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    Polynesian navigation.
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2010 Jul 30, 21:39 +0100

    For those that like such stuff, there's a book just coming out, "Tupaia:
    Captain Cook's Navigator", by Joan Druett (info at
    http://www.joan.druett.gen.nz/ ).
    Joan Druett is a New Zealand novelist, and from the blurb on her webpage
    appears to be uncritically acceptive of the claims to supernatural
    navigational powers of the Tahitian priest Tupaia, who on Cook's first
    circumnavigation was taken on board Endeavour for the return passage to
    England. Unfortunately, he died in the then fever-hole of Batavia, on the
    journey back. But not before making himself useful as a translator with the
    New Zealand Maoris, thus proving their Polynesian origins.
    It may be unfair to dismiss the book before having read it, but the website
    offers some clues about the contents. She makes much of the claim that
    after leaving Tahiti, Tupaia was reportedly able to point in the direction
    of his home, wherever he happened to be. The only source for that story,
    that I know of, is in the writings of the naturalist Forster, who had never
    met Tupaia, having sailed on Cook's second voyage. I have not come across
    that tale in Cook's own journal, or those of any other member of the first
    voyage (which doesn't mean that it doesn't exist, but I doubt if it does).
    But Forster's story gets constantly retold, and elaborated-on.
    Another matter that gets emphasized is the map of the Pacific Islands,
    centred on Tahiti, which was put together by Cook and Banks based on the
    information provided by Tupaia. It showed a close sprinkling of islands
    around Tahiti, particularly to the South, which is in fact remarkably clear
    of islands. This led Cook to make a rather fruitless search in that
    direction. That map still exists, at the British Museum, having been passed
    down with Banks' papers. Comparison with a modern map of the South Pacific
    shows a remarkable lack of correspondence, except for those islands within
    a day or two of Tahiti.
    Tupaia might well have been useful to Cook as translator, but accounts of
    his mystical prowess as a navigator strain our credulity.
    contact George Huxtable, at  george@hux.me.uk
    or at +44 1865 820222 (from UK, 01865 820222)
    or at 1 Sandy Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.

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