CAPTAIN COOK RELICS.
LORD ST. OSWALD’S GENEROUS GIFT TO NEW ZEALAND.
VALUABLE HAWAIIAN CLOAKS AND MAORI CARVINGS.
A visitor strolling into the dingy recesses of the Colonial Museum at Wellington (says the “Press”) might have noticed some peculiar looking feather cloaks and other curios of a dinginess in keeping with their worm-eaten domicile, and apparently of no great worth. In reality, however, they are articles of almost priceless value, genuine members of the great English circumnavigator, Captain Cook. Not only so, but they are connected intimately with his voyages and discoveries in the South Pacific and with the Hawaiian Islands and New Zealand in particular. They are the generous gift to New Zealand of Lord St. Oswald, whose forbears bought them at the sale of Bullock’s Museum on April 29, 1819. When Bullock died his famous collection was offered to the British Museum for £50,000, but refused, and it was subsequently disposed of at auction.
The main feature of Lord St. Oswald’s gift is the magnificent feather cloak and helmet presented to Captain Cook a short time before his death by the King of Owhyee. This robe is particularly described by Captain Cook in the account of his voyages. The cloak, which is in a remarkably fine state of preservation, is made mainly from countless small feathers of the Yellow Roo (Destia ral coxinia), a bird long since extinct. The feathers have, with inifinite patience, been woven one by one into a fibre base. The feather helmet is remarkable in that in shape it is almost a counterpart of the helmet in which our allegorical figure of Britannia is portrayed, with the crest of comb that was a characteristic of the Burgonet of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries particularly prominent, which can be traced back to the early Roman times. How the Hawaiians had got this idea of the mediæval helmet before the discovery of the islands by Captain Cook is somewhat of a mystery, unless it be that the Spanish had previously visited the islands. This seems highly probable. There is also an Hawaiian hat of the time of Captain Cook, a very rare exhibit. It is round, crowned, and broad-rimmed. One has seen many modern hats made on exactly the same lines; indeed, if one were to put a few larger feathers on it, and some modern trimming, it might almost pass muster on a racecourse or at a garden party of the present day. Continue reading