Image Hawaiian feather cloak ('ahu 'ula)

TLF ID R2038

This is a feather cloak given to Captain James Cook by a Hawaiian high chief at Kealakekua Bay in Hawaii on 26 January 1779. It measures 1.54 m x 2.45 m and is made from the yellow and red feathers of an estimated 20,000 mamo, o'o and i'iwi birds. It consists of a fibre backing into which bundles of feathers have been tied. The feather work starts at the bottom so that each new row conceals the quills of the feathers below.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This asset shows that Cook was at one stage so revered by the Hawaiian people as an incarnation of Lono, one of the principal Hawaiian gods, that he was given this cloak (and others like it) - this cloak was placed on Cook's shoulders by Kalani'öpu'u, a high chief who had been wearing it at the time.
  • It reveals the importance and status of the Hawaiian high chief for whom this cloak was made - considerable resources were used in hunting the mamo, o'o and i'iwi birds, and in weaving the cloak.
  • It shows the Hawaiian people's high levels of skill in design and weaving - the patterns represent the back and wings of a bird.
  • It suggests that the impact of the construction of such feather cloaks on the local bird populations was considerable - both the mamo and o'o birds are now extinct.
  • It is one of the items collected during Cook's third and final voyage (1776-79) - after charting the west coast of North America from northern California as far as the Bering Strait, Cook returned to the Hawaiian Islands and died in a skirmish with Hawaiians on 14 February 1779, nineteen days after receiving the cloak.

Other details

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  • Name: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Organization: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
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  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
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  • Name: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • Organization: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
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  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
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  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
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  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
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Learning Resource Type
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  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements