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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 12 (March 1, 1935)

“From Island Unto Island.”

“From Island Unto Island.”

For thirty years he travelled about the Pacific, in all kinds of vessels, finding his way to the most remote places. page 14 His first study was Hawaii, with its strange mixture of races, and he gradually explored the other groups and the East Indies, Japan and the shores of Asia, until he knew the whole Pacific, literally from China to Peru. When he returned to New Zealand from one of his early voyages he told me that Mr. S. Percy Smith, who had about that time retired from the position of Surveyor-General of New Zealand, had been one of his sources of inspiration in Polynesian matters and had encouraged him to apply his scientific mind to problems which the Polynesian Society had been formed to investigate. Mr. Smith made several South Sea cruises to gather traditions bearing on Polynesian origins and migrations; and Macmillan Brown, though not a Maori-Polynesian linguist as Percy Smith was, greatly extended the original scope of investigation. He took the whole Pacific as his field; and he studied not only ethnological matters but also economic conditions and political issues. He entered every country with an open mind; he was never content to accept the views of earlier investigators; he delighted to propound new theories and hammer home novel conclusions. Some of his theories seemed to me to be based on inadequate data; nevertheless they were always thought-provoking, stimulating further enquiry.

Discomforts and difficulties of travel in the Pacific never deterred the vigorous and enthusiastic Macmillan Brown from searching out islands where some questions waited to be solved or at any rate discussed. He voyaged in all kinds of vessels, from ocean liners to small auxiliary-screw schooners. He contrived to visit even half-forgotten Rapa, most southerly of Eastern Pacific Islands, and he made repeated attempts, at last successful, to reach the most wonderful and enigmatical of all places, Easter Island.