Dr. Charles F. Urbanowicz / Professor of Anthropology
California State University, Chico / Chico, California 95929-0400
530-898-6220 [Office: Butte 317]; 530-898-6192 [Department: Butte 311]; 530-898-6143 [FAX]
e-mail: / home page:

[This page printed from]

6 November 2004

 (1) © [All Rights Reserved.] Originally placed on the World Wide Web on November 4, 2004, for a presentation(with numerous visuals) at the Anthropology Forum at California State University, Chico, on November 4, 2004, and modified (with one addition) concerning an auction of a Gauguin painting by Sotheby's on November 4, 2004. 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.


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 rest of the world to "discover" and explore.

Before discussing Captain James Cook (1728-1779) and the illustrious Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), information will be provided about the indigenous inhabitants who first "discovered" these islands and inhabited them long before Europeans arrived. Issues concerning "peopling and prehistory" will be covered as well as "culture contact" in Tahiti. For additional information concerning "Mapping the Islands of the Pacific: Islanders And Others (Including Cook and Darwin)," please see





From: (National Maritime Museum, Greenwish, London) and (1896, Self-Portrait, Museo de Arte, Sao Paolo, Brazil)




"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 [1907-1997], 1946, Tales of the South Pacific (Fawcett Crest Books), page 9.

When it is peaceful, the Pacific Ocean (the largest geographical feature on this planet) is a delight and the islands are gorgeous! I am a "Pacific Anthropologist" by training, having received my Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Oregon in 1972. My own expertise in the Pacific developed as a result of graduate courses, combined with library research (California, Hawai'i, Fiji, 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 (the last time in 2003). I was last in Tahiti in 1980 (and before that in 1971) and will be returning to cruise through French Polynesia (Tahiti and the Marquesas) and the Cook Islands in December (2004) and January (2005). If those cruises (where I will be lecturing in the "ScholarShip@Sea Program" prove to be successful and fun) I might apply for a "ScholarsShip@Sea Program" for a Honolulu-Beijing cruise in May 2005; please see the maps at the end of this paper). Since 1970, and through 2003, I have also conducted very modest research into tourism in the Pacific islands of the Galápagos, Tasmania, New Zealand, Fiji, Western Samoa, and American Samoa. Additional research into tourism as well as economic development was conducted in China (Singapore), Taiwan, Malaysia, and Japan at various points in time in the 1980s.

Incidentally, after the forthcoming December-January cruises, my wife and I will have been to several more locations listed in the interesting 2003 publication entitled 1,000 Places To See Before You Die: A Traveler's Life List (by Patricia Schultz). In addition to having already been to several once-in-a-lifetime locations (such as the Galápagos and Machu Picchu), Schultz also has the Cook Islands, the Marquesan Islands, Bora Bora, Huahine, Moorea, and the Tuamotu Islands as important destination locations. Needless to say, we hope to see many-many more before.... This presentation then is actually a "practise" run for my next trip to Tahiti and I have almost returned "full circle" back to my Pacific anthropological roots! The Pacific is interesting and in addition to the Michener words above, I should like to add the folowing concerning the islands of the Pacific:

"It is easy to understand the natives' belief in the supernatural, where beauty and desolation are so inextricably entwined. There is no cloying sweetness, no cheap sentimality in the South Sea arabesque. A death's-head shadows the exotic curves and passionate lines that weave the pattern called Polynesia." Robert Eskridge, 1931, Mangareva: The Forgotten Islands (Honolulu: Mutual Publishing Paperback Series, 1958 edition), page 33.

In "traditional" times in the islands of the Pacific, and a date of 1800 has been used by a leading anthropologist, the population of the islands in this part of the Pacific Ocean was estimated to be approximately 300,000 individuals (100,000 in the Marquesas and 200,000 in the "Society" Islands) (Irving Goldman, 1970, Ancient Polynesian Society [University of Chicago Press], page 580). Today, the Territory of French Polynesia (consisting of five archipelagoes, parts of which are the Society Islands), includes the islands of Tahiti, Mo'orea, and the Marquesas, and is located approximately 10 to 30 degrees south of the equator and 130 to 155 degrees west of Greenwich. (Please see Figure IV in this paper.) The capital of French Polynesia is Pape'ete (meaning "basket of water"), is located on the island of Tahiti. The land area of all of French Polynesia is approximately 1297 square miles (3,360 square kilometers) and the largest island is Tahiti at 402 square miles (or 1041 square kilometers). The estimated population for French Polynesia in July 2004 was 266,339 (27.5 per cent below the age of 14), with the majority of the population (~64% or 170,457) living on the island of Tahiti. Pape'ete probably has a current population of approximately 30,000 individuals. Seventy-eight percent of the population is classified as "Polynesian" and twelve percent are Chinese, with individual of French ancestry at ten percent. As far as religon goes, even though the French annexed various islands beginning in 1842, thirty percent of the population is Catholic and fifty-four percent are Protestant. For additonal information, please see David Stanley, 2003, Moon Handbooks: Tahiti Including the Cook Islands, Fifth Edition (Emeryville, CA: Avalon Travel Publishing) or consult the CIA Fact Book.. As Charles R. Darwin (1809-1882) wrote in his celebrated The Voyage of the Beagle for November 15, 1825:

"At daylight, Tahiti, an island which must forever remain classical to the voyager in the South Sea, was in view." Charles R. Darwin,1839, The Voyage of the Beagle [NY: Bantam Books 1958 edition], page 348



Okeania est omnis divisa in partes tres.

