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

The Ships that never returned

The Ships that never returned.

Many of the islands of Polynesia were discovered by means of voyages of exploration, others by means of drift voyages, and yet others by tolk who sailed forth upon the ocean in search of a new home wherever they might chance to find it. Thus, defeated clans, fleeing from the wrath to come, or the wrath that had come, would set forth to reach some isle known to them by tradition, or might simply sail on until by chance they found a new home or perished in lone seas. Many such parties have fared forth upon the heaving breast of Hine-moana (personified form of the ocean), trusting to fortune and the favour of the gods, drifting down long degrees and braving the dangers of the deep in a manner unknown to our European ancestors, throwing the rolling sea leagues behind them even as our for-bears paddled their dugouts across the Thames. Of a truth, could the story of the Polynesian voyagers be written in full, then would it be the wonder-story of the world. For, look you, page 14 the true Argonauts are here—here in the palm-lined isles of the Many-isled Sea—here where their ancestors broke through the hanging sky and learned of new lands and the ways of many waters.

In this manner was Crescent Island settled by a party of refugees from Mangareva, Not possessing any canoes, these folk constructed rafts, whereon they trusted themselves to ocean currents. This occurred about one hundred and fifty years ago, and the traditions of Mangareva state that other such parties had left that isle in former times—left it in order to escape death, possibly to find it on the great water wastes of the Pacific.

The natives of Tongareva assert that they are descended from a party of refugees expelled from Rakahanga, while the folk of the latter isle trace their origin to Rarotonga, in the Cook Group. Rarotongan voyagers used to visit Manihiki Isle, six hundred miles distant.

Hale tells us that a system of voluntary emigration existed at Ponape, in the Caroline Group of Micronesia, where a party would victual a canoe and trust to chance to find a new home for themselves.