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    Re: Longitude by altitudes. was Re: How Many Chronometers?
    From: Peter Fogg
    Date: 2009 May 14, 21:58 +1000
    Frank wrote:
    But you do agree that some of the fanciful stories of Norse expeditions penetrating deep into North America are effectively ruled out by this, right?

    Speaking of straw-man arguments..  This would seem to be an irrelevant distraction, Frank, introduced to cloud the issue.  What I am relying on is the written records of the expedition that settled for a while, found it all too hard (especially the hostility of the locals) and went away again.  What Frank might call 'primary evidence'.
     
    If the contact was anything but "brief and ephemeral", the European diseases would have left an earlier record and would have been common in the Americans by the time the Spanish arrived.

    Frank, your central argument is parading itself about in public while wearing no clothes.  It is not a good look.  Be a good chap and cover yourself up; a sensible argument would be ideal for the task.  Absence of proof is nothing more than absence.  Its hopeless and quite silly to insist it can be turned into proof of absence.  And I think you know this, but are unwilling to admit it.

    And you wrote:
    Ah, but was it "several hundred years" or only 75? The consensus (for whatever that's worth) appears to be that this trade began around 1720.

    What "consensus" might this be?  I've never heard of it, and take (as you might suspect by now) a keen interest in such matters.  How was this date arrived at?  Remember that Indonesia is an island archipelago, and has been settled for a long time by Malay-speaking people (never mind the earlier others) who have been building for a similarly long period quite capable vessels for sailing around their world.  How else would they have settled it?  Northern Oz is not so far away, across a sheltered and shallow sea, which typically exhibits very little swell (as I found, once again, when I most recently visited the NT, just last month.  The museum at Darwin has a great collection of boats, by the way.  All sorts of strange and occasionally tiny craft have been sailed there, often from parts of Indonesia, and some have lingered).  Of course the Moluccans were aware of the place, probably since forever (mists of time stuff) but the semi-regular settlements grew out of an organised exploitation of Trepang (or whatever else you want to call them - phylum Echinodermata, species Holothuria, Stichopus, and Thelonota).  They were mainly sold to the Chinese, so I've been given to understand.  There was a good demand.  The evidence of the Moluccans presence in the NT is physical (objects, including cave paintings of them by their hosts, etc), linguistic and genetic (human and animal).  I'm not sure that anyone knows when this fairly regular contact began, but my understanding is that it went on for at least several hundred years before the Europeans turned up.  If you have some evidence relating to this 1720 date then cough it up, pronto.
     
    That's not much before the main European settlement. I understand that there are some folks who want to push the contact back earlier, but if so, then why no plagues among the Native Australians??

    Why indeed - unless there is a flaw in your argument..? 
     
    Or maybe there were, and they simply didn't travel far because of the low population density...

    Wrong again.  Do you just make up this stuff as you go along?  The overall density was low because most of the continent is semi-desert.  The white folk are still learning this the hard way.  But the northern coast was and is an exception, and did and does support quite significant indigenous populations.  Almost a paradise, if you like the heat and don't mind the crocs.

    Wrong about the presumed non-travel, too.  Read Bruce Chatwin's The Songlines.  A network of tracks criss-crossed the continent, and were used for trade and cultural exchanges.  Travel happened.

    And you wrote:
     Myself, I would be willing to entertain the model that "some" smallpox infection came from the Moluccans

    Upon what basis would yourself be willing to be so entertained?  Where is your research?  From what platform of information does this opinion arise?  The research that has been done was carried out to test the casual and, it turns out, incorrect assumptions of those who expressed similar opinions to yours with no basis at all for their suppositions (and that were, incidentally, self-serving, just like yours).
     
    while the devastating infections occurred in the more densely populated areas of European settlement. If you choose to believe otherwise, then you would have to propose that the Moluccan traders somehow avoided diseases which were endemic in their own islands. How would this miracle occur??

    Dunno, mate.  And neither do you, it seems increasingly clear.  What do you know about the presence of specific diseases in different Indonesian islands in particular centuries?

    PS: you wrote: "beche de mer (sea slugs)". Do folks in Australia still call these 'sea slugs'? They're sea cucumbers by modern terminology, distantly related to the starfish and sea urchins, but I understand that they used to classed with the true sea slugs --which are shell-less snails (mollusks) like land-bound slugs. Understand, I'm not objecting to whatever terminology is considered normal down there. Do you call sea cucumbers "sea slugs"? And if so, is there a different name for true sea slugs?

    Well, I hope I've cleared that much up.



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