It might seem strange to begin a presentation that will discuss the celebrated English explorer, Captain James Cook (1728-1779) and the distinguised French painter Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), but were it not for various Europeans we would probably not be aware of the islanders at all. 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). For additional information pertaining to "peopling and prehistory" of the islands and population genetics, please see Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza et al., 1994, and the section entitled "Population Genetics of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia" in their monumental publication entitled The History and Geography of Human Genes (Princeton University press), pages 362-371. For information dealing with physical anthropology studies in the Pacific, including information on the Austronesian languages of the area, please see William Howells, 1973, The Pacific Islanders (NY: Scribner's), especially page 89.

Today I am only concerned with Polynesia and the islands associated with the island of Tahiti, the fabled isle first "discovered" by Europeans in 1767 in two separate expeditions: the first led by Captain Wallis (1728-1795) of England and the second by Louis Bougainville (1729-1811) of France. I considered using their names in the title of this presentation but thought "Cook & Gauguin" would have more name recognition since as someone has recently written:

"Balboa [1475-1519] found it, Magellan [1480-1521] named it, but for any young boy taken with tales of the South Seas--like the young Charles Wilkes [1798-1877]--the central figure had to be James Cook [1728-1779]." Nathaniel Philbrick, 2003, Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery, The U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842 (NY: The Penguin Group), page 3.

Although we call the inhabitants of the island of Tahiti "Tahitians" they actually referred to themselves as maohi (a term used to this date) and defined by an eminent scholar on this part of the world as their "word for persons, customs, objects, and so forth, native to their archipelago, as distinct from those of elsewhere" (Douglas l. Oliver, 1974, Ancient Tahitian Society [Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press], page 6). Another has written as follows:

"The name 'Tahiti'--or, as Bougainville [1729-1811] first wrote it in 1768, Taiti,' and Cook in 1769, 'Otaheiti'--was the name the natives gave to their island and which Europeans came to apply to the indigenes. If the Tahitians had a name specifically identifying themselves, it is not known. What is known is that all of those living in the Society Archipelago, including Tahiti, referred to themselves as 'Maohi.'" Edwin N. Ferdon, 1991, Tahiti. Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume II Oceania (Boston: G.K. Hall & Co.), pages 305-307, page 305.

A summary statement concerning Tahiti is the following:

"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. 

When the European "discovered" this part of the world, this is what it was like:

"The fourteen islands of the Society group fall into two geographic divisions. The Windwards, lying eastward, include Tahiti, Moorea, Meetia, and Tetuaroa; the Leewards, lying westward, include Raiatea, Huahiine, Tahaa, Borabora, Maupiti, and several small atolls. The Tuamotu atolls are geographically distinct but came under Tahitian political and cultural influences in the eighteenth century. All the islands shared a common culture and were interwoven into a single genealogical system. Two divergent traditions, however, had developed among them. Raiaetea had risen to eminence as the citadel of aristocracy and Tahiti, known also as Tahiti manahune, 'plebian Tahiti,' had become the center of military and political power and eventually the seat of central authority. The rise of Tahiti and the political eclipse of Raiatea defines rather closely the pattern of social evolution on these islands. The Societies are mong the most fertile and productive of all Polynesian islands. Tahiti was shipping surplus foods--breadfruit, coconut, fowl, and pigs--to all neighboring islands and as far away as the Tuamotus long before the European period (Maude 1959 [H.E. Maude, The Tahitian Pork Trade. Journal de la Société des Océanistes 15: 55-95]). ... Tahitian traditions describe Raiatea as the great center of traditional aristocracy.... A Tahitian chant describes the formation of social classes as follows: 'The high royal family of the 'ura girdle...were descended of the gods from darkness.' They were 'begat' from Ti'i and Hina. The 'common people, the plebians of the world' were 'conjured into being' by the gods. The gentry were 'begat' from intermarriages between royalty and commoners. The nobility, or lesse arii were 'begat' from intermarriages between royalty and gentry (Henry 1928: 402-3 [Teuira Henry, Ancient Tahiti. Honolulu: Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 48]). Thus commoners with the stigma of not having a line of descent stnad alone as an absolute category. The highest arii stand alone as god-descended, and the two intermediate classes form still a third category, with merits of descent line and of connection with arii, but with the indelible blemish of mixture. The highest rank were the arii rahi or arii nui, the sacred or great arii The second rank were the arii rii, the small chiefs; the third were the raatira; the fourth, the manahune [stress added]." Irving Goldman, 1970, Ancient Polynesian Society (University of Chicago Press), pages 171 and 187-188.



