The Info List - Omai

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Mai (c.1751-1780), mistakenly known as Omai
in Britain, was a young Ra'iatean man who became the second Pacific Islander
Pacific Islander
to visit Europe, after Ahu-toru who was brought to Paris by Bougainville in 1768.


1 Life 2 References 3 Further reading 4 External links

Life[edit] Ma'i described himself as a hoa, chiefly attendant, the son of a Ra'iatea
landowner. His father was killed by Puni's Borabora warriors. Fleeing to Tahiti, Ma'i was wounded in the encounter with the Dolphin in 1767. Ma'i then became an apprentice to a priest. Returning to Ra'iatea, he was captured and taken to Borabora. Narrowly escaping death there, he escaped to Huahine.[1] Omai
met Samuel Wallis
Samuel Wallis
in 1767 and Captain James Cook
James Cook
in 1769 in Tahiti.[2] In August 1773 he embarked from Huahine
on the British ship HMS Adventure, commanded by Commander Tobias Furneaux, which had previously touched at Tahiti
as part of James Cook's second voyage of discovery in the Pacific. Omai
travelled to Europe on Adventure, arriving at London
in October 1774 where he was introduced into British society by the naturalist Sir Joseph Banks
Joseph Banks
(whom he had also met during Cook's first voyage).[3] During his two-year stay in England, Omai
became much admired within London
high society. Renowned for his charm, quick wit and exotic good looks, he quickly became a favourite of the aristocratic elite.[4] Banks regularly invited Omai
to dine with the Royal Society
Royal Society
and arranged meetings with notable celebrities of the time, including Lord Sandwich, Dr Samuel Johnson, Frances Burney, and Anna Seward, among others.[4] Richard Holmes remarks that Omai's idiosyncratic behaviour and distinctive bow were widely celebrated.[4] Indeed, during one famed meeting with King George III
King George III
at Kew, Omai
is said to have delivered his bow then grasped the King's hand, declaring, "How do, King Tosh!"[5] His portrait was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds
Joshua Reynolds
among others, and his journey to England and subsequent return to Tahiti
with Cook on his third voyage in 1776 became the subject of a theatrical production, written and directed by the dramatist John O'Keefe, entitled Omai
– A Voyage ‘round the World that was performed during the 1785 Christmas season at London’s Theatre Royal in Covent Garden. Omai
returned to Huahine
in August 1777 and was settled with a European-style house, furniture, vineyard and two Maori boys as his servants. During the Bounty's visit to Tahiti
in 1789, Captain Bligh was told Omai
had died about two and a half years after Cook's departure in November 1777.[6] References[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Omai.

^ Salmond, Anne (2010). Aphrodite's Island. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 283–284,389–402. ISBN 9780520261143.  ^ Quanchi, Max (2005). Historical Dictionary of the Discovery and Exploration of the Pacific Islands. The Scarecrow Press. p. 200. ISBN 0810853957.  ^ Salmond, Anne (2003), The Trial of the Cannibal Dog, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, p. 3, ISBN 978-0-300-10092-1  ^ a b c Holmes, R. (2009) The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (London: Harper Press) p. 50 ^ O'Brian, P. (1987) Joseph Banks
Joseph Banks
(Harvill Press) p. 181 ^ "Temporary Export Bar For 'Outstanding' Reynolds' Portrait Of Omai" (Press release). United Kingdom Department for Culture, Media and Sport. 17 December 2002. Retrieved 6 December 2008. [permanent dead link]

Further reading[edit]

Connaughton, Richard (2000), Omai: The Prince Who Never Was, London: Timewell Press, ISBN 1-85725-205-5 

External links[edit]

Omai, Captain Cook Birthplace Museum
Captain Cook Birthplace Museum

v t e

Captain James Cook


First voyage Second voyage Third voyage


HMS Adventure HMS Discovery HMS Eagle HMS Endeavour HMS Grenville HMS Pembroke HMS Resolution


Joseph Banks William Bayly William Bligh Alexander Buchan James Burney Charles Clerke James Colnett Alexander Dalrymple Georg Forster Johann Reinhold Forster Tobias Furneaux John Gore Charles Green Zachary Hickes James King John Ledyard David Nelson Omai Hugh Palliser Sydney Parkinson Nathaniel Portlock Edward Riou Henry Roberts David Samwell Daniel Solander Herman Spöring William Taylor James Trevenen John Watts John Webber


Paintings of the death of Cook

Zoffany's Death of Cook

Statue in The Mall, London


1769 Transit of Venus observed from Tahiti Kidnapping of Kalaniʻōpuʻu Birthplace Museum Cooks' Cottage James Cook
James Cook
Collection: Australian Museum Memorial Museum

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 67712659 LCCN: n770095