Polynesian Explorers


Thompson has been in examining oral histories the records of Captain Cook and the accomplishments of the Polynesian voyaging society. All to investigate what it can tell us about how we view the world. Today she pieces together the navigation puzzle of sailors and settlers in her book. See People Christina. Welcome thanks for having me. So when when we think of Polynesia talk about how big it is and what it has in common culturally so Polynesia is the area that is inside of this triangle we'll formed by Hawaii in the North New Zealand in the southwest and Easter Island in the southeast. It's an area of about ten million square miles and it smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and it happens that all the people who live on the islands in this area which is the island's that people have heard of like Tahiti or saw more or maybe the mark cases they all share a common cultural heritage. They all speak related languages and they have a similar genetic. Ming up no Christina. You say ten million square miles and originally they were not populated by human beings at all so somehow people had to get there and there was no communication. People didn't right. They didn't have metal tools. They didn't have navigational devices that I can imagine. Can you just kind of paint a picture to the best that we can. We're were there caravans of canoes just going out into the unknown C or how did these islands become populated originally well. I think one thing we don't know is how many canoes necessarily sailed together but basically the idea is that you know some thousands of years ago over in what sometimes people call the island nursery Sirri of Southeast Asia in the islands around the Philippines and Indonesia and stuff people developed an outrigger. which is this thing that sticks out from the side of the canoe to keep it balanced to keep it from from tipping over and with the development of the outrigger people started to be able to make some longer distance? Voyages and the canoes the Polynesian sailed in were like Catamaran's they had to halls else and they were stable and they could carry a load of people and animals and so they started making longer and longer voyages. There's some again some thousands of years ago from this western side of the Pacific out further and further and further into the mid Pacific. But it must have been hit or miss because they didn't have maps. They didn't have radar. They didn't know where the islands were if they were islands. Do you think they were just kind of going toward the sunset and hoping to hit land now the sunrise is actually but they obviously looking for islands and the islands are what they call inter visible. You can see one from. I'm the other in the Western Pacific. A lot of them are. There's a big leap when they get past that point and they start to sail out to islands that you can't see so they're probably exploring hiring and looking for them they really were amazing navigators. They weren't sailing blinds. They understood how to go to one place and sail back from that place after. Remember where that place was and things like that. They must have been exploring but we don't really know how they found islands like the end of Hawaii. Which is the islands of Hawaii are very isolated in the North Pacific? How did they find them who knows because we have no written history people? Just build a raft. That was kind of like one of those early outriggers Imagining how they might have done it and just without knowing if they did it prove that they could have done it like those. Expeditions seemed to be part of science right right so the the earliest one was was to Harles kon-tiki raft which he he allowed to drift basically from the coast of South America and ended up in the middle of the Pacific on the tomatoes. And that was an kind of an early experiment in this vain but then in the nineteen seventies in Hawaii some people got together and decided to try and build a true replica vessel so a copy of what they imagined. An ancient Polynesian voyaging canoe would been like and they decided to try and sale it from Hawaii to Tahiti and back again and that was the beginning of what what is really kind of an experimental voyaging movement in Hawaii. And what was that expedition called. The ship was called Hokule'a it Okla has made an around the world voyage now but that was in two thousand sixteen I guess but between Nineteen Seventy in two thousand sixteen they have made voyages absolutely everywhere. They sailed to to Easter to New Zealand. All around the Pacific to the point is to prove that it could be done yet to show the voyaging capacity of the Polynesians basically to show that non instrumental. Navigation vacation is really a thing and that people can go very long distances using it. You know that it's a real technique. You said they sailed it. Is it drifting with the wind and the tides is it with a sale or is it paddling they have a sale. They have a steering paddle but they sail. What were the very first contact with European society like in the Polynesian World? Some of them were violent. Some of them were not. We don't have any idea what the markes ins thought of men Donya when he arrived Zeppelin we know record of it and what I mean. There's the record of the Spanish but we don't really know for sure what archaisms thought There was a little bit of that I think. In some cases there it was all in some cases there was fear in some cases. There was something that you might call. Greed greed Westerners. No on the part of the I mean I. I think that a lot of islanders actually looked at these ships once they realized kind of what was going on and who these people were they actually wanted the ships. There are definitely stories of ambushes. Did they have some kind of A religious context again in the case of the conquistadors from Spain I mean in their religion I understand. It was on this certain year. A man on a horse you know was going to come and on that certain year the man on the horse with the beard came just like their scripture said and they disfigured this must be divided and they laid down their weapons and was there any kind of dimension of that local cultural religion with the arrival of the first Europeans pins or was it the opposite The story of Cook's arrival in Hawaii is kind of like that story that he arrived during a festival in he seemed to be the embodiment of the deity. Who was being celebrated in the Festival because switches to happen that he arrived at that time? I think that that added to the confusion of cooks experience. AGREEANCE cook was killed in Hawaii. That was where he died. And it was not long after this encounter during this festival period and I think it added to sort of chaos and confusion that he had Iraq during that a period. This is travel with. Rick Steves talking with Christina Thompson. Her book is see people the Puzzle of Polynesia and we're talking about early explorers of the Pacific both before the Europeans arrived and after so captain cook arrived and they thought. Oh It's a festival in here comes God and then things went sour and they killed killed them. Tell us a little more about that. So what happened. Is that Cook. He went up north to Alaska and then or the Northwest Pacific and then he came down and when he came down he was looking for a place to rest his crew and he sort of hit the island of Maui and then he went east so he sailed all the way around the big island before he found a place to come to rest his crew and that meant that he was sailing in his ship all the way slowly because against the wind all the way around the big island for quite a while and so when he arrived the legend of Lono the God that he sort of seemed to be representing was that Leno passed around the island in the same. I'm way he was represented as carrying a staff with White Tapa cloth on it which is sort of like the the ship to mass in their sales so just a lot of things lined up kind of strangely initially and then what happened was he. They went through all this festival these festivals and celebrations and then Cook sailed away and that should have been the end of it he should have just sailed away that would be fine but his mast broke just offshore and he had to return and when he returned he wasn't supposed to return according to the legends. He wasn't supposed to come back until the next year. So people were confused by that and then there was an altercation. He died in the clash not long after he returned.

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