"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.

While the Pacific islanders were the first to "discover" the islands of the vast Pacific, credit must also be given to the various intrepid European explorers who first ventured out across the globe; as Dening pointed out in 1980:

"In many ways the European has been the world's voyager. Arabs and Celts Romans and Phoenicians, Chinese and Polynesians all knew their separate seas and often made excursions out of them. But the Europeans of the sixteenth century discovered that the world is an ocean and all its continents are islands. They discovered that all its parts are joined by straits and passages. They 'encompassed' the world. Following those who encompassed it came those who whaled the sea, fished it or traded over it. After them came those who pretected the sea for those who whaled it, fished it or traded over it. They all, even more than those who discovered the straits and passages were the voyagers [stress added]." Greg Dening, 1980, Islands and Beaches: Discourse on a Silent Land - Marquesas 1774-1880 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press), pages 23-24.

In a conference earlier this year I discussed "Mapping The Islands of the Pacific: Islanders and Others (Including Cook and Darwin)" and todays presentation draws upon that paper (available at In that paper I pointed out the importance of the circumnavigation of the globe by Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521) who was killed in the Phillipines. As a result of this voyage, 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 publication, 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 by European (and eventually American) navigators. It must be pointed out in this cursory overview that there were numerous other European "discoverers" of Pacific Islands: 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].

One may deduce from the above listing of names (and implied nationalities) that geopolitical efforts of the great powers of the day clearly manifested themselves in the Pacific Ocean (and in the islands of the Pacific). Just as there was national rivalry in Europe proper, so it was in the Pacific:

"New Zealand looked set to become a French colony when the Nanto-Bordelaise Company sent an expedition of around 120 Frenchmen to settle in the unclaimed islands in 1839. The venture was a largely private initiative although the government gave its blessing and saw the settlement as a means of limiting British interests and establishing a foothold in the pacific. The colonists arrived in 1840 just after the British had taken possession of New Zealand [stress added]. Robert Aldrich, 1990, The French Presence In The South Pacific 1842-1940 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press), page 210.

Even the United States of American had a "Pacific presence" in the early 19th century (and not just in Hawai'i): in 1813, one Captain David Porter (1780-1843) of the United States Navy claimed the Marquesan Islands for the United States of America.

"Appointed a midshipman in 1798, he served in the West Indies and in the war with Tripoli. In 1803 his ship, the Philadelphia, was captured off the coast of Tripoli, and Porter was a prisoner until peace was declared in 1805. He achieved his greatest success as commander of the Essex in the War of 1812. In that year he captured several British ships carrying troops to Halifax and the British war vessel Alert. Then, accompanied by young David Farragut, he sailed the Essex around the Horn and cruised in the Pacific, warring on British commercial vessels. He took formal possession of Nuku Hiva, one of the Marquesas Islands, in Nov., 1813, but this act was not recognized by the U.S. government [stress added]." from:

As another has written:

"...Porter fortified a settlement for his operations against British whaling vessels and became embroiled in local warfare against the occupants of Taipi Valley (later made famous in Herman melville's novel Typee [published in 1846]). For the first time, Marquesans were profoundly impressed by the efficacy of firearms and the power of Whites, and chiefs and warriors throughout the group subsequently made grat efforts to obtain the former and make friends with the latter. Trade thus developed a more systematic presence in the Marquesan economy. Both Protestant and Catholic missionaies attempted to gain footholds in the group, but they had very little influence in the period up to 1840, a time of severe depopulation. The French annexed the islands in 1842 but subsequently maintained a minimal presence [stress added]." Nicholas Thomas, 1991, Marquesas Islands. Encyclopedia of World Cultures Volume II Oceania (Boston: G.K. Hall & Co.), pages 188-191, page 189.

Even Herman Melville (1819-1891), discussed below, mentions Porter's activties in the Marquesas in his 1846 publication entitled Typee:

"Shortly after decrying the French annexations of Tahiti and the Marquesas, he reminds his readers that in 1813 the U.S. naval captain David Porter violently seized Nuku Hiva and that in 1840 the U.S. Exploring Expedition flattened a major Fijian village, killing at least eighty-seven men, women, and children." Geoffrey Sanborn, 2004, Herman Melville Typee: Complete Text with Introduction (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company), page 4.

Explorers from another European power, namely Russia, soon discovered the occupation of the Pacific islands by various European powers:

"...the Nadesha under command of Adam von Krusenstern [1770-1846] anchored at Taiohae [Marquesan Islands] on 7 May 1804. Three days later her companion, the Neva under Yuri Lisiansky [1773-1837], caught up with her. They had come from Cape Horn to do for the Russians what Bougainville [1729-1811] had done for the French and Cook had done for the English--to discover the Pacific and its worth. The Russians were surprised to find an Englishman and a Frenchman already living on Nukuhiva. They were not surprised to find the pair enemies: enmity, they thought was innate to Englishmen and Frenchmen. They were, however, disturbed to think the newly discovered islands of the southern ocean had to feel the influence of the rivalry. It was a more prophetic statement than they realized. It was rivalry between the French and English that caused the French to 'take possession' of the Marquesas [stress added]." Greg Dening, 1980, Islands and Beaches: Discourse on a Silent Land - Marquesas 1774-1880 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press), page 112.

