Pacific and Alaska.

Besides Kaua‘i, Nicol also visited Hawai‘i Island and O‘ahu.

Accompanying “King George” was its sister ship, “Queen Charlotte,” English Captain George Dixon commanding.

Nicol’s account of his participation in the voyage, “The Life and Adventures of John Nicol, Mariner,” was published in London in 1822.

While at Waimea, Kaua‘i, in 1786, Nicol observed taro fields irrigated by ditches connected to the Waimea River and raised paths that linked fields and houses, which were commonly surrounded by paper mulberry trees.

And, on Dec. 25, 1786, Nicol was in attendance when the first Kaua‘i Christmas was celebrated at Waimea aboard the “King George” and the “Queen Charlotte.”

Hawaiians and Englishmen exchanged gifts, and Christmas dinner consisted of roast pig, meat and vegetable pies covered with crust, and a mixture of rum and coconut water.

On Kaua‘i, Nicol also met Kaneoneo, the husband of Kamakahelei, who reigned as sovereign of Kaua‘i from 1770 to 1794.

Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School in Puhi is named after her.

Nicol wrote of Kaua‘i that “Girls danced, and the men made a sham fight, throwing their spears. The women, standing behind, handed the spears to the men the same as in battle, thus keeping up a continued shower of spears. They wrestled, but the stoutest man in our ship could not stand a single throw with the least chance of success.”

Of Hawai‘i Island he wrote: “Natives came on board in crowds and were happy to see us. Then such a touching of noses and shaking of hands took place. Our decks were soon crowded with hogs, breadfruit, yams and potatoes. ”

Later, “King George” stood for O‘ahu to get yams.

“It was with a sensation of regret I bade a final adieu to the Sandwich Islands. Even now I would prefer them to any country I ever was in,” wrote Nicol.
Source: The Garden Island

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