1779: Capt. James Cook is killed by Hawaiians near Kealakekua on the Island of Hawaii during his third exploratory voyage in the Pacific. Cook had attempted to take hostage the King of Hawaii, Kalani'opu'u, to use as leverage for the return of a small boat that had been stolen from him. When the effort failed, he and his men retreated to the beach. When Cook turned his back to help launch the boats, he was struck on the head and then stabbed to death as he fell into the surf.