'A Human Sacrifice in A Morai, in Otaheite...', c 1773.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraving after Webber entitled 'A Human Sacrifice in A Morai, in Otaheite - in the presence of Captain James Cook' from the text volume of 'Complete History of Captain Cook's First, Second and Third Voyages' (1784). Cook and his officers watch as Tahitians prepare a man's body and a dog for sacrifice on the island of Otaheite (now known as Tahiti, part of French Polynesia). A morai was a sacred place, used for burial and worship. The sacrifice was one of the events witnessed by Cook (1728-1779), the famed navigator and hydrographer, during the second of his three exploratory voyages to the Pacific region in 1772-1775 when they crossed latitude 70 degrees - the furthest south then reached by Europeans. These voyages transformed the West's knowledge of the region.