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    Re: Traditional Polynesian 'location indicators'
    From: Peter Fogg
    Date: 2004 Feb 23, 10:25 +1100

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "George Huxtable"
    > I have ended up somewhat sceptical of claims of the superb
    > skills of the Polynesian peoples (or the other Pacific-island societies).
    > But that is entirely on the basis of secondhand learning (and a sceptical
    > nature), and my mind is open to being convinced otherwise.
    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.
    The Micronesian connection is important because it was there that
    traditional navigators have been found in recent times (long since vanished
    from Hawaii) and so these teachers (and their book and thesis writing
    students - there have been others, apart from Lewis) found themselves
     undertaking these trips (comparable with an Atlantic crossing, and not
    necessarily along the same latitude) through extended unfamiliar waters
     - far from just 'island-hopping'.
    > ...  I am quoting from memory and am not certain which book it's
    > in ...
    So am I, and what I remember is this Micronesian navigator on the other side
    of a vast ocean, an area he had never visited, confidently navigating the
    way from Hawaii to the Marquesas (or some comparable trip) and explaining
    that the methods were applicable everywhere. As we would expect many of them
    would be, eg: compasses using the rising and setting of known stars.
    > A Polynesian punishment for serious transgressions of their code was
    > banishment. The offender would be put into a boat with a woman and a
    > pregnant sow, and instructed not to return.
    Two advantages of the Polynesian sagas are that they happened in relatively
    recent times, and to a people without a written language who guarded
    excellent oral traditions. Polynesian migrations have been studied with a
    number of tools. One is language, which indicates that the Marquesas were a
    sort of originating point for many far-flung colonies. Maps have been
    drawn up showing routes of spread and approximate times, based on how the
    language has changed yet is similar across the far-flung Polynesian islands.
    The Maori (who came from the Society Islands, who came from the Marquesas)
    oral tradition is quite detailed, and far from unique. The story of their
    ancestors' arrival in New Zealand is complete with the number of boats and
    people, their names, animals and plants brought, etc, and their subsequent
     histories up to white settlement (its thanks to this oral history that we
    know that they found another people already living in New Zealand when they
    arrived). This original migration was across about 2000 nm, again open ocean
    - at least that is how they say it was done. All of this happened since the
    Vikings were raiding the coasts of Europe. I'm not sure how typical was
    'a woman and a pregnant sow' as a successful migration model.
    Of course the Polynesians had to get to the Marquesas in the first place, a
    group of islands thousands of miles from any land in most directions, but
    that's another story.

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