Dr. Charles F. Urbanowicz/Professor of Anthropology
California State University, Chico/Chico, California 95929-0400
Telephone: 530-898-6220 [Office]; 530-898-6192 [Dept.] FAX: 530-898-6824
e-mail: and home page:

30 April 2004 [1]

[This page printed from]

(1) © [All Rights Reserved.] Placed on the WWW on April 30, 2004, for a presentation at the WAML (Western Association of Map Libraries) Conference, April 29-30, 2004, at CSU, Chico. My appreciation goes to Ms. Debra Besnard and Mr. Stan Griffith and their "Digital Asset Management Project" in the Meriam Library at CSU, Chico for the work they did for some of my slides used today. This presentation draws upon an earlier paper presented at The Anthropology Forum on November 6, 2003. That presentation (and some of the visuals) may be seen at

ABSTRACT: The Pacific Ocean represents one-third of the globe and it was explored and colonized by indigenous inhabitants well before the Europeans "discovered" and mapped the islands for the entire world to "discover" and explore.

This presentation (with selected visuals) will touch upon some of the islands (and islanders) who lived and traveled through this part of the globe. Some of the latest discoveries (and controversies concerning anthropological research will also be discussed).

In writing about the Pacific (in addition to the indigenous inhabitants) one must be sure to mention the celebrated Captain James Cook, R.N. (1728-1779) as well as my favorite, Charles R. Darwin (1809-1882). Both of these Europeans, as well as numerous others, irrevocably changed the islands (and islanders) of the Pacific.

Visual Source:; and see K.R. Howe, 2003, The Quest For Origins: Who First Discovered And Settled The Pacific Islands? (University of Hawai'i Press), page 68.





"As the Spanish proverb says, 'He [or she], who would bring home the wealth of the Indies, must carry the wealth of the Indies with him.' So it is in travelling; a man must carry the wealth of the Indies with him, if he would bring home knowledge.' BOSWELL. 'The proverb, I suppose, Sir, means he must carry a large stock with him to trade with.' JOHNSON. 'Yes Sir.'" James Boswell [1740-1795], 1791, The Life of Samuel Johnson (NY: [1968] Signet Classic), page 467.

I received my Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Oregon in 1972 and my own expertise in the Pacific developed as a result of graduate courses, combined with library research (California, Hawai'i, Australia, and New Zealand), and fieldwork in the Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga (1970 and 1971) more than three decades ago! I have not returned to Tonga since 1971, but I have been to Hawai'i 26 times since 1970 and have been to Tahiti twice. Since 1970, and through 2003, I have also conducted some very modest research into various issues, including tourism, in the Pacific islands of Tasmania, New Zealand, Fiji, Western Samoa, and American Samoa. Additional research into tourism, as well as other issues, was conducted in China (Singapore), Taiwan, Malaysia, and Japan at various points in time in the 1980s. While my prose doesn't necessarily "flow" as it does with some authors, I truly enjoy the words and sentiment of James A. Michener (1907-1997):

"I wish I could tell you about the South Pacific. The way it actually was. The endless ocean. The infinite specks of coral we called islands. Coconut palms nodding gracefully toward the ocean. Reefs upon which waves broke into spray, and inner lagoons lovely beyond description [stress added]." James A. Michener, 1946, Tales of the South Pacific (Fawcett Crest Books), page 9.



Okeania est omnis divisa in partes tres.

It might seem strange to begin a presentation with European explorers, but were it not for them, we would not be aware of the islanders at all and I shall return to the islanders below. The opening statement above comes from an Anthropology Forum on this campus in 1993 when I invoked the words of Gaius Julius Ceasar's (100-44B.C.] "Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres...." Many anthropologists divide the Pacific into three major culture areas, the first one being Polynesia (bounded by Hawai'i to the north of the Equator, Easter island, and the islands of New Zealand south of the Equator). One then has Melanesia (the islands just north and northeast of Australia) and then the area called Micronesia (or the islands just north of New Guinea and the Equator). This is a big hunk of this planet to so neatly encapsulate when one considers that the Pacific Ocean, so misnamed by Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521), is the largest geographical feature on the planet we call earth.

"On September 20, 1519, Magellan and a crew of 270 men set sail from Spain on their around-the-world voyage in five small vessels including his flagship Trinidad, Concepcion, San Antonio, Victoria, and Santiago. It took the fleet, or at least the three remaining ships in the fleet, 38 days to navigate the strait around South America that was to bear Magellan's name. During the last week of November, the fleet emerged into what Magellan described as a "beautiful, peaceful ocean." Thus, it was named the Pacific Ocean ("pacific" meaning "peaceful.") [stress added]." From:

Magellan, born in Portugal in 1480 to a well-to-do-family, was well aware of the riches that would become available in new products could be brought back to Europe in an efficient manner and as Daniel pointed out in 1964:

"The fact is that Portugal had entered upon a period of greatly expanding wealth. With few exceptions, however, those who profited most were not those who did the heavy work or faced the greatest dangers. Almost every ship that returned from India or the even more distant lands, the Portuguese had reached was laden, at least in part, with spices, sandalwood, and other products of the east. Obtained at little cost in a region that was so open, so far as Europe was concerned, only to the Portuguese, such shipments were immensely valuable in the marketplaces of the west. And the Portuguese, profiting now as the Venetians had profited earlier, were accumulating wealth on a scale almost unimaginable a generation earlier [stress added]." Hawthorne Daniel, 1964, Ferdinand Magellan (NY: Doubleday & Co.), page 76.

More recently, Nichols has provided us with the following information:

"The first passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific had been discovered by the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan, in 1520. He was looking, as was Columbus, as were they all, for that still elusive western route to the spice islands of the Indies. Columbus died in 1506, never knowing he had not found them. It was the Spaniard Vasco Núñez de Balboa [1475-1519] who, on September 26, 1513, scaled a hilltop on the isthmus of Darien, in what is now Panama, and first saw the South Sea stretching away in limitless distance beyond Columbus's mistaken Orient. This information expanded the known circumference of the world by more than a third. Seven years later, Magellan, seeking access to that South Sea, found a wide, navigable passage between the bottom of the Americas and, below that to the south, a bleak Terra Incognita [stress added]." Peter Nichols, 2003, Evolution's Captain: The Dark Fate of the Man Who Sailed Charles Darwin Around The World (NY: HarperCollins), page 4.

Nichols goes on with the words of Antonio Pigafetta, one who sailed with Magellan:

"We found by a miracle, a strait which we call the strait of the Eleven Thousand Virgins; this strait is a hundred and ten leagues long which are four hundred and forty miles, and almost as wide as less than half a league, and it issues into another sea which is called the peaceful Sea; it is surrounded by very great high mountains covered with snow. I think there is not in the world a more beautiful country, or a better strait than this one [stress added]." Peter Nichols, 2003, Evolution's Captain: The Dark Fate of the Man Who Sailed Charles Darwin Around The World (NY: HarperCollins), pages 4-5.

While Pigafetta was off in his calculations (Nichols points out that the strait is some 310 miles long), it still took Magellan weeks to sail the distance and "his small fleet probably sailed five times that distance" in the process (Peter Nichols, 2003, Evolution's Captain: The Dark Fate of the Man Who Sailed Charles Darwin Around The World (NY: HarperCollins), page 5). While in the Philippines Magellan was killed on the voyage but the trip was completed and the world of the Pacific Islanders (and the rest of the world!) began to change:

"On 6 September 1522, a ship named Vittoria sailed into one of the major ports of Spain, having completed the first-ever round trip of the globe. It was the single surviving vessel of the ill-fated fleet that had set out under Ferdinand Magellan [1480-1521] years earlier. On board were masses of valuable and mysterious products from far-away places. Nutmeg, cloves, and other valuable spices, precious stones, and also two stuffed birds, a present from the Rajah of Bachian (ruler of the island of Tidore in the Moluccas) to the King of Spain. This may seem a meagre gift even by sixteenth-century standards, but what birds they were! Nothing like them had ever been seen in Europe. The plumage was a dazzling palette of fiery red, bright chestnut yellow, deep green, and iridescent yellowish green, completed with two tufts of amazing yellow-and-fawn , long, springy feathers [stress added]." Menno Schilthuizen, 2001, Frogs, Flies, and Dandelions: Speciation--The Evolution of New Species (Oxford University Press), page 35.

