“New” research claims that Polynesians may have discovered Antarctica prior to the Europeans, and that knowledge of such has been neglected, either through ignorance or willful censorship, according to a Gizmodo article. Is this true? Well, I happen to be in a position to shed some light on the matter!
by Martin Harris 17/6/21
According to Gizmodo’s article:
“A review of literary and oral history suggests Polynesians, and not Europeans, were the first to explore Antarctic waters and possibly even spot the frozen continent itself.
European explorers are typically credited for discovering Antarctica 200 years ago, but new research published in the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand reminds us of a neglected account in which Polynesians are described as sailing through Antarctic waters in the 7th century CE.
This may be news to many people, but it’s “a known narrative,” as Priscilla Wehi, the lead researcher on the new study and a conservation biologist at Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, told the New Zealand Herald. That Polynesians may have visited Antarctic waters so long ago will hardly be a revelation to the Indigenous Māori of New Zealand, as their legends make note of this account…”
The article concludes:
“…Unfortunately, a Euro-centric view of science and history has long meant that the achievements of other cultures get buried and discounted.“
Read the whole article here: Polynesians Discovered Antarctica Over 1,300 Years Ago, New Research Suggests (gizmodo.com) Embedded within is a link to a similarly worded NZ Herald article.
What is the truth of this matter?
For starters, the oral histories and associated artworks (The Maori had no writing) do indeed have accounts that could be explained as visits to Antarctic waters. True. Bear in mind this doesn’t equate to hard evidence of Antarctic discovery, but raises the possibility, even probability of such a claim being true. In order to receive credit, however, there needs to be hard evidence. As the wording of the article suggests, there is, unfortunately, no such certainty.
Secondly, the article gives the impression that while knowledge of Polynesian visits to Antarctica are common knowledge within Maori culture, the rest of the world has remained ignorant of such voyages and it has only come to light via “new research”. The impression is given that Europeans rather ignored such accounts. This part isn’t true.
I have, in my extensive book collection, a New Zealand “Public Service History” book aimed at “intermediate and Senior scholarship level”. The book was published in 1927, and is titled: Our Race And Empire.
With a title like that, one would assume a pompous, arrogant tome filled with British Colonial propaganda. One might assume incorrectly.
I quote Chapter 6, page 119:
“The Polynesians had three things in common with the early English. In the first place they were sailors and discoverers. They made voyages of astonishing length in their large sea-going canoes, sailing, between the seventh and thirteenth centuries, all over the Pacific. They even ventured as far south as the Antarctic…”a foggy, misty, and dark place not shone on by the sun” where, from their picturesque descriptions they must have seen sea-lions, snow, and icebergs. Not only were the Polynesians great sailors and explorers; they were colonizers who made their homes in the new lands they discovered.”
So, in direct contradiction to The Narrative (with a capital N) which demonizes British Colonialism as the subjugators and belittlers of indigenous culture, and in direct contradiction to the claim that European literature ignored or discredited the achievements and discoveries of Pacific cultures, this book from 1927 clearly written from a British Colonial perspective, demonstrates admiration and respect, and finds much common ground (fellow sailors, explorers and colonizers) with the people they formed a treaty with.
Furthermore, this same work demonstrates that the Polynesian Antarctic voyage accounts were not only common knowledge among Maori and Europeans alike, but:
The knowledge was actively and openly transmitted via the Education System at Intermediate and Senior levels. Furthermore, the British were not only honorable enough to accept the account at Face Value, they happily gave full credit to the Polynesian exporers.
And this was at a time when, according to The Narrative, rampant British Colonial tyranny was in full swing, attempting doggedly to suppress and extinguish the flame of Maori culture and heritage.
A vital piece of evidence such as this book presents attitudes of the NZ settlers of the early 20th century in a very different light from the current, highly separatist and divisive (and clearly false) Narrative. A narrative clearly scripted in order to “strawman” the British Empire. Now, who do you suppose would be behind such bull-xit…?
Perhaps I should share this old history book with those composing the forthcoming “new” NZ school history curriculum? Then again, perhaps not. I suspect it would be burned on the pyre along with all the other works that don’t fit the Narrative.
PS: It may well be that neither the Europeans nor the Polynesians were the first to visit Antarctica, if the Piri Reis map (at least the surviving portion of it) is anything to by!