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Polynesian Voyagers. The Maori as a Deep-sea Navigator, Explorer, and Colonizer

Restless Rovers

Restless Rovers.

The Rev. J. E. Newell has written that “Evidence is constantly forthcoming that there was a time in the remote past when the South-Sea-Islanders generally were in much more constant and vital contact than they have been known to be in historical times, and when their skill in navigation and their knowledge of the sea was much more extensive and accurate than any race of Polynesians can boast of now.”

It has been shown in the numerous volumes of the Polynesian Journal that, about the thirteenth century the peoples of eastern Polynesia were making many voyages throughout the Pacific, and that many resettlings of divers islands were going on.

In Brown's Melanesians and Polynesians we read: “The Samoans, from the evidence of tradition, were much more daring navigators many years ago than they have been in recent times. The traditions give the account of voyages to Fiji, Tahiti. Tonga, Rarotonga, and many other groups. There appears to be no doubt whatever that Rarotonga was settled by Samoan immigrants, and it is very probable that this was the case with many other groups.”

Those Polynesians who dwelt in some groups of small islands seem to have retained the voyaging habit after it was abandoned by these inhabiting isolated or larger islands. Thus the natives of the Paumotu Group, a far-spread archipelago of islets, have continued their voyages to the Society Isles down to our own times, whereas those of the more extensive lands of New Zealand and Hawaii have long given up, deep-ocean voyages, Again, the natives of such small isolated isles as Rapa and Easter ceased making voyages long ago. At some islands, such as Easter and the Chathams, as also numberless atolls, no suitable timber for canoe-making was procurable.