"He watched Captain Cook give the Indians souvenir medals, stamped with an image of George III and the date of the expedition, to mark this historic encounter. He watched the Indians immediately hammer the medals into fishhooks and spear tips."

Guys, I found one.

When I was doing research for my novel, I discovered this cool fact — that Captain Cook had traveled the world with sacks of these commemorative medals to hand out wherever he landed. Their purpose was both to impress the natives with a curious gift made of rare (to them) metal, and also to leave behind a record of the Englishman's visit (in case some French or Portuguese ship captain might land on that same island years later, and claim they had been the first to discover the place.)

Think of it as a brass relic that says, in essence: WE WERE HERE.

Ever since I learned of this, I wanted to try to find one. It was wonderful to imagine where all these medals might have ended up — those medals which had not, as I said in the novel, immediately been hammered into something more useful than a necklace medallion. I know there are a few in New Zealand, a few in Australian museums. Nobody has ever yet found one in Tahiti.

But working with a historical coin specialist, I found one! It was in a private collection in the UK, and had belonged, most likely, to one of the officers of Captain Cook's expedition. He very likely carried it all over the planet with him, then passed it down the family line as a memento of his voyage. Alternatively, it could have been a gift to a British patron, or supporter of the voyage. Who knows? All I know is that it was found in London, and now, miraculously, I've purchased it as a souvenir of my OWN voyage (and Henry Whittaker's) with Captain Cook and with THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS.

Pretty cool, right?! This little object is such a treasure to me.

The best thing about this medal is that it boasts that George III is the king of "England, France, Ireland, Etc."

1) I like the "etc". So very empire-building.

2) But, dude, that takes some serious balls (or wishful thinking) for the King of England to claim that he was also the King of France!

Nice try, George. I'm sure they weren't buying it even in Tierra del Fuego…

Anyhow, thought you guys might want to see this. A relic of the journey.

Happy reading!

via Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook Wall