Artifacts from 1824 Shipwreck Returned to Hawaii

Artifacts recovered from an 1824 shipwreck of a Hawaiian king’s yacht will soon go on display at a museum on the island of Kauai. The Smithsonian Institution in Washington is moving to the Kauai Museum some 1,250 lots of artifacts from the shipwreck which experts say open a window into cultural change in the archipelago from its period of westernization. (Reuters)

These artifacts were retrieved between 1995 and 2000 over the course of multiple expeditions. Artifacts in the collection are said to include a conk horn, grindstones, ship fittings, personal effects and weapons.


The ship wasn’t always a royal yacht, it was originally built in Massachusetts as the America’s first ocean-going yacht for a Mr. George Crowninshield II. Built in 1816, it was sold to the King Kamehameha in 1820 for a large quantity of sandalwood following an extended Mediterranean cruise.

A number of strange rumors surround this storied ship, including the longstanding suspicion that the Crowninshields had intended to rescue Napoleon Bonaparte from exile on St.Helena. It was also said that Mr. Crowninshield’s intention was to find a European princess to marry, an endeavor he was apparently unsuccessful in accomplishing.

watercolor by Captain Richard W. Rogers depicts a scene of a shipwreck of long ship which belonged to Hawaiian King Kamehameha II

Upon a visit to Hawaii in 1820, King Kamehameha II saw and purchased the unique ship. The tropical climate was hard on the wood, forcing a refit and a renaming to Ha’aheo o Hawai’i, or the Pride of Hawaii.

Unfortunately, in 1824 the ship ran aground, possibly while scouting for a rumored local rebellion. Initial efforts to save it were promising, but the ship was eventually left to storms and surf.

Hawaiian Artifacts

In addition to local salvage efforts, some hull appeared on the beach in 1844 and two cannons brought back in 1857. It was also likely further damaged by Hurricane Iniki. Eventually, the ship was rediscovered in 1995 and studied by the Smithsonian institute.

Check out some video of the expedition below, apologies in advance for the terrible 90’s background music.

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