In his most delightful and readable 2002 book, Tony Horwitz has the following to say about Pacific explorers:

"Pacific adventurers also showed an unfortunate tendency toward abbreviated careers. Vasco Núñez de Balboa [1475-1519], the first European to sight the ocean, in 1513, was beheaded for treason. Magellan set off in 1519 with five ships and 237 men; only one ship and eighteen men made it home three years later, and Magellan was not present, having been speared in the Philippines. Francis Drake [~1540-1596] the first English circumnavigator, died at sea of dysentery. Vitus Bering [1681-1741], sailng for the czar, perished from exposure after shipwrecking near the frigid sea now named for him; at the last, Bering lay half-buried in sand, to keep warm, while Arctic foxes gnawed at his sick and dying men. Other explorers simply vanished. Or went mad [stress added]." Tony Horwitz, 2002, Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before (NY: Henry Holt And Company), page 14.

There were dangers for explorers (and islanders alike) but the Pacific was changed! Incidentally, it is to be noted that the name of "Magellan" still conjures up exploration in the 21st century:

"But to fulfill such dreams [of space exploration], the nation should revamp how it explores space--specifically, by bankrolling small, start-up space-exploration firms whose entrepreneurs will risk everything they have for a chance to become the Magellans of the 21st century....[stress added]." Keay Davidson, 2004, Imagination takes flight on wings of space visionaries. The San Francisco Chronicle, April 19, 2004, page A4.

Finally, this cursory overview of European explorers of the Pacific islands would not be complete without mentioning some other individuals and the islands that they "discovered" whilst in this "pacific" ocean: Alvaro de Saavedra (????-1529), discoverer of the Marshall Islands in 1527; Ruy Lopez de Villalobos (1500-1544), discoverer of the Caroline Islands in 1543; Alvaro de Mendaña (1541-1596), discoverer of the Ellice Islands and the Solomon Islands in 1567 and the Marquesan Islands in 1595. (Note: this is not a typographical error: they were discovered by de Mendaña 28 years apart when he was on another voyage.) There was also Pedro Fernandez de Quiros (1565-1615), discoverer of the Tuamotu Atolls and the New Hebrides in 1606; Cornelis Schouten (1580-1625) and Jakob LeMaire (1585-1616), discoverers of the Tongan Islands in 1616; Abel Janszoon Tasman (1603-1659), discoverer of Tasmania and New Zealand in 1642 and another part of the Tongan Islands and the Fiji Islands in 1643; Jacob Roggeveen (1645-1706), discoverer of Easter Island and the Samoan Islands in 1722; John Byron (1723-1786), another discoverer of Tuamotu in 1765; Samuel Wallis (1726-1795), discoverer of the islands of Tahiti, Moorea; and Wallis Island in 1767; and Philip Carteret (1733-1796) discoverer of Pitcairn Island in 1768. Clearly then, when other explorers followed (discussed below) they were building on an extensive information base which they clearly added to! An interesting and useful "jumping-off point for further information concerning "exploration" in the Pacific is available at [Discoverers Web: The Pacific & Australia].



"The barbarous heathen are nothing more strange to us than we are to them.... Human reason is a tincture in like weight and measure infused into all our opinions and customs, what form soever they be, infinite in matter, infinite in diversity [stress added]." Michel Eyquem de Montaigne [1533-1592], Essays, page 53 [1959 paperback publication of a translation from 1603].

Anthropologists look at numerous variables (such as language, mythology, religion, as well as kinship and social organization) to establish what have been termed "culture areas" in order to work with people. In the Pacific these have been designated as Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia; but as the excellent 1989 South Pacific Handbook by David Stanley pointed out:

"The term Polynesia was coined by Charles de Brosses [1709-1777] in 1756 and applied to all the Pacific islands. The present restricted use was proposed by Dumont D'Urville [1790-1842] during a famous lecture at the Geographical Society of Paris in 1831. At the same time he also proposed the terms Melanesia and Micronesia for the regions which still bear those names [stress added]." David Stanley, 1989, South Pacific Handbook (Chico, CA: Moon Publications, Inc.), page 51.

These "divisions" should be used, however, with caution:

"The terms Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia should also be used carefully. This three-way division was first used by Dumont D'Urville [1790-1842] in the 1820s, and the terms came into currency after the mid-nineteenth century. These remain useful to designate broad geographic regions but they should not be seen, as they once were, as denoting cultural regions, since to do so is to continue with a range of nineteenth-century racial assumptions and classifications [stress added]." K.R. Howe, 2003, The Quest For Origins: Who First Discovered And Settled The Pacific Islands? (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press), page 25.

One soon discovers that there are islands called "Polynesian outliers" (physically located in Micronesia or Melanesia) which have Polynesian cultural characteristics. Useful organizing principles for analyzing Polynesian data come from the 1958 work of Marshall Sahlins entitled Social Stratification in Polynesia wherein he looks at the environment as a key explanatory principle for interpreting Polynesian cultures; there is also the 1970 publication by Irving Goldman entitled Ancient Polynesian Society wherein Goldman discusses the concepts of mana, toa, and tohunga to explain Polynesian cultures. Patrick V. Kirch, an eminent scholar of the Pacific, neatly summarizes their points of view:

"Whereas Sahlins saw Polynesian societies building upon an ecological foundation, Irving Goldman (1955 [Status rivalry and cultural evolution in Polynesia. American Anthropologist 57: 680-697], 1970) presented an opposite, though complementary perspective, that these societies were moulded by 'status rivalry' inherent in their aristocratic political structures....The ecological perspective of Sahlins and the structural orientation of Goldman together contribute elements for a more sophisticated and compelling theory of Polynesian evolution [stress added]." Patrick V. Kirch, The evolution of the Polynesian chiefdoms (Cambridge University Press), page 11.

Discussions on the Pacific will go on for years and numerous researchers have worked in the Pacific and "Polynesia" has always been a fascinating topic and Sahlins and Goldman do complement one another and are well worth looking at.

The islands of Tonga were contacted and settled by Pacific islanders by ~1140 B.C., and then the islanders traversed the largest geographical feature on this planet. Pacific islanders reached the islands that we call New Zealand by ~1300 A .D., settled what we call Easter Island by ~300 A.D., and finally reached the islands called Hawai'i by ~400 A.D. Along the way, other islands were discovered and settled, including the islands of Tahiti (part of what is called "French Polynesia" today). In 1989, David Stannard pointed out the following and asked the intriguing question:

"Hawai'i was one of the last areas in Polynesia to have been settled by humans, and it is generally believed that there was little or no in-migration between the time of the first settlements and possible in-migration from Tahiti around the 12th century A.D. Since it is often assumed that the first settlers numbered, at most, in only the low to mid-hundreds, is it possible for a population of 800,000 or 1,000,000--or even more--to have been attained by 1778? [stress added]." David Stannard, 1989, Before The Horror: The Population of Hawai'i On The Eve of Western Contact (University of Hawai'i: Social Science Research Institute), page 32.

Stannard believes it was possible and massive population changes did come about in the Pacific and not only in Hawai'i!



"Travel teaches seven important lessons [according to Arthur Frommer, age 76, author of travel books].... 1. Travelers learn that all people in the world are basically alike. ... 2. Travelers discover that everyone regards himself or herself as wiser and better than other people in the world. ... 3. Travel makes us care about strangers. ... 4. Travel teaches that not everyone shares your beliefs. ... 5. Travelers learn that there is more than one solution to a problem. ... 6. Travel teaches you to be a minority. ... 7. Travel teaches humility." Larry Bleiberg, 2003, Among Travel's Seven Important Lessons is Humility. The Sacramento Bee, February 2, 2003, page M3.

