#AUSReadingMonth 2019 Sea People
- Author: Christina Thompson
- Title: Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia
- Published: 2019
- Genre: non-fiction
- Rating: A
- Trivia: 2019 NSW Premier’s History Award General History
- Trivia: 2020 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Nonfiction
- List of Challenges 2020
- Monthly plan
- Christina Thompson and her family (Maori husband and three sons)
- spent 8 weeks traveling across the Pacific, with stops in
- Tahiti, Ra’iatea, the Marquesas, the Tuamotu Archipelago, T
- onga, Hawai’i, New Zealand, and Vanuatu.
- They visited:
- two points of the Polynesian triangle (Hawai’i and New Zealand);
- a center of ancient Polynesian culture (Tahiti, Ra’iatea);
- one of the earliest Polynesian settlements (Tonga);
- and the most famous Lapita cemetery in the Western Pacific (Vanuatu).
Polynesian Triangle ( 10.000.000 square miles!)
What is the CORE MESSAGE ?
- Problems of Polynesian origins – a great geographical mystery
- How did the Sea People spread themselves over the vast ocean (P.Triangle)
- The problem is that the events are pre-history, no written records
- .…open to interpretation.
- Christina Thompson does NOT just follow
- …. James Cook’s three expeditions.
- She approaches the origin of the Polynesian ‘Sea People’ from a fresh angle:
- NOT what happened…
- ….but HOW WE KNOW what happened in the Pacific.
- In 20th C science delivers up whole new bodies of information.
- In 1970s an experimental voyaging movement emerged.
- Scientists used computer simulation the chance of
- settling Polynesia by drift voyagages alone was very small.
- There had to be some human decision making taken into account.
- This was to show that the ancient Polynesians
- …could have purposefully settled the Polynesian Triangle
- in double-hulled, voyaging canoes.
What did the Polynesians use to navigate?
- Without the aid of sextants or compasses
- …the ancient Polynesians navigated their canoes by the
- stars and other signs that came from the ocean and sky
- for example clouds, swells.
When did the Polynesians explore?
- 1200 BC – Polynesians reached Samoa and Tonga
- 300 AD they fanned out to the Marquesas
- 400-600 AD heading north to the Hawaiian Islands
Where did the Polynesians come from?
- One of the most famous people to investigate
- and write about this was Abraham Fornander (1812 – 1887)
- He was a Swedish-born emigrant
- …who became an important Hawaiian journalist.
- He was committed to the Aryan thesis:
- ancestors of Polynesians were a chip of the same block
- from which the Hindu, Iranian and Indo-European family
- were fashioned.
- I knew NOTHING about James Cook’s expeditions
- …and this was a great overview of his three journeys.
- Thompson makes the book so interesting by discussing
- unexpected and closely related topics
- to explain the Polynesian Triangle
- …Part III, ch 1 “Drowned Continents”
- The Belgian voyager, scientist
- Jacques-Antoine Moerenhout (1796-1879)
- dedicated many years searching for
- the origin of the Polynesians and their culture.
Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands
Strong point: structure
- This book was easy to follow…even if you need to
- take a break and read something else.
- Thompson has divided the book in 6 parts
- The Eyewitness (1521-1722)
- Connecting the Dots (1764-1778) James Cook voyages
- Why Not Just Ask (1778-1920)
- The Rise of Science (1920-1959)
- Setting Sail (1947-1980)
- What We Know Now (1990-2018) DNA and Dates
Weak point: (Part II, chapter 4)
- Discussions about the Indo-European language family
- that is related to the languages used in Polynesia were
- took some determination to get through…but i did it.
- But this is important to know to discover the origin of
- the ‘sea people’ in Polynesia…by means of linguistics.
- This book is not ONLY about the Polynesian mariners
- but also about the people who over the years have
- puzzled over their history
- …sailors, linguists, biologists, voyagers, geographers etc.
- I did not know Robert Lewis Stevenson visited the
- Marquesas Islands!
- This was a very interesting book…with some parts that
- were amazing
- …voyages and methods of
- …navigating without compass or sextant,
- …other parts a bit soporific (linguistics).
- This book is well worth your reading time!
- I recommend the audio book (11 hrs 40 min)
- A narrating voice brings life into this very
- interesting book.
- If you first want get into the Polynesian mood
- before you start this book
- …sit down (…with the kids) and watch
- Disney’s 2016 film Moana!
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