Cook Islands History and Tourism. People, Culture and Tradition. The History and Travel guide Book. The written history of the Cooks began with the sighting of Pukapuka by the Spaniard Alvaro de Mendaña in 1595 followed by a landing on Rakahanga in 1606 by another Spanish explorer, Pedro Quiros. The British arrived off Pukapuka in 1764 and named it Danger Island because they could not land. This was a very active time in Pacific exploration with the British and French seeking greater prestige as maritime powers. Between 1773 and 1779 Captain James Cook sighted and landed on many of the southern group but never came within eyeshot of Rarotonga. The infamous Captain William Bligh of the Bounty landed on Aitutaki in 1789 he is credited with importing paw paw trees to the Cooks and in April of that year the mutineers of the Bounty appeared off Rarotonga but, contrary to popular belief, probably did not land. Cook named the islands the Hervey Islands. In fact, he gave this name to the first island he discovered Manuae. The name "Cook Islands" was given to the group by the Russians in honor of the great English navigator when it appeared for the first time on a Russian naval chart in the early 1800s.