Human beings migrated out of Southeast Asia thousands of years ago and were in Australia perhaps as far back as 62,000 years ago. An excellent recent 2003 publication by K.R. Howe has a nice summary statement on migration routes:

"Only homo sapiens left the Eurasian landmass. If we focus on the broad region of East and Southeast Asia, these modern people were there by 60,000 years ago, and probably earlier. ... The moderns crossed this waterway [out of Southeast Asia], possibly on bamboo rafts, and reached what is now northern Australia some 60,000 years ago. They reached the rest of what is now mainland Australia by 38,000 years ago, and Tasmania by 34,000 years ago. They were also in eastern regions of New Guinea early on, with settlement dates of at least 45,000 years ago. They demonstrated an amazing adaptability, and successfully colonised a range of environments from tropical highlands to sandy deserts to sub-antarctic climes. ... Evidence of their presence, from about 40,000 years ago, has been variously located in New Britain, New Ireland, Manus and as far south as Buka in the Solomon Islands [stress added]." K.R. Howe, 2003, The Quest For Origins: Who First Discovered And Settled The Pacific Islands? (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press), pages 64-65.

Some have suggested that human occupation of Australia occurred far back as 176,000 years ago.

"The evidence itself is, however, constantly changing or being modified. As we go to press new claims are being made of a radically early chronology for the prehistory of Australia. From the site of Jinmium in the Kimberly of northwestern Australia have been reported fallen panels of rock art engravings dated at between 58,000 and 75,000 years ago, and stone artefacts at between 116,000 and 176,000 years ago [stress added]." Harry Lourandos, 1997, Continent of Hunter-Gatherers: New Perspectives in Australian Prehistory (Cambridge University Press), page xv.

We can trace the migration of humans out of Southeast Asia, through the islands of Melanesia, and eventually into Micronesia and Polynesia. As the map at the beginning of the paper indicates, the archaeological "dates" become more recent as one moves from West to East across the Pacific. Modern humans were in what we now call the Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga by approximately ~1140 B.C. and for various reasons (population pressure or the desire to explore or whatever!) they continued on to rest of Polynesia. Tremendous distances were covered with the excellent technology of the day and regular contact occurred between various island groups well before Europeans "discovered" the islands:

"The Melanesian and Polynesian chiefdoms of on Fiji, Samoa, and Tonga also maintained regular contacts. Tonga, an archipelago of small but fertile islands, was a maritme chiefdom, in the process of becoming a maritime empire. Its rulers built kinship networks and exchanged prestige over long distances. This was the core of a web under construction in the fifteenth century. It was more political than commercial [stress added]." J.R. McNeill & William H. McNeill, 2003, The Human Web: A Bird's-Eye View of World History (NY: W.W. Norton & Co.), page 160.

The aforementioned Kirch has also pointed out some of the problems when we attempt to have "neat" divisions of the Pacific, such as Fiji (in "Melanesia") and Tonga/Samoa (in "Polynesia"):

"There is ample evidence--archaeological, linguistic, and cultural--that the peoples of Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Futuna, Lau, and other smaller islands in this part of the Central Pacific had regular exchanges (material, social, and genetic) throughout prehistory. Patrick Vinton Kirch, 2000, On The Road of the Winds: An Archaeological History of the Pacific Islands before European Contact (Berkeley: University of California Press), page 156.

Much can be written about the Pacific Islanders of the past (and much more will be written in the future); and if you are interested in some excellent "handbooks" for the Pacific, one of which I used as an assigned textbook in my "Peoples and Cultures of the Pacific" class years ago, please see for a complete listing of "Moon Handbooks South Pacific."



"To hail Europeans as discoverers of the Pacific Islands is ungracious as well as inaccurate. While they were still moving around in their small, landlocked Mediterranean Sea or hugging the Atlantic shores of Europe and Africa, Pacific Islanders were voyaging hundreds of open-sea miles in their canoes and populating most of the vast Pacific's far-flung islands [stress added]." Douglas L. Oliver, 1989, The Pacific Islands [Third Edition], page 19.

The term "peopling" in this paper, as I use the term, includes not only the indigenous inhabitants who first discovered the various islands in the Pacific, but also the Asian, European, and eventually American explorers of the Pacific: there were numerous voyagers (Americans, Spanish, Chinese, Dutch, English, Portuguese, and Spanish, who explored the Pacific and made various "discoveries" as briefly mentioned above. Chinese exploration in the Pacific, and indeed, throughout the world (!) were recently brought to light in the (still controversial) 2002 publication of Gavin Menzies entitled 1421: The Year China Discovered America. The earliest European explorers were after new raw materials for the growing population of Europe and they also sought to find the mythical "southern continent" (needed to balance out the northern lands). It is generally recognized that the most important explorer for the Pacific was Captain James Cook (1728-1779) of the British Royal Navy. Cook's three voyages of 1768-1771, 1772-1775, and 1776-1780, firmly placed various "Pacific Islands" (and Pacific Islanders) onto the European map of the world. As Nicholas Thomas stated it in his interesting book 2003 Cook: The Extraordinary Voyages of Captain James Cook (NY: Walker & Co.):

"Cook found not only lands and islands unknown to Europeans, but also people who already knew this islands intimately, whose ancestors had lived and died on them. Cook was a master of techniques that enabled him to determine the orientation of a coast, the height of a mountain and the position of a reef--and to transcribe the whole to a chart [stress added]." Nicholas Thomas, 2003, Cook: The Extraordinary Voyages of Captain James Cook (NY: Walker & Co.), page xx.

Cook was an exploring genius and has been recognized as such by numerous individuals:

"Cook, by the time of this third [1775-1780] and, as it would turn out, final voyage, had acquired the reputation of being an immaculate navigator and seaman, and a brilliant manager of men. His far-ranging accounts of his voyages, moreover, revealed a remarkable respect for the foreign peoples he met, and a striking reluctance to condemn outright even those alien practices that his own culture held to be immoral [stress added]." Caroline Alexander, 2003, The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty (NY: Viking), pages 129-130.

As Horwitz points out, Cook's discoveries (or lack of same) were also very important:

"While Cook had failed to find the fabled southern continent, his circling of the globe, near its southernmost latitude, demolished forever the fantasy that a land of plenty girdled the bottom of the world [stress added]." Tony Horwitz, 2002, Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before (NY: Henry Holt And Company), page 220.

The publication of the account of Cook's discoveries however, and his murder on the big island of Hawai'i on February 14, 1779, eventually contributed to the great "Evangelical Revival" which sent missionaries into the Pacific (the first being sent to the islands of Tahiti in 1797). The distinguished anthropologist Douglas Oliver pointed out in his 1989 publication entitled The Pacific Islands that "economic more than political events had their repercussions in Oceania" as Europeans sought natural resources throughout the area (page 100). Whalers, fur traders, and others who sought supplies from the islanders soon flocked into the Pacific and chief among them were the missionaries:

" entirely new influence was at work in Oceania--for better or for worse, depending upon the point of view. Protestant activity began in the islands with the arrival in Tahiti, in 1797, of the ship Duff carrying a band of London Missionary Society evangelists and craftsmen. Back of this enterprise was the proselytizing fervor of the English Evangelical revival and the tacit support of the Colonial ministry. The Duff pioneers first applied their persuasions and good works to the top of the Tahitian hierarchy, shrewdly recognizing that conversions would spread quicker downward. The strategy worked, and within twenty years one of the strongest chiefs and all his followers were gathered into the fold [stress added]." Douglas L. Oliver, 1989, The Pacific Islands, page 109.

