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

Inter-island Voyages

Inter-island Voyages.

The above writer came to the conclusion that the Polynesians entered the Pacific during the second century of the present era; that they settled the Hawaiian Group about the fifth century; and that, about the eleventh century, there was frequent intercourse between the Hawaiian and southern groups. Again, he writes, “The indications that the various Pacific groups were inhabited at the time that the Polynesians occupied them are very faint indeed, and yet the import of some of their traditions cannot be otherwise construed. That the majority of the groups were uninhabited at the time referred to seems to me quite clear, but I think it is equally clear also that the people which left their architectural remains on the Ladrone Islands, and their colossal statues on Easter Island, had swept the Pacific Ocean before that time, and possibly may have left some page 13 remnants of themselves to which the traditions refer, but which were absorbed or expelled by the newcomers.”

Hale and other early observers enlarge upon the spirit of bold adventure that animated the Polynesians in their time, stating how ready they were to ship on whaling-ships and other craft for long voyages, in which manner many visited America, Australia, and Europe, whereas the Melanesians showed no such spirit, and were loth to leave their island homes. Hale remarks: “The Polynesians are a race of navigators, and often undertake long voyages in vesseles in which our own sailors would hesitate to cross a harbour.” Cook, on his first voyage, brought a Tahitian to New Zealand, whose name is yet preserved by our Maori folk; and, on his third voyage, took several Maoris from here to Tahiti, and from that time the Maori of New Zealand was seen in many lands.

Mr. S. Percy Smith, who has translated and worked out many old traditions preserved by the natives of Rarotonga, shows that about the seventh century the Polynesians made long voyages of exploration, and, in the words of the tradition, visited every place in the world—that is to say, of the world as they knew it. Among the groups visited at that time were the Fiji, Navigator, Marquesas, Sandwich, Tonga, Paumotu, Society, Austral, and Cook Archipelagos, and possibly the New Hebrides, thus including an area of some four thousand miles across. One of these exploring-vessels went far south until it encountered the frozen sea of the Antarctic.

Tangihia, another Polynesian voyager made a much longer voyage about the thirteenth century. The traditions of the Samoans show that there was frequent intercourse between Samoa and Fiji, and it is known that Samoans settled the isle of Rarotonga in past centuries. The Tongans are shown to have raided the New Hebrides and New Caledonia, in the Melanesian area, and voyages took place between the far-northern Sandwich Isles and the Society Group.