January 18, 1778James Cook is the first known European to discover the Hawaiian Islands, which he names the "Sandwich Islands".
The 1778 arrival of British explorer James Cook was Hawaii’s first documented contact with European explorers. Cook named the islands the "Sandwich Islands" in honor of his sponsor John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. He published the islands' location and reported the native name as Owyhee. This spelling lives on in Owyhee County, Idaho, after three Hawaiian members of a trapping party killed in that area.