In his interesting 1991 novel, David Lodge has an apt description of a 20th century person flying to Hawai'i that makes one think of the 18th century explorers and missionaries:

"Staring at the great blue bowl of the Pacific, held in the green, curving arms of Asia and the Americas, he realized that he knew very little at all about the history and geography of this side of the globe. His education, his work, his whole lie and outlook, had been imprinted with the shape of a much smaller and more populous sea, the Mediterranean. How far had the early growth of Christianity depended on the assumption of believers that they lived at the 'centre of the world? [stress added].'" David Lodge, 1991, Paradise News (NY: Viking), page 26.

Indigenous inhabitants also assisted in changing their own cultures as a result of missionary interactions and as I have written elsewhere, specifically concerning the Polynesian Kingdom of Tonga::

"Much has been written about various Europeans and their influence in introducing Christianity to Tonga, but it should be pointed out that an incident took place on Tongatapu in April 1826 which might have been something which made the way easier for [the Wesleyan missionaries] Thomas and Hutchinson. In April 1826 two Tahitian teachers of the London Missionary Society stopped at Tongatapu en route to Fiji. The two Tahitians, Hape and Tafeta, were accompanied by a Fijian who had been converted to the LMS Christianity in Tahiti, and one Tongan who had also been converted in Tahiti. The Tongan also had his Tahitian wife with him. This small group of LMS [London Missionary Society] converts was persuaded to stay in Nuku'alofa by Aleamotu'a and, what is more important, they received his protection. Settled in the area, Hape and Tafeta began to teach the Tongans using a Tahitian translation of the Bible. The two Tahitians, with the assistance of the Tongans, constructed the first church in Tonga and opened the first school. One 20th Century Wesleyan Missionary to Tonga, the Reverend E. E. V. Collocott, once wrote that "these two Pacific Islanders, Hape and Tafeta, are the real founders of the Christian Church in Tonga." (In his unpublished manuscript entitled The Chalice of Life which is available in the Mitchell Library: B1450.) Islanders have always been important in the Christianization of the Pacific. ... The evidence is quite clear that if Tongans had not assisted the various European missionaries who landed in Tonga, the missions would never have been firmly established. This should be of interest to all who have an abiding interest in Tongan history and culture [stress added]." Charles F. Urbanowicz, 1976, The Tonga Chronicle [Nuku'alofa, Tonga], July 15, 1976, page 7; also available at

In placing things into perspective, when one writes about "People" of the Pacific, there is no way to avoid the impact of the aforementioned Captain James Cook (1728-1779) and what impact his Pacific exploration had on the islanders of the Pacific. One must also consider the impact his written reports had on Europeans of the day. Cook was the most important explorer of the Pacific. There were, however, other explorers who had their impact on the islanders (and our interpretation of the islanders), including Bougainville (1729-1811] of France and the American Captain Charles Wilkes (1798-1877). Cook provided us with the (almost) definitive map of the Pacific, Bougainville provided the "romance" of the islands, and Wilkes (in addition to providing specimens for the then fledgling Smithsonian institution) made a fantastic exploring expedition (1838-1842) across the Pacific to firmly give us a view of island life! But it was Cook who did the most amazing job!

Cook was murdered in Hawai'i in 1779 but other voyagers also contributed to our knowledge of the Pacific; consider, for example, Bougainville who voyaged around the world in 1767-1769 and visited Tahiti on the trip. The islands of Tahiti were first contacted by the British in 1767:

"The first recorded European to sight Me'etia (Maitea, Mehetia, etc.) ["the easternmost and geologically youngest island in the Society Archipelago"] was H.M.S. Dolphin, on June 17th 1767, during a voyage in search of new lands (including a fabled 'Southern Continent', which many Europeans believed to exist in the pacific between New Zealand and Cape Horn--a belief based partly on the theory that a large land mass in the southern Hemisphere was essential for the stability of the global Earth). Wallis [1728-1795], Dolphin's Commander, named Me'etia 'Osnaburg' Island, for the second son of George III [1738-1820], Frederick Augustus, who had been elected Bishop of Osnabrug (also Osnaburg) at the age of six months. Philip Carteret, whose sloop, Swallow, was to have accompanied Dolphin throughout the expedition but which went on alone after being separated from her in Magellan Straits, applied the name 'Osnaburg' to another island discovered by him. That was the Tuamotuan Island, Mururoa, of present-day nuclear-testing notoriety. In John Beaglehole's words: 'Cook's English predecessors were more notable for loyalty to the house of Hanover than for romance in their choice of names'. [J.C. Beaglehole, The Journals of Captain Cook on his Voyage of Discovery, 3 volumes] (1955: 72n). ... Following the Dolphin, Me'etia was sighted from Bougainville's ships in April 1968 [sic! 1768!] (and named by Bougainville 'Le Boudoir') and again from the Endeavour a year later.... [stress added]." Douglas Oliver, 1988, Return To Tahiti: Bligh's Second Breadfruit Voyage (Honolulu: university of Hawai'i Press), page 36.

Louis Antoine de Bougainville (1729-1811) probably did more than any other voyager to create the image of the islands of love in the South Pacific.

"Louis Antoine de Bougainville visited Tahiti Island in 1768. He stayed on the island for several months, bringing with him the first French influence. He named Tahiti "La Nouvelle Cythere", after the birthplace of the Greek goddess of love [Kythera, or Cerigo as it was once termed] [stress added]." [from:]

"Over the years the romance of the legendary South Seas has been elaborated by a succession of famous writers who came in search of Bougainville's [1729-1811] 'Nouvelle Cythere' or Rousseau's [1712-1778] 'noble savage.' Brought to the stage or silver screen, their stories entered the popular imagination alongside Gauguin's [1848-1903] rich images [stress added]." David Stanley, 1989, South Pacific Handbook (Chico, CA: Moon Publications, Inc.), page 59. 

Another source tells us the following about Bougainville:

"Eighteenth Century French Sailor, Soldier, Statesman, Mathematician and leader of a Voyage around the world. The French Sailor, Soldier, Statesman and Mathematician, Louis-Antoine de Bougainville [1729-1811], was one of the most interesting characters of the Eighteenth Century. Born in Paris in 1729, he led a voyage around the world in the 1760s which had far-reaching repercussions in the way European Society perceived life in the Pacific. The notion of the "Noble savage" had some of its roots in the reports given by members of Bougainville's expedition of their short time on the island of Tahiti [stress added]." From:

In his most informative 1960 publication entitled European Vision And the South Pacific 1768-1850: A Study In The History Of Art And Ideas, Bernard Smith writes the following about Bougainville:

"...the French navigator, Louis de Bougainville, who visited Tahiti in April 1768, a year before Cook, compared the Tahitians to Greek gods. 'I never saw men better made, and whose limbs were more proportionate: in order to paint Hercules or a Mars, one could nowhere find such beautiful models [stress added].'" Bernard Smith, 1960, European Vision And the South Pacific 1768-1850: A Study In The History Of Art And Ideas (Oxford University Press), page 25.

As Smith writes, "Bougainville had called Tahiti la Nouvelle Cythere, and the island became notorious throughout Europe in the popular mind as a land of free-love" (Bernard Smith, 1960, European Vision And the South Pacific 1768-1850: A Study In The History Of Art And Ideas (Oxford University Press), page 30). In writing about other voyagers to Tahiti, Smith has the following concerning Joseph Banks [1743-1820] who accompanied Cook on his first voyage over the years 1768-1771:

"Banks was just as enthusiastic; to him as to Bougainville, Tahiti was the Golden Age come again. The sexual freedoms of the people, filled him with admiration and delight, but in his English way, he was more circumspect about it than the Frenchman. His private opinions are nowhere better expressed than in the short paper which he wrote for Count Bentinck (while visiting Holland in 1773) in order to amuse the Princess of Orange. He called it Thoughts on the manners of Otaheite. Banks claimed that Tahitian women were the most elegant in the world. European ladies outvied them in complexion, but in all else the Tahitians were superior [stress added]. Bernard Smith, 1960, European Vision And the South Pacific 1768-1850: A Study In The History Of Art And Ideas (Oxford University Press), page 25.

