Author Tags: 1700-1800

Heinrich Zimmerman, as coxswain on the Discovery for Cook’s third voyage, surreptitiously kept a shorthand journal that appeared as Reise um die Welt mit Capitain Cook (Mannheim, 1781). This journal appeared three years before the official English version of Cook’s Voyages was released and two years prior to John Ledyard’s account.

Zimmerman was a German from the town of Speir in Holland (now Speyer in Germany). His descriptions of Hawaii sparked an interest in the Sandwich Islands, but he also offered some of the first descriptions of West Coast Indians. Zimmerman published the first record of the “Nootka” language, specifically transcribing the Nootka word for iron—tsikimin, or sickeminnee, sickemaillé and sick-a-minny. For the “big nail” he wrote tschikimli.

According to Howay’s translation of Zimmerman’s journal, he described the Mowachaht as being “skilful in the use of their crossbows and in general are a very warlike and stout-hearted people, and as far as we could discover, in a constant state of warfare amongst themselves, the slain being devoured.” He claimed they dried human flesh “which they ate with relish and which they wished us to try.”

The likes of Zimmerman and Ledyard understood there was an avid audience for New World accounts of cannibalism. In Germany, Hans Staden’s The True History and Description of a Country of Savages, A Naked and Terrible People, Eaters of Men’s Flesh, Who Dwell in the New World Called America (1557) had been a bestseller. Staden, from Homberg in Hessen, had embarked on the first of his voyages to Brazil at age twenty. Shipwrecked, he washed ashore at Itanhaem, commanded a small fort for the Portuguese, and was captured by the Tupinamba Indians who ate prisoners to “incorporate” their good qualities. Staden survived by his wits for eight months, then escaped on a French ship. His detailed and well-illustrated memoir has been through 80 editions and is considered a classic document of Brazilian history. Zimmerman’s 100-page book was soon suppressed in Germany, at the request of the British admiralty. A French edition appeared in 1782. A Dutch translation followed. It was not published in English until 1926.


Heinrich Zimmermann, Reise um die Welt, mit Captain Cook. (Mannheim, 1781)

Dernier Voyage du Capitane Cook Autor du Monde (Berne, 1782)

Zimmerman's Account of the Third Voyage of Captain Cook, 1776-1780. (Wellington, New Zealand: Alexander Turnbull Library, 1926). Translated by U. Tewsley.

Zimmerman's Captain Cook, 1781 (Toronto: Ryerson, 1930). Editor: F.W. Howay. Translated from the Mannheim edition by E. Michaelis and C. French.

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2003] "1700-1800" "German"