Regardless of the many voyagers who "discovered" the islands of the Pacific, 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 2003 book, 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 a genius at his exploring endeavors (and one indication of this would be an analysis of the various sailors who sailed under his direction, such as George Vancouver [1757-1798] or William Bligh [1754-1817]). As written elsewhere, Cook has been recognized as the major individual for 18th Century exploration!

"Cook, by the time of this third [1775-1779/1780] 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.

One "fantasy" demolished and new myths developed! Incidentally, Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) sailed through, and stayed for awhile, in French Polynesia (and other islands of the Pacific in 1888-1889) and had this to day about culture contact:

"Upon the whole, the problem seems to me to stand thus:--Where there have been fewest changes, important or unimportant, salutary or hurtful, there the race survives. Where there have been most, important or unimportant, salutary or hurtful, there it perishes. Each change, however, small, augments the sum of new conditions to which the race has to become inured [stress added]." Robert Louis Stevenson,1900, In The South Seas Being An Account of Experiences and Observations in The Marquesas, Paumotus And Gilbert Islands in the Course of Two Cruises, on the Yacht 'Casco' (1888) and the Schooner 'Equator' (1889) (London: Chatto and Windus) (1971 University of Hawaii Press Facsimile Reproduction), page 41.

Stevenson ("Tusitala" or teller of tales) is buried on Mt. Vaea, Samoa (formerly known as Western Samoa). Incidentally, the above Stevenson statement reminded me of one of my favorite quotes concerning Darwin:

"He [Charles Darwin] believed that the natural world was the result of constantly repeated small and accumulative actions, a lesson he had first learned when reading Lyell's Principles of Geology on board the Beagle and had put to work ever since. ... No one, not even Lyell himself, or any of Darwin's closest friends and supporters, accepted as ardently as Darwin that the book of nature was about the accumulative powers of the small [stress added]." Janet Browne, 2002, Charles Darwin: The Power of Place - Volume II of a Biography (NY: Alfred A. Knopf), page 490.

Not only is the "book of nature" the result of the "acumulative powers of the small" but so it is for culture change as well!



"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. 

Although it was the British navigator Wallis who first "discovered" Tahiti for Europeans, it was the French Explorer Louis Antoine de Bougainville (1729-1811) who probably did more than any other explorer 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:]

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 proportinate: 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.

Ever the observant traveler, in 1835 Darwin commented on some aspects of Tahiti:

"In point of morality, the virtue of the women, it has been often said, is most open to exception. But before they are blamed too severely, it will be well distinctly to call to mind the scenes described by Captain Cook [1728 -1779] and Mr. [Joseph] Banks [1743-1820, who was the naturalist on Cook's first voyage of 1768-1771], in which the grandmothers and mothers of the present race played a part. Those who are most severe, should consider how much of the morality of the women in Europe, is owing to the system early impressed by others on their daughters, and how much in each individual case to the precepts of religion [stress added]." Charles R. Darwin,1839, The Voyage of the Beagle [NY: Bantam Books 1958 edition], page 358.

Numerous other individuals have contributed to the "myths" (and stories) of the South Pacific and Tahiti: 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:]

Another other individual who contributed to the "myths" of the Pacific must be mentioned, namely that of Herman Melville (1819-1891) and what has been called the most famous American novel of all times, Moby Dick (1851). In the 19th century, Melville had shipped out on the whaler Acushnet and in 1842 he deserted the ship when it was in the Marquesas Islands. The Marquesan Islands, so named by the Spanish Explorer de Mendaña in 1595 (but called Te Enata Henua or "The Land of the Men" by the inhabitants) are part of French Polynesia:

"They are divided into two distinct groups about 60 miles apart. Nuku-Hiva, the administrative and economic center of the Marquesas, lies 932 miles northeast of Tahiti, in the northern group. Ua Huka and Ua Pou are also in this group, with the southern Marquesas including Hiva Oa, Tahuata and Fatu Hiva [stress added]." [source:]

On Hiva Oa, where Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) was to eventually live and die in the town of Atuona, we have the following:

"Located 740 miles northeast of Tahiti, the town of Atuona is the administrative center for the southern Marquesas. Frames in a theater of mountains with the Bay of Traitors providing safe anchorage, Atuona is a favorite port of call for yachts and copra ships [stress added]." [source:]

Volcanic in origin, as are the other islands of French Polynesia, the Marquesan Islands are very rugged and may be described as inhospitable. The indigenous inhabitants were quite warlike, assisted, it may be assumed from their initial contact with Europeans in 1595 when de Mendaña's men killed some 200 Marquesans.