It is clear from reading the primary journals of the explorers and the secondary publications written about them that the Europeans did create a vision of the South Pacific (that exists to the 21st century). Leaving the English and French aside, the American Smithsonian Institution is a wonderful establishment and the story of its creation in the 19th century is well-worth repeating:

"In 1829 English scientist James Smithson [1765-1829] left his fortune to the people of the United States to found an institution for the "increase and diffusion of knowledge." Smithson's impetus in providing for a research and educational institution in a new country on another continent remains a mystery. His bequest sparked widespread debate over what such a national institution might be. Once established, the Smithsonian Institution became part of the process of developing the U.S. national identity." [from:]

The "national identity" of the United States of America continues to change to this day, and so does the Smithsonian, as the following from October 2003 points out:

"He sought immortality for his name, but even a man as obsessed with social standing as James Smithson [1765-1829] would be staggered by what his cryptic bequest has wrought: the Smithsonian Institution, the biggest, richest, most powerful museum complex in the world, which helped put the fledgling USA on the world's cultural and scientific map. Not bad for a half-million bucks and some change, considering a lot of Americans at the time didn't want a dime from perfidious Britain. (The British had burned the White House and Capitol only a couple of decades earlier.) Plus, years went by while Congress argued about whether to accept the gift. So here we are, 157 years later, and the mighty Smithsonian--looking a little dated, a little shabby and still many say, chronically underfunded by Capitol Hill--is about to undergo some of the most important changes to its size, content and appearance in decades. ... 'The nation's attic,' as it is affectionately known, is about to expand, a long display of ever more goodies from its stash of 143.5 million objects. Two new museums are opening in the next year; two others will reopen in three years after multimillion-dollar renovations; and popular permanent exhibits will open soon after major updates. There is also talk that proposed national museums of African-American and Latino-American culture eventually will come under the aegis of the Smithsonian [stress added]." Maria Puente, 2003, Smithsonian Spruces Up. USA Today, October 20, 2003, pages D1 and D 2.

The aforementioned Wilkes certainly made his contribution to the creation of the Smithsonian in the 19th century:

"The United States Exploring Expedition of 1838-42 is a milestone in American science. Often referred to as the Wilkes Expedition, this expedition brought back to the United States a wealth of geological, botanical, zoological, anthropological and other materials which created a foundation upon which much of American science was formed. At least three of the scientists involved with the expedition gained international acclaim from their efforts [stress added]." [from:]

Although Captain Cook placed the Pacific islands (and islanders) on the maps of the world, perhaps it was the six-ship United States Exploring Expedition (1838-1842), under the command of Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, which firmly presented the material culture of the islanders to the world. Consider the following:

"No one had anticipated that one voyage could have possibly generated such a massive amount of material. The number of ethnographic objects alone was staggering: four thousand pieces, a third more than the total number of artifacts collected during all three of Cook's voyages. Indeed, the ethnographic collection of the U.S. Ex.Ex.--including war clubs from Fiji, feathered baskets from California, exquisitely carved rattles from the Northwest Coast, fishooks from Samoa, and flax baskets from New Zealand--is now thought to be, according to [Smithsonian] anthropologist Adrienne Kaeppler, the largest ever made by a single sailing expedition. Even larger than the ethnographic collection was the number of pressed plants accumulated by the botanist William Rich, the horticulturalist Charles Pickering: 50,000 specimens of 10,000 species. ... In addition to all the stuff brought back by the Expedition, there was an equally awe-inspiring amount of data [stress added]." Nathaniel Philbrick, 2003, Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery, The U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842 (NY: The Penguin Group), page 332-333.

Not only were the scientists and explorers important in providing us with a "vision" of the islands and islanders, there were other non-islanders who had their impact on Pacific Islanders and who have influenced our view of Pacific Islanders. Among the many non-islanders who have written about the South Pacific, authors who wrote about the islanders (and non-islanders) include W. Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), noted for The Moon and Sixpence (1919) and The Trembling of A Leaf (1921) from which we get the short story "Rain" (and Miss Sadie Thompson!), as well as Charles Nordhoff (1887-1947) and James Norman Hall (1887-1951) and their celebrated Bounty Trilogy (1934). We also have James Michener (1907-1997) and his 1948 Pulitzer Prize winner Tales of the South Pacific (published in 1946), which turned into a beautiful play entitled South Pacific (first produced by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II and which opened in New York City on April 7, 1949). The play was also turned into an exquisite movie of the same title. Although stationed in Melanesia, in what was once called The New Hebrides (now Vanuatu), it was the island of Ambae which inspired his Bali Ha'i (although the fictive island is often associated with Tahiti and French Polynesia):

"It is rumoured that James Michener based his mythical, idealized island, Bali Hai on Moorea. And it is easy to see why. Many people have described Moorea as the most beautiful place on earth. Here, you'll find the real South Seas' experience -- a casual, barefoot existence amidst white sand beaches and multi-hued lagoons surrounded by jagged mountains and volcanic spires that reach into the clouds, while below, valleys are blanketed with the colors that one only finds when tropical climates and rich, volcanic soils meet. Clearly visible from Tahiti, Moorea is located only nine miles away across the Sea of the Moon. For all the hustle and bustle of nearby Tahiti (125,000+ population compared to Moorea's 9,000), Moorea is the best-kept secret of the trio of famous French Polynesian islands. Bora Bora and Tahiti get the press, but Moorea is the real prize. Beyond the picture postcard lagoons and white sand beaches, the volcanic island -- twice as old as Tahiti -- is also famous for its six mountains, including Mt. Rotui, which offers spectacular views of Opunohu Bay and the island [stress added]." [from:]

Other gifted writers have provided us with their visions of the South Pacific, including Jack London (1876-1916) and his South Sea Tales (1911), Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), Rupert Brooke (1887-1915) and of course, Herman Melville (1819-1891) and what has been called the most famous American novel of all times, Moby Dick (1851). In the early 19th century, Melville had shipped out on the whaler Acushnet and in 1842 he deserted the ship when it was in the Marquesas; eventually he left the Marquesas on another whaler, went to Hawai'i and Tahiti and after four years returned to Cape Cod where he wrote and published Typee (1846) and Moby Dick (1851). There was a huge whale in the Pacific, called "Mocha Dick" because of a patch of white that it had on its body (A. B. C. Whipple, 1973, Yankee Whalers In The South Seas [Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Co.], page 60).

"Melville worked for years on his mighty sea epic, which he always called, very literally, The Whale. ... In England, Melville's publisher, who had originally rejected The Whale as not good enough to be a children's book, finally offered it to the public as juvenile fiction. Harper and Brothers in New York felt differently, and having read a real-life newspaper account of a monumental chase at sea involving a mammoth white whale called Mocha Dick, suggested that Melville play up on the public's awareness of the news with a very subtle change of name. It didn't work--the book was one of the greatest publishing failures of its time--but who today has not heard of the might Moby-Dick? [stress added]." André Bernard, 1995, Now All We Need Is A Title: Famous Book Titles And How They Got That Way (NY: Barnes & Noble Books), pages 78-80.

If one is reluctant to read Melville's Moby Dick in the original, there is a delightful book by Maurice Sagoff (1970) which is called to your attention: Shrinklits: Seventy of the World's Towering Classics Cut Down To Size (New York: Workman Publishing) wherein the following appears on page 97:

"Whale chomped Ahab's leg in two.
'Hunt that beast!' he tells his crew.

First, a welter of whaling schmoose,
Then comes Moby and hell breaks loose.

Smashup! Ahab's drowned in brine,
Lashed to the whale by a harpoon line.

Good (symbolic) with Evil vies,
If you'd fathom it, you must rise."

With alternating lines being given by Sagoff as:
"Heave ho, blow the man down!" And "Early in the morning."

