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    Re: Traditional Polynesian 'location indicators'
    From: George Huxtable
    Date: 2004 Feb 23, 17:38 +0000

    Peter Fogg said-
    
    >When Cook turned up in Hawaii with a Polynesian from Tahiti he was surprised
    >that they could communicate, the dialects were not too different. The
    >Hawaiian story was that their ancestors had come from the Marquesas (? Iles
    >Marquises), about 2500 nm across open ocean (few or no islands along the
    >way) and that subsequent to the original migration large double-hulled
    >sailing canoes traveled between the two places. In modern times a number of
    >recreations of this and other extended ocean crossings have been made.
    
    Cook visited Hawaii on his third and last voyage, and I doubt that he had a
    Tahitian on board then. Perhaps Peter is confusing this with Cook's first
    voyage, when he was taking a
    Tahitian, Tupia, to England, travelling Westerly, not Easterly. On arrival
    at the North Island of New Zealand, in Poverty Bay, Tupia was readily able
    to converse with the locals, impressing Cook with the wide distribution of
    Polynesian society and language, and he deduced that they all had a common
    island origin.
    
    The Tupia story is a rather interesting one. Cook picked him out as a
    bright young man, who was keen to travel with the expedition, and had some
    claims to knowledge of Society-Islands navigation. Cook resolved to take
    him to London, but unfortunately Tupia did not survive the journey.
    
    During Cook's stay in Tahiti, Tupia offered to help the expedition by
    drawing a chart of the Society Isles. His original has been lost, but Cook
    made his own copy of it. It can be found as chart XI in the "Charts and
    views" loose-leaf volume of J C Beaglehole's "Journals of Captain James
    Cook" (Hakluyt Society 1969). Also on page 130, vol.1 of "The charts and
    coastal views of Captain Cook's voyages", ed. Andrew David, (Hakluyt
    Society 1988).
    
    Cook's copy of Tupia's chart is a considerable disappointment, however, if
    you compare it to a modern chart of the Society Is. Any similarity is no
    more than conjectural. As a guide to navigation it would be worse than
    useless, in my view. We have to make allowances, of course. The very notion
    of positioning islands on a piece of paper would have been unfamiliar to
    Tupia. Cook noted those islands with which Tupia claimed to have visited
    himself, which amounted to no more than 6 or so (the chart showed 74
    islands all told). But not a great advertisement for Polynesian navigation,
    even within their own island group.
    
    ==================
    
    Look, I don't want to pretend any first-hand knowledge of Pacific ocean
    travel. I haven't visited any Pacific island (except New Zealand), know no
    languages, all I know has come from reading others' accounts. Perhaps this
    is the case for some other posters also.
    
    Nobody doubts that the Polynesians succeeded in travelling immense
    distances, in diffusing their peoples as far as they did. But were those
    journeys intentional, directed toward a goal, or did they result from
    fortunate survival of some unfortunate accident? Only in the first case
    could we ascribe it to successful navigation. In the second case, it may be
    the result of outstanding seamanship, but lousy navigation.
    
    Nobody doubts that they must have been superb seamen and boatbuilders, to
    survive the savage surfs that surrounded most Pacific islands.
    
    But I remain sceptical about their abilities to make planned, intentional,
    voyages over ocean distances, way beyond their island groups. If they could
    do so, is there evidence of any "return trips"; of Maori settlers, say,
    voyaging back to the Marquesas or Tahiti against prevailing winds and
    currents? Were greenstone axes, or the remains of dubbed Kauri vessels,
    ever found in Tahiti, I wonder? I only ask. I wait to be convinced, and in
    the meantime am happy to act as "devil's advocate".
    
    "Oral tradition" seldom seems clear-cut. Mixed up with the Maori historical
    tradition, for example, are romantic legends about beautiful maidens being
    transformed into rocky islands and that sort of thing. It's just as true of
    the traditions of other societies (even the Greeks, with the advantage of
    writing). You have to decide what might be true and what must be fable,
    which isn't simple.
    
    It does make an interesting topic to yarn about. Especially as there are so
    few facts around, to confuse the issue.
    
    George.
    
    ================================================================
    contact George Huxtable by email at george@huxtable.u-net.com, by phone at
    01865 820222 (from outside UK, +44 1865 820222), or by mail at 1 Sandy
    Lane, Southmoor, Abingdon, Oxon OX13 5HX, UK.
    ================================================================
    
    
    

       
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