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November 9, 2019


#AUSReadingMonth 2019 Sea People

by N@ncy

Bora Bora

  • 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



  1. Christina Thompson and her family (Maori husband and three sons)
  2. spent 8 weeks traveling across the Pacific, with stops in
  3. Tahiti, Ra’iatea, the Marquesas, the Tuamotu Archipelago, T
  4. onga, Hawai’i, New Zealand, and Vanuatu.
  5. 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 ?

  1. Problems of Polynesian origins – a great geographical mystery
  2. How did the Sea People spread themselves over the vast ocean (P.Triangle)
  3. The problem is that the events are pre-history, no written records
  4. .…open to interpretation.
  5. Christina Thompson does NOT just follow
  6. ….  James Cook’s three expeditions.
  7. She approaches the origin of the Polynesian ‘Sea People’  from a fresh angle:
  8. NOT what happened…
  9. ….but HOW WE KNOW what happened in the Pacific.
  10. In 20th C science delivers up whole new bodies of information.
  11. In 1970s an experimental voyaging movement emerged.
  12. Scientists used computer simulation the chance of
  13. settling Polynesia by drift voyagages alone was very small.
  14. There had to be some human decision making taken into account.
  15. This  was to show that the ancient Polynesians
  16. …could have purposefully settled the Polynesian Triangle
  17. in double-hulled, voyaging canoes.


What did the Polynesians use to navigate?

  1. Without the aid of sextants or compasses
  2. …the ancient Polynesians navigated their canoes by the
  3. stars and other signs that came from the ocean and sky
  4. for example clouds, swells.


When did the Polynesians explore?

  1. 1200 BC – Polynesians reached Samoa and Tonga 
  2. 300 AD they fanned out to the Marquesas
  3. 400-600 AD heading north to the Hawaiian Islands


Where did the Polynesians come from?

  1. One of the most famous people to investigate
  2. and write about  this was Abraham Fornander (1812 – 1887)
  3. He was a Swedish-born emigrant
  4. …who became an important Hawaiian journalist.
  5. He was committed to the Aryan thesis:
  6. ancestors of Polynesians were a chip of the same block
  7. from which the Hindu, Iranian and Indo-European family
  8. were fashioned.


Strong point:

  1. I knew NOTHING about James Cook’s expeditions
  2. …and this was a great overview of his three journeys.


Strong point:

  1. Thompson makes the book so interesting by discussing
  2. unexpected and closely related topics
  3. to explain the Polynesian Triangle
  4. …Part III, ch 1 “Drowned Continents”
  5. The Belgian voyager, scientist
  6. Jacques-Antoine Moerenhout (1796-1879)
  7. dedicated many years searching for
  8. the origin of the Polynesians and their culture.


Nuku Hiva, Marquesas Islands


Strong point:  structure

  1. This book was easy to follow…even if you need to
  2. take a break and read something else.
  3. Thompson has divided the book in 6 parts
  4. The Eyewitness (1521-1722)
  5. Connecting the Dots (1764-1778)  James Cook voyages
  6. Why Not Just Ask (1778-1920)
  7. The Rise of Science (1920-1959)
  8. Setting Sail (1947-1980)
  9. What We Know Now (1990-2018) DNA and Dates


Weak point:  (Part II, chapter 4)

  1. Discussions about the Indo-European language family
  2. that is related to the languages used in Polynesia were
  3. took some determination to get through…but i did it.
  4. But this is important to know to discover the origin of
  5. the ‘sea people’ in Polynesia…by means of linguistics.



  1. This book is not ONLY about the Polynesian mariners
  2. but also about the people who over the years have
  3. puzzled over their history
  4. …sailors, linguists, biologists, voyagers, geographers etc.
  5. I did not know Robert Lewis Stevenson visited the
  6. Marquesas Islands!
  7. This was a very interesting book…with some parts that
  8. were amazing
  9. …voyages and methods of
  10. …navigating without compass or sextant,
  11. …other parts a bit soporific (linguistics).
  12. This book is well worth your reading time!
  13. #NonFictionLovers


Last Thoughts:

  1. I recommend the audio book (11 hrs 40 min)
  2. A narrating voice brings life into this very
  3. interesting book.
  4. If you first want get into the Polynesian mood
  5. before you start this book
  6. …sit down (…with the kids) and watch
  7. Disney’s 2016 film Moana!


3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nov 11 2019

    I’m pretty sure this is lurking somewhere on my tbr pile. It’s exactly my cup of tea. Love learning about ancient nations migrated & settled new areas. I wonder if they left their homes in a spirit of adventure & exploration or because of necessity. Where they refugees or colonisers? We’re they welcomed or was their a fight? How did they adapt to their new environment? Did they dominate it or take the time to learn its ways?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nov 11 2019

      So many great questions….and Ms Thompson tries to answer them all!
      The Polynesian Triangle has such a rich history….that often is bypassed.
      Thanks to Christina Thompson we can learn so much!
      #AUSReadingMonth 2019 is such a success….already!
      Thanks, for hosting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Louise Minervino
    Aug 1 2020

    I don’t know how I missed this book.
    I’ve got it line up now.
    Love your graphics.
    Not only that, I can’t always find your GR reviews. Must be something with their algorithm



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