There were also numerous non-islanders who influenced the way we view the island world and perhaps from my anthropological perspective the major individuals were Margaret Mead (1901-1978) and Thor Heyerdahl (1914-2002). The former because she was such a well-known individual when it came to anthropology (and her 1928 publication entitled Coming of Age in Samoa: A Psychological Study of Primitive Youth for Western Civilisation was read by million of individuals in the 20th century) and the latter because he was one of many to postulated the peopling of the Pacific Islands from South America (and had the courage of his convictions to test his theory). Heyerdahl's theory was an interesting one, but it did not hold up to the test of scientific evidence (as indicated above) and Mead's Pacific work (especially her work in Samoa) has recently come under heavy criticism (but they were still important individuals):

"Mead's 'Coming of Age in Samoa' Called Worst Nonfiction of Century: Debate renewed about whether author was duped. In 1925, a 23-year old New York City college student [from Columbia University] set sail for American Samoa to observe the transition from childhood to adulthood among members of a primitive [sic.!] culture. Margaret Mead hoped to test theories taking hold among Western social scientists about the inherent turbulence of adolescence. What she concluded after visiting the Manua'an Island, 2,300 miles south of Hawaii, was that teenage girls and boys there were free of the hang-ups of their Western counterparts and that sexual promiscuity was common. ... These conclusions long have been scoffed at by American Samoans. And now a conservative think tank has rekindled the debate by naming Mead's 1928 treatise the worst nonfiction book of the past 100 years. ... 'So amusing did the native find the white women's prurient questions that they told her the wildest tales--and she believed them!' [stress added]." Jean Christensen, February 2, 2000, Mead's 'Coming of Age in Samoa' Called Worst Nonfiction of Century, The San Francisco Chronicle, page A5.

Incidentally, one could not discuss European explorers in the Pacific without mentioning the (still) controversial theory advocated by Robert Langdon (1924-2003) who had Spanish explorers in certain Pacific islands well before any other European explorers!

"...he put forward the theory that they had come from the San Lesmes, wrecked on an atoll in the area [around Tahiti] in 1526, and whose crew of Spaniards survived and had intermarried, influencing Polynesian culture in important ways. He published his evidence in his book The Lost Caravel in 1975. It argued that the peopling of the Pacific might be far more complicated than traditional historians had hitherto thought. The book won him a two-year ANU research fellowship for further study. In 1983 he published, with Darrell Tryon, The Language of Easter Island: Its Development and Eastern Polynesian Relationships. That was followed in 1988 by his The Lost Caravel Re-explored. Meanwhile, he published many academic papers, covering several disciplines, drawing attention to other influences on the peopling of the Pacific. His latest book, which ties all these together, The Kon-Tiki Revisited, is being assessed for publication by an academic publisher. Some of the traditionalists among the professional academics have preferred to ignore his arguments, or to reply to them only selectively, but this last book might achieve what Langdon had been working so determinedly to bring about - the mounting of a serious and thorough academic debate on Polynesian origins. Since his work will most certainly live after him, such a debate will, predictably, be one of his legacies [stress added]." [from:} November 1, 2003]

Undoubtedly Bob Langdon's work will survive and contribute to our developing interpretations of Pacific islanders. Finally, one could not leave "culture change" in the Pacific without brief mention of World War II:

"The Pacific war was waged with a barbarism, savageness and race hatred that is unparalleled in history. Each side regarded the other with seething contempt and saw the other as subhuman animals. Atrocities abounded, with no quarter being asked and none given. With the jungle for a battlefield and flamethrowers, suicide fighters and cannibalism almost routine, the conflict was often described by the participants as a descent into the deepest hell [stress added]." Paul D. Walker, 2003 , Truman's Dilemma: Invasion or The Bomb (Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Co.), page 15.

As I wrote in 1993, "two specific items are called to your attention: John J. Stephen's 1984 publication entitled Hawaii Under The Rising Sun: Japan's Plans For Conquest After Pearl Harbor and Robert K. Wilcox's 1985 item entitled Japan's Secret War." Both make for fascinating reading and thinking about "what if" scenarios. (Charles F. Urbanowicz, 1993, Peoples & Cultures of the Pacific: Okeania est omnis divisa in partes tres, for the Anthropology Forum at CSU, Chico, September 30, 1993, available at An elaboration of the impact of World War II is for another time and place but it did did leave changes throughout the Pacific.



"The fact is that Charles Darwin was in almost all respects a fairly standard example of the nineteenth century student, well off, active in field sports, working hard enough to avoid academic failure, but a long way from academic success." Peter Brent 1981, Charles Darwin: A Man Of Enlarged Curiosity (NY: Harper & Row), page 89.

Charles R. Darwin (1809-1882) definitely proved many individuals wrong, and nothing is as clear as his monumental 1859 publication (and subsequent editions of 1860, 1861, 1866, 1869, and 1872): On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life [Note: this is the on-line version of the 1859 edition]; Darwin himself was to write in his Autobiography that the Origin "is no doubt the chief work of my life [stress added]" (Nora Barlow, 1958, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin 1809-1882: With Original Omissions Restored Edited With An Appendix And Notes By His Grand-Daughter, page 122).

Darwin was a trained scientist, one of the most eminent naturalists of his time and as David Quammen wrote in his delightful 1996 publication entitled The Song Of the Dodo: Island Biogeography In An Age Of Extinctions (NY: Scribner), Charles R. Darwin "was an island biogeographer before he was a Darwinist" (page 18).

"Some of the other great pioneers of evolutionary biology--notably Alfred Russel Wallace [1823-1913] and Joseph Hooker [1817-1911]--also gathered their best insights from fieldwork on remote islands. Wallace spent eight years collecting specimens in the Malay Archipelago, the empire of islands (and therefore of biological diversity) that now goes by the name Indonesia. Hooker, like Darwin, was lucky and well connected enough to get a place on board one of Her majesty's ships. It was the Erebus, sent off (like Darwin's Beagle) on a round-the-world charting expedition, from which Hooker went ashore on Tasmania, New Zealand, and an interesting little nub called Kerguelen Island, halfway between Antarctica and nowhere. Decades later, Hooker was still publishing studies of the plants of New Zealand and his other island stops. The trend started by Darwin, Wallace, and Hooker has continued throughout this century.... [stress added]." David Quammen, 1996, The Song Of the Dodo: Island Biogeography In An Age Of Extinctions (NY: Scribner), pages 18-19.

A succinct statement on Charles Darwin is the following:

"He was an Englishman who went on a five-year voyage when he was young and then retired to a house in the country, not far from London [sixteen miles southeast]. He wrote an account of his voyage, and then he wrote a book setting down his theory of evolution, based on a process he called natural selection, a theory that provided the foundation for modern biology. He was often ill and never left England again." John P. Wiley, Jr., 1998, Expressions: The Visible Link. Smithsonian, June, pages 22-24, page 22.

There are numerous other islands in the Pacific and I can but only highlight a few and make some comments on their importance (to me at least!). The Galápagos Islands are at present one of the 21 provinces of the Republic of Ecuador. Spaniards first discovered the islands in 1535 but their fame really came about because of a three-week visit that the British scientist Charles Darwin made in 1835 while going around the world on the HMS Beagle. Darwin wrote that the "natural history of these islands is eminently curious, and well deserves attention. … Hence, both in space and time, we seem to be brought somewhat near to that great fact--that mystery of mysteries--the first appearance of new beings on this earth [stress added]." Charles Darwin, 1839 [1860], Charles Darwin: The Voyage of The Beagle. Walter Sullivan [Introduction to edition] (NY: Bantam Books), Chapter XVII, page 326. Darwin's ideas concerning the "mystery of mysteries" resulted in his publication of On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, the first edition of which appeared in 1859 (with subsequent greatly revised editions appearing in his lifetime in 1860, 1861, 1866, 1869, and 1872).