Melville eventually 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), Omoo (1847), Mardi (1849), Redburn (1849), White-Jacket (1850), and eventually Moby Dick (1851). There actually 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) and whales did attack and sink whaleships throughout the Pacific; please see Nathaniel Philbrick's 2003 publication entitled In The Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, which is the excellent story of what happened when a whale rammed, and sank, the American 106-foot long whaler Essex in the South Pacific. This, and other attacks, was the inspiration for Melville's 1851 Moby Dick.

"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."

Melville's 1846 publication of Typee (dealing with his experiences in the Marquesas Islands) was a success both in England (where it was first published on February 27, 1846) and in the United States. Various reviews were generally favorable and even "negative" reviews probably had an impact on increasing readership!

"Even the opposition press helped to give Typee currency. One highly specialized periodical--it called itself The Christian Parlor Magazine--excommunicated the book as 'An apotheosis of barbarism! A panegyric on cannibal delights!' Such a notice must have sent many amateurs of barabrism to the bookstores [stress added]." Clifton Fadiman [Introduction], 1958, Typee [by Herman Melville, 1846] (NY: Bantam Edition), page xvii.

Melville was became quite the public figure and Typee was quickly followed by Omoo (1847), a fictional account of his stay on Tahiti. As A. Grove Day has written:

"Again, the setting of the novel is its most important aspect. Omoo is undoubtedly filled with the best descriptions of Tahiti in 1842 that one can find anywhere. Melville liked the native people and the places he visited. In his later long poem Clarel (1876), Tahiti is mentioned as the only fit place on earth for the advent of Christ. Melville's second book [namely, Omoo] almost became a tourist guide to the region. 'Pierre Loti' [pseudonym for Louis Marie Julien Viaud, 1850-1923] Henry Adams [1838-1918], Charles Warren Stoddard [1843-1909], Robert Louis Stevenson [1850-1894], and Jack London [1876-1916] read their Omoo before voyaging to the Societies. Melville produced this novel during 1846, which one American author christened 'the year of decision.' It was not only the year of publication of Typee but also of the outbreak of the war with Mexico, the annexation of California, and the settling of the Oregon dispute, which opened up the trails to our Norhtwest [stress added]." A. Grove Day, 1970, Melville's South Seas: An Anthology (NY: Hawthorn Books, Inc.), page 87.

On January 5, 1858, Melville began to make presentations about "The South Seas" in his series of public lecture in the United States:

"The title was preferred to that of 'The Pacific' because 'The South Seas' evoked a more romantic picture and because that ocean is not always as peaceful as its name might suggest. One part of his address that is topical today concerns his prediction, exactly a century before the event, that the Hawaiian or Sandwich Islands would eventually be annexed to the American Union [stress added]." A. Grove Day, 1970, Melville's South Seas: An Anthology (NY: Hawthorn Books, Inc.), page 273.

As an aside, in order to contextualize 19th century European (and American) activities in the Pacific, please consider the following:

"Between October 1844, when Herman Melville [1819-1891] returned from a nearly four-year Pacific voyage, and February 1846, when Typee appeared in print, the keynote of [American] national life was expansion. In those sixteen months, the United States admitted Florida and Iowa into the Union, annexed the independent Republic of Texas, pressed with new vehemence its claim on the Pacific Coast from Oregon to the latitude 54 40', and accelerated to the brink of a nakedly acquisitive war with Mexico. By the end of 1848, after the settlement of the Oregon boundary dispute with Britain and the treaty ending the Mexican War, the United States was 64 percent larger than it had been in 1844, having added 1.2 million square miles to its territories [stress added]." Geoffrey Sanborn, 2004, Herman Melville Typee: Complete Text with Introduction (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company), page 1.

Tahiti (and all of Polynesia) changed as a result of factual and fictional information about the people of the islands as presented by numerous individuals! Perhaps the most famous of the Frenchmen to go to Tahiti was Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) who departed Marseilles on the first of April 1891 and arrived in Pape'ete, Tahiti on 9 June 1891. As David Stanley writes in his excellent 2003 publication: "The most unlikely PR man of them all was a once-obscure French painter named Paul Gauguin, who transformed the primitive color of Tahiti and the Marquesas into powerful visual images seen around the world" (David Stanley, 2003, Moon Handbooks: Tahiti Including the Cook Islands, Fifth Edition [Emeryville, CA: Avalon Travel Publishing], page 76.) Gauguin was to eventually write the following about his introduction to Tahiti:

"Life at Papeete soon became a burden. It was Europe--the Europe which I had thought to shake off--and that under the aggravating circumstances of colonial snobbism, and the imitation, grotesque even to the point of caricature, of our customs, fashions, vices, and absurdities of civilization. Was I to have made this far journey, only to find the very thing I had fled? [stress added]." Paul Gauguin, Noa Noa (originally published in the Revue Blanche in 1897 and in an expanded book form in 1901) translated from the French by O. F. Theis], (NY: The Noonday Press), page 7. (For the Project Gutenberg version of Noa Noa, please see

Although he may have found it like the Europe he left behind, Gauguin's prolific paintings created an image of Tahiti that exists to this day. Recently the New York Times reported on the November 4, 2004 (!) sale of a painting that Gauguin completed in Tahiti:

"Sotheby's Nov. 4 [2004!] sale of Impressioniost and Modern art has a pricey roster of paintings. The most expensive is a Gauguin from his Tahitian period, which Sotheby's expects to bring $40 million to $50 million. Gauguin [1848-1903] created the painting, 'Maternité (II),' in 1899, about the time his 17-year-old Polynesian mistress, Pahura, gave birth to their son.... After Gauguin's death in 1903, the painting was sold at an auction of his estate in the Tahitian capital, Papeete, where a French naval officer bought it for 150 francs. The officer took it to France packed between two shirts, art historians say [stress added]." Carol Vogel, 2004, Inside Art. The New York Times, October 4, 2004, page B30.

[NOTE added Saturday November 6, 2004: Carol Vogel, in The New York Times of this date, wrote that Gauguin's Maternité (II) was "the most expensive work of the evening, selling to an unidentified telephone bidder for $39.2 million, a record for the artist at auction [stress added]." Carol Vogel, 2004, Some High Prices and Low Points in Sotheby's Sale. The New York Times, November 6, 2004, page A26.] When my wife and I were last in Tahiti in January 1980, Émile Gauguin had just died.

Paul Gauguin returned to France in 1893 and then returned to Tahiti in September 1895, and stayed on that island until he went to the village of Atunoa in the Marquesas Islands, ~930 miles northeast of Tahiti. Gauguin stayed in the Marquesas until his death on 8 May 1903. He was not necessarily liked or appreciated by all in the Marquesas and the following statement was made by the Catholic Bishop Martin in the Marquesas in that month: "The only noteworthy event has been the sudden death of a contemptible individual named Gauguin, a reputed artist but an enemy of God and everything that is decent [stress added]." Stephen F. Eisenman, 1997, Gauguin's Skirt (NY/London: Thames and Hudson), page 194.

Fact and fancy always blend together to provide a "story" and in the first section of this paper I cited Robert Eskridge, writing about Polynesia in 1931; consider the 1990 words of Aldrich:

"The traditional island world, however, was not idyllic. On both mountainous islands and coral atolls, arable land was relatively rare; fresh water was not always easily available. Cyclones and tidal waves periodically destroyed lives and resources. A variety of diseases affected islanders; life expectancy was not long and infant mortality particularly high. Tribal fighting often erupted and resulted in loss of life, even if pitched battles were rare. Codification of social relations was strict and probably allowed little latitude for deviance or idiosyncracy. In Polynesia the lower orders lived in a state of economic and social inferiority to the chiefs and lesser gentry.... Island life was neither tragic nor stagnant. Wars, festivals and cycles of harvest, of the seasons and of the life cycle all varied daily activities.... By the time the French conquerors arrived in Tahiti and the Marquesas in 1842 and New Caledonia [in "Melanesia"] in 1853, island life was different from the time of Bougainville [1729-1811] [stress added]." Robert Aldrich, 1990, The French Presence In The South Pacific 1842-1940 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press), pages 175-176.



"From the eighteenth-century accounts of Captain James Cook [1728-1779], the British navigator, to the writings of the American novelist James A. Michener [1907-1997, enraptured descriptions of the Pacific islands have identified the term 'South Seas' with visions of a blissful life in perpetual summer on white beaches shaded by swaying palm trees." Robert Trumbull, 1977, Tin Roofs and Palm Trees (Seattle: University of Washington Press), page 3.

As stated above, it began with Balboa and then went from Cook to Gauguin, and then Michener (and more!). As indicated by the title of this presentation:

"Paul Gauguin and Tahiti have been closely connected in popular imagination for more than half a century. Although Tahiti has been visited and described at one time or another by many famous persons, among them Captain Cook, Herman Melville [1819-1891], and Robert Louis Stevenson [1850-1894], it is not these names but Gauguin's which at once springs to mind when the islands is mentioned. Conversely, the name of Paul Gauguin has become a kind of watchword which always recalls Tahiti rather than Paris, Brittany, Martinique, Arles, or any of the other places where he also lived and worked. The only comparable case of such complete identification of a man with an island is perhaps that of Napoleon [1769-1821] with St. Helena. It is rather ironical, therefore, to have to begin a book [or end a presentation!] devoted chiefly to Gauguin's life in Tahiti with the assertion that it was pure chance which took him there in the first place, and that the momentous journey was not even his own idea [stress added]."Bengt Danielsson, 1964, Gauguins Söderhavsar [1965 translation by Reginald Spink as Gauguin in the South Seas] (George Allen & Unwin Ltd.), page 19.

As Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) stated it (in translation!). "fortune favors the prepared mind." Also, as pointed out above, after England took possession of New Zealand, the French realized something had to be done elsewhere in the Pacific:

"When [the French] Admiral Dupetit-Thours had left Vaitahu [in the Marquesas Islands] and sailed to Nukuhiva back in May 1842, he had expected to centre France's Pacific empire at Taiohae [in the Marquesas Islands]: his report of four years before, written shortly after his first expedition to the Pacific, had persuaded the French government to act quickly in establishing themselves in the Pacific. The Russians were developing Alaska and Kamchatka. North Americans had begun to pioneer the Rocky Mountains and had pre-empted influence on Hawaii. The British had their lucrative colonies in New Holland [Australia] and had narrowly beaten the French to New Zealand. The South American states of Chile, Peru and Bolivia were exercising their newly one independence and were promising new markets. The French whaling fleet, a hundred strong in the Pacific, was the navy's school for sailors and needed a base of operations that required no British passport. For these national and commerical purposes, the Marquesas seemed perfectly suitable. They were isolated. They lay on lines of communication. They had good harbours. Ships passed no British base to reach them. French missionaires were already established there [stress added]." Greg Dening, 1980, Islands and Beaches: Discourse on a Silent Land - Marquesas 1774-1880 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press), page 213.

Alas, as Dening later writes out, interests shifted from the Marquesas to Tahiti:

"Admiral Dupetit-Thouars dream that Nukuhiva would become a naval base on the crossroads of the Pacific commerce was never realized. Only twice in a hundred years did the islands have any strategic naval importance. In 1854, during the Crimean War, ships of the British and French navies made their rendevous at Taiohae. ... Its only other historic moment was made by the German raider Scharnhorst in 1914. It took on coal and supplies at Taipivi. In hiding there the Germans showed how forgotten and strategically unimportant the islands were [stress added]." Greg Dening, 1980, Islands and Beaches: Discourse on a Silent Land - Marquesas 1774-1880 (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press), pages 222-223.

The French took over Tahiti, the myths continued, and the people changed. There were battles in French Polynesia in the 19th century and the French military prevailed. In the 20th century nuclear testing took place on Mururoa atoll in French Polynesia (eventually ending in 1996) and...Tahiti continues to change (and myths continue). In June of 2004, Oscar Temaru was elected President of French Polynesia, defeating the former President Gaston Flosse and on October 17, 2004, the following appeared under the title of "Demonstrators Call For Election" in this South Pacific location:

"An estimated 15,000 people have taken to the streets of the French Polynesian capital, Papeete, in support of a call for fresh general election. In the biggest rally ever in Papeete, the crowd has heeded a call by the President, Oscar Temaru, who says mafia methods were used to oust his 15-week old government in a no confidence vote last week. He wants the French president to dissolve the assembly and hold fresh elections but in the past week, France has ruled this out twice. Rallies in support of Temaru's call to stop the return of the veteran leader, Gaston Flosse, are also being held in the outer islands, such as the Marquesas and on Rangiroa. Flosse, whose group secured a one-seat majority in last week's assembly sitting, says the demonstration is anti-democratic [stress added]." (from:

On October 20, 2004, the following took place:

"French Polynesia's Legislative Assembly today failed to elect a new president, due to the lack of a quorum. The sitting was boycotted by members of parliament from the Union for Democracy (UPLD) coalition, led by caretaker President Oscar Temaru. Temaru, who came into power in June this year, was last week ousted in a motion of no confidence after some of his MPs caused a shift in the balance of power by supporting the ouster motion.... Following the vote of a motion of no confidence in Temaru, earlier this month, the Assembly is to convene within two weeks to elect a new Head for the French Pacific country [stress added]." (From: [Pacific Islands Report, East-West Center, university of Hawai'i, Honolulu, Hawai'i)

The romance of the legendary South Seas is no more as the reality of 21st century politics takes hold in the South Pacific. The crisis continues as this paper is being written:

"TONY EASTLEY: There are growing fears there may be violence in French Polynesia if a deepening political crisis isn't resolved. Two men are claiming to be the country's President and neither looks like going quietly. Oscar Temaru, a leader promising independence from France, was ousted as President three weeks ago, but he disputes thelegitimacy of that vote and is refusing to hand over power. From Tahiti, the main island of French Polynesia, our Correspondent Gillian Bradford reports. GILLIAN BRADFORD: Weeks after this stand off began there are still two men who think they're running French Polynesia. Gaston Flosse has the backing of Paris and his friend and political ally Jacques Chirac, while ousted President Oscar Temaru, the pro-independence leader, appears to have the people on his side [stress added]." Gillian Bradford, November 1, 2004, Dispute over presidency in French Polynesia. From:

"Two men are both claiming to be the president of the Pacific Territory of French Polynesia, as fears of violence over the deepening political crisis rise. Oscar Temaru was pushed from his position as president three weeks ago, however has claimed that the parliamentary vote was not legal. He was ousted in an October 9 vote of no-confidence, after some of his coalition parliamentarians switched to the opposition. Last week the legislative assembly endorsed the return to power of the pro-French Gaston Flosse by a narrow majority. French Polynesia, the main island of which is Tahiti, is an overseas territory of France. Along with his cabinet, Mr Temaru, who is prominently pro-independence, has refused to leave the presidential office and wants the French government to dissolve the assembly and call new elections. Conservative pro-French Mr Flosse is now asking the High Court in Paris to intervene and order Mr Temaru to vacate the office. 'I am the right one, supported by the majority of the people,' said Mr Temaru, according to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. 'What was organised October the 9th was a low blow and that is not permitted in boxing. The referee, which is the French Government, should disqualify Mr Gaston Flosse,' he said [stress added]. Anon. November 1, 2004, Political Standoff continues in Tahiti. From:

And finally, from November 4, 2004:

"Workers in French Polynesia are blockading key government buildings as a stand-off continues over who is the country's president. A few dozen supporters of ousted president Oscar Temaru are blocking access to the Ministry of Finance and the official government newspaper. They say they will not move until Gaston Flosse's administration orders fresh elections. President Flosse has asked to meet Oscar Temaru. He says he will tell the ousted president he must stop hindering the work of the Government. Mr Flosse says he will not use force to remove the protesters because he does not want strife in French Polynesia [stress added]." Gillian Bradford, 2004, President's ousting sparks strife in French Polynesia [stress added]." ABC News Online from:]



In writing about the indigenous inhabitants of the various pacific islands, the latest information supports the theory that the islands were "peopled" by individuals island-hopping over thousands of years out of Southeast Asia. More than fifty years ago, Thor Heyerdahl (1914-2002) postulated a theory that the islands (notably Easter Island) could have been "settled" from South America. While accidental contact could have taken place between South America and various islands of the Pacific, the migration path was clearly that out of southeast Asia; but please consider the following in the near future:

A replica of the Kon-Tiki balsa raft will sail the Pacific in 2005, to study increasing environmental threats to the ocean since Thor Heyerdahl made his 1947 voyage. One of Heyerdahl's grandsons will be among the six-strong crew for the trip from Peru aiming to reach Tahiti, where the Kon-Tiki ran aground after travelling eight-thousand-kilometres in 101-days. Heyerdahl's original voyage defied many experts' predictions that the flimsy craft would break up and sink. Organisers say since the 1940's, there have been many changes and the new trip is to highlight the environmental threats.The new raft, called the Tangaroa after a Polynesian sea god, will be made of the same materials as the Kon-Tiki, but include solar panels to help transmit pictures to the Internet stress added]." 2004, Anon., Kon-Tiki replica to sail, study Pacific in 2005. From 9, 2004).

Recently (2004), Simon G. Southerton, a Senior Research Scientists at CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) in Canberra, Australia, has published a magnificent volume entitled Losing A Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church and while he mentions Heyerdahl's theory (and influence on the position held by certain members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints), he cleary documents the origin of Polynesians: "As with the Americas, the living inhabitants of the Pacific trace their molecular roots back to Asia [stress added]." Simon G. Southerton, 2004, Losing A Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church (Salt Lake City: Signature Books), page 107. Southerton amasses a wealth of DNA information (mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome DNA) to support his thesis.

"Mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome DNA are useful for studying human populations because they remain remarkably intact from generation to generation. Human mitochondrial DNA is maternally inherited: the mitochondria in sperm cells do not penetrate the egg upon fertilization. Males receive their mitochonodrial DNA from their mothers but cannot pass it on to future generations. Human Y chromosome DNA escapes the complex chromosomal rearrangements in each generation because it is passed from father to son as a single entity. As a consequence of these unique modes of inheritance, the mitochondrial DNA represents a single paternal line. Both are passed down through the generations like maternal and paternal surnames [stress added]." Simon G. Southerton, 2004, Losing A Lost Tribe: Native Americans, DNA, and the Mormon Church (Salt Lake City: Signature Books), page 167.

Southerton, with a Ph.D. in plant science (and now specializing in molecular biology of forest trees), and who also "served an LDS mission to Melbourne in the 1980s" is more than qualified to state the scientific facts: "As with the Americas, the living inhabitants of the Pacific trace their molecular roots back to Asia." There was a 1924 publication by John Macmillan Brown (1846-1935), Professor at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, entitled The Riddle of the Pacific. In this fascinating publication he has the following:

"We may dismiss at once the idea that the American coast peopled or even influenced Polynesia, a position that has been argued by many writers who have been puzzled by the accepted theory that Polynesia was peopled by migrations against the trade winds.... Is there any sign of the influence having gone the other way? It is not conspicuous; but there are indications that seem to point in that direction [stress added]. John Macmillan Brown, 1924, The Riddle of the Pacific [Kempton, Illinois: Adventures Unlimited Press 1996 edition], pages 261-262.

Interesting idea! Another controversial theory on the origin of certain Polynesian cultural traits is one put forward by the late Robert Langdon (1924-2003). I met Bob in Australia in 1970-1971 and have followed his work for several decades. He has postulated that some of the stratified societies that early European explorers saw in Polynesia may have actually come about because of a spanish vessel (the San Lesmes) which was shipwrecked in the Tuamotus in the 16th century. Langdon also 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 and how various myths developed about them. Interestingly enough, the following appeared in a 1919 publication. After an expedition to Easter Island, the research vessel headed to Hawaii and Katherine Routledge wrote as follows:

"Hawaiian Islands - The