The HMS Beagle, with Charles Darwin aboard, set sail from England on December 27, 1831. After years of research in South America the tiny ship finally arrived at the Galápagos Islands (some 600 miles west of the South American nation of Ecuador) on the15th of September 1835. They cruised though the islands for a little more than a month and Darwin was eventually to write that "nothing could be less inviting than the first appearance" of these islands. Galápagos means "tortoise" in Spanish and there are more than two dozen islands in the entire cluster, with their combined landmass being approximately 2,800 square miles. The islands themselves are approximately 175 miles across and there are six major islands, with the largest one (Albemarle) some sixty miles in length. As a point of comparison, Butte County is some 1,646 square miles in area Tehama County, to the north is similar in size to the Galápagos (2,953 square miles) as is Santa Barbara County (2,748 square miles) in the southern part of this state. Perhaps one of the most vivid descriptions of the islands comes from the American Author Herman Melville (1819-1891), who stopped in the Galápagos on the whaler Acushnet, shortly after the visit of the HMS Beagle. Melville wrote:

"Take five-and-twenty heaps of cinders dumped here and there in an outside city lot--imagine some of them magnified into mountains, and the vacant lot the sea; and you will have a fit idea of the general aspect of the Encantadas, or Enchanted Isles. A group of rather extinct volcanoes than of isles; looking much as the world at large might, after a penal conflagration." Nigel Calder, 1973, The Life Game: Evolution And The New Biology, page 44.

Darwin and the crew gathered specimens of all sorts, including tortoises that weighed up to 500 pounds, iguanas that abounded on all of the islands, and a variety of small finch. Even though Charles R. Darwin was an exceptional naturalist at this point in time, it is quite clear that the facts of nature "do not speak for themselves" since someone has to do the interpreting. In a 1973 publication, Sir Nigel Calder wrote of an 1835 meeting that Darwin had in the Galápagos Islands with Mr. Lawson, the Englishman who was the Vice-Governor of the Galápagos Islands:

"When the Vice-Governor remarked that he could tell from which island any tortoise had been brought, Darwin pricked up his ears. he had been carelessly mixing up his specimens from different islands, never dreaming that the islands would have been 'differently tenanted'; he quickly mended his way [Calder continued]. He examined the mockingbirds collected by himself and his shipmates, and found to his astonishment that all the birds from one island belonged to one species and all from another to a different species. But he had hopelessly muddled most of his specimens of the finches that were to make the Galapagos and himself jointly famous [stress added].

Please re-read that part of the paragraph: "BUT HE HAD HOPELESSLY MUDDLED MOST OF HIS SPECIMENS OF THE FINCHES THAT WERE TO MAKE THE GALAPAGOS AND HIMSELF JOINTLY FAMOUS." What a mess, but who would have thought about the impact of the finches? Calder continued:

"Who can blame him? They are small birds, the males being black and the females brown. When you glimpse them flitting among the thirsty trees of the Galapagos it is hard to acknowledge the impact such modest birds had on the human mind and its religious beliefs." Nigel Calder, 1973, The Life Game: Evolution And The New Biology, pages 45-46.

HMS Beagle departed the Galápagos and headed across the Pacific Ocean to Australia, then across the Indian Ocean, and back to England, and the "mixed-up finches" were handed over to John Gould, an ornithologist. It was Gould who confirmed a "perfect gradation in the size of the beaks in the different species" since there were some birds with massive beaks, like nutcrackers, while there were other finches with beaks so delicate, they could be used as tweezers; and there were many forms of beaks which were intermediate. Darwin wrote in the first published account on the voyage of the HMS Beagle in 1839:

"Seeing this gradation and diversity of structure in one small intimately related group of birds, one might really fancy that from an original paucity of birds in this archipelago, one species had been taken and modified for different ends." Chapter XVII: The Galapagos Archipelago. Charles Darwin: The Voyage of The Beagle. Walter Sullivan [Introduction to edition] (NY: Bantam Books), page 328.

Towards the end of the voyage of the HMS Beagle, even while Darwin was still at sea, he began to question the fixity of species that was then prevalent in biological thought and he wrote:

"When I recollect the fact, that from the form of the body, shape of scale, and general size, the Spaniards can at once pronounce from which Island any tortoise may have been brought; when I see these Islands in sight of each other and possessed of but a scanty stock of animals, tenanted by these birds but slightly differing in structure and filling the same place in Nature, I must suspect they are only varieties. The only fact of a similar kind of which I am aware is the constant asserted difference between the wolf-like Fox of East and West Falkland Islands. If there is the slightest foundation for these remarks, the Zoology of Archipelagoes will be well worth examining; for such facts would undermine the stability of species [stress added]. Gavin De Beer, 1964, Charles Darwin: Evolution By Natural Selection, page 82.

The non-fixity of species and different tenanted islands continued to nag Darwin and within two years of his return to England in 1836, he began to take detailed and copious notes on the transmutation of species and the rest is history! It must also be pointed out (as John Kricher did in 2002, in Galápagos, that the islands did not suddenly solidify everything for the young Charles Darwin:

"Remarkably, however, Darwin wrote nothing in On the Origin of Species about the Galápagos finches, the very group that supposedly supplied the 'smoking gun' as evidence to bolster his case for evolution. Instead, he referred to the mockingbirds, which he called mocking-thrushes: 'In the Galápagos Archipelago, many even of the birds, though so well adapted for flying from island to island are distinct on each; thus there are three closely-allied species of mocking thrush, each confined to its own island.' It would seem that by that point he had at least set the stage for a finch discussion, but Darwin asserted nothing. What a surprise, given the superb model of evolution that the Galápagos finches seemingly represent. Rather than being the very keystone example of evolution, rather than being prominently discussed throughout On The Origin of Species, they are most conspicuous by their absence. And that's not all that is missing. There is no discussion of the giant tortoises, even though while on the islands Darwin became aware of how these large reptiles varied from one island to another. If the Galápagos, as is often stated in the popular literature, are a 'laboratory of evolution,' then why did Charles Darwin make so little use of the data from that laboratory when he assembled his case? What, exactly, was Charles Darwin's intellectual relationship with the Galápagos Islands? How much of the story of Darwin's conversion to evolution can be attributed to his experiences on the islands? Myths are part of our culture, and Darwin has certainly become part of a commonly promulgated myth [stress added]." John Kricher, 2002 in Galápagos (Washington, D.C.: The Smithsonian Institution), page 41.

Incidentally, Darwin was also aware of the changes that could be introduced into various islands when "new" creatures arrived upon the scene:

"We may infer from these facts, what havoc the introduction of any new beast of prey must cause in a country, before the instincts of the indigenous inhabitants have become adapted to the stranger's craft or power." Charles Darwin, 1839 [1860], Charles Darwin: The Voyage of The Beagle. Walter Sullivan [Introduction to edition] (NY: Bantam Books), Chapter XVII, page 328.

I have been to the Galápagos Islands and have seen first hand what the introduction of pigs and goats has done to the environment and read what Michael D'Orso has to say in his most perceptive 2002 Plundering Paradise: The Hand of Man on the Galápagos Islands wherein the author had in his preface the following: "This is a work of nonfiction. The events on these pages occurred as described. The people are real, as are their words. No names have been change to protect either the innocent of the guilty."

"The 'trouble' is the rampant introduction of life-forms--animals, plants--that don't belong among these islands, along with the wholesale slaughter of life-forms that do. These are the [Darwin] Foundation's top two concerns at the moment: 'Getting rid of what's there,' says [Darwin Foundation Johannah] Barry, 'and stopping what's coming in.' 'What's there' are nonindigenous animals (feral goats, rats, dogs, cats and pigs), insects (wasps, cockroaches, fir ants), and plants (mora, blackberry vines, lantana, quinine and guava trees) introduced over the years by unthinking or uncaring humans. Like toxic waste, these life forms have oozed out across the islands, wreaking havoc among the native wildlife that get in their way. The goat problem on Isabela [also known as Albemarle] alone has become an apocalyptic nightmare relatively overnight. Just seventeen years ago, scientists were alarmed by the appearance of a handful of goats left behind on the northern part of the island by local fisherman. Today, the feral goat population of Isabela Island numbers more than one hundred thousand. Hillsides that were once lush with green foliage now stand denuded, stripped bare by ravenous leaf-eating goats, and littered with the carcasses of dehydrated, malnourished tortoises [stress added]. D'Orso, 2002 Plundering Paradise: The Hand of Man on the Galápagos [NY: Harper Collins 2003 Perennial edition], pages 40-41.

This is not unique to the Galápagos Islands alone; consider New Zealand:

"New Zealand is also grappling with a serious exotic species problem. The annexation of New Zealand by Great Britain in 1840 triggered an influx of European immigration and the establishment of trade with Europe. This development, as well as the development of subsequent trade links with Australia and the Pacific Rim countries, introduced numerous exotic species to New Zealand's shores. Indeed, the governing bodies of both New Zealand and Australia encouraged so-called acclimatization societies, which fostered the introduction of familiar homeland species. Europeans opened the floodgates, brining not only plants and animals for agriculture, horticulture, and forestry but also weeds and ornamentals.... Together, the twin forces of habitat destruction and introduction of invasive species, in combination with other human actions, have led to the extinction of a stunning number of species over the past 800 years, including 32 percent of indigenous land and freshwater birds; 18 percent of sea birds; at least 12 invertebrates such as snails and insects; 1 species of fish; 1 species of bat; and 3 distinct species of frog. In addition, another 1,000 plant, animal, and fungi species across New Zealand have already vanished from places where they were once found, a pattern that typically precedes total species extinction [stress added]." Kevin Hillstrom and Laurie Collier Hillstrom, 2003, Australia, Oceania, and Antarctica: A Continental Overview of Environmental Issues (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC/CLIO), pages 34-35.

My favorite piece of information concerning non-native species introduced into a new environment came about in 1859, the same year that Darwin published his celebrated On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life:

"In 1859 a consignment of twenty-four wild rabbits arrived from England at a property near Geelong in Victoria [Australia]. There had already been English rabbits elsewhere in Australia, but they had never spread like the Geelong tribe. Finding itself without natural enemies, and taking to bearing extra litters, the rabbit presently became one of Australia's horrors, multiplying so appallingly that in many areas it actually seemed to defeat the human settlers, and take over for itself. By the 1870s rabbits were all over Victoria. By the 1880s they infested New South Wales. By the 1890s they had stormed right through Queensland almost to the Gulf of Carpenteria, in the extreme north. They ate everything, up to the flowers outside the farmhouse doors. Fences hundreds of miles long were erected in hopeless efforts to check them….at the end of the century much of Australia was still ravaged or threatened by the rabbit, in a more nightmarish plague than ever the Egyptians invited [stress added]." James Morris,1968, Pax Britannica: The Climax of an Empire (NY: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc.), pages 77-78.

Darwin was a very astute observer and a gifted writer and scientist. My own interest is Darwin is an on-going adventure. For more information about Darwin, and access to four videos (wherein I portray him in the first person), please go to (Four Darwin Videos From CSU, Chico} February 12, 2004).



"The H.M.S. Beagle, on which Darwin voyaged, did not stop in Hawai'i. If it had, he would have encountered evidence of evolution that surpassed in detail and scientific diversity even that of the Galápagos. Scientific studies have revealed that many species are endemic, or unique to Hawai'i, having evolved on these islands and not merely having reached here from somewhere else." Hampton L. Carson, 1998, Atlas of Hawai'i (Third Edition), Sonia P. Juvik and James O. Juvik [editors], Evolution, pages 107-110, page 107.  

Sometimes I wonder what course Darwin would have taken had he been exposed to the rich diversity of Hawai'i (and not just to the relative diversity of the Galápagos!) but that is for another time.

To begin summarizing, as Philbrick wrote concerning the Pacific:

"Balboa found it, Magellan named it, but for any young boy taken with tales of the South Seas--like the young Charles Wilkes--the central figure had to be James Cook." Nathaniel Philbrick, 2003, Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery, The U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842 (NY: The Penguin Group), page 3.

Cook, Bougainville, Darwin, Wilkes, and numerous individuals associated with World War II (not to forget World War I as well) irrevocably changed the islanders (and the islands) over time. New ideas and information were introduced to the indigenous inhabitants as well as new technologies: some were accepted readily and were useful and some resulted in new items resulted in major problems! Change came to the Pacific islands when they were first discovered. What the indigenous islanders of the Pacific have become is clearly a result of who, when,where,why and how they were first contacted by non-islanders! Much has changed and much will continue to change in this vast area of the globe!

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VIII. SOME VERY SELECTED STATISTICS (Note: all taken from in October 2003) (NB: All population dates are given as ~ July 2003).

AREA (Sq. Km)
(Comparable Area)
0 -> 14 Age Bracket
15 -> 64 Age Bracket
65+ Age Bracket
American Samoa
199 sq km [77 sq miles]
Slightly larger than Washington, D.C.
Cook Islands
240 sq km [93 sq mi]
1.3 Washington D.C.
18,270 [7,054 sq mi]
Slightly smaller than New Jersey
French Polynesia
4,167 sq km [1,609 sq mi]
1/3rd Connecticut
Marshall Islands
181.3 sq km [70 sq mi]
~ Washington, DC
Micronesia, Federated States of
402 sq km [155 sq mi]
4 x Washington, D.C.
New Caledonia
19,060 [7,359]
Slightly smaller than New Jersey
New Zealand
268,680 sq km [103,738 sq mi]
About the size of Colorado
458 [177 sq mi]
2.5 x Washington, D.C.
Papua New Guinea
463,840 sq km [179,090] sq mi]
Slightly larger than California
Pitcairn Island
47 sq km [18 sq mi]
.3 Washington, D.C.
47 Individuals
748 sq km [289 sq mi]
4 x Washington, D.C.
12,200 [4,710 sq mi]
Slightly larger than Connecticut
Western Samoa
2,944 [1,137 sq mi]
Slightly smaller than Rhode Island


Culture Areas of the Pacific (with Tonga, Tahiti, and Hawai'i as indicated).

K.R. Howe, 2003, The Quest For Origins: Who First Discovered And Settled The Pacific Islands? (University of Hawai'i Press), page 68.


2002 (NY: Henry Holt and Company).
2003 (NY: Walker and Company).


Source: Great Outdoor Recreation Pages []

Source: Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawai'i (C.F. Urbanowicz).

Source: The American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York (C.F. Urbanowicz).

Originally published in 1792 by William Bligh (1754-1817); from a1962 Signet Classic (NY: New American Library)
Published in 1973.
Published in 1946 by James Michener (1907-1997) and awarded the 1948 Pulitzer Prize.

Published in 1983 (1996 edition).
Published in 1996.
Published in 1999.

United States of America Stamp Set.

U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, 'Oahu, Hawai'i. [Photo by Charles F. Urbanowicz, 2003]
U.S.S. Missouri, Pearl Harbor, 'Oahu, Hawai'i. [Photo by Charles F. Urbanowicz, 2003]

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(1) © [All Rights Reserved.] Placed on the WWW on April 30, 2004, for a presentation at the WAML (Western Association of Map Libraries) Conference, April 29-31, 2004, at CSU, Chico. My appreciation goes to Ms. Debra Besnard and Mr. Stan Griffith and their "Digital Asset Management Project" in the Meriam Library at CSU, Chico for the work they did for some of my slides used today. This presentation draws upon an earlier paper presented at The Anthropology Forum on November 6, 2003. That presentation (and some of the visuals) may be seen at To return to the beginning of this page, please click here.

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 [~12,213 words]} 30 April 2004

To go to the home page of Urbanowicz, please click here;

to the Department of Anthropology;

to the Western Association of Map Libraries (WAML),

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Copyright © 2004; all rights reserved by Charles F. Urbanowicz

30 April 2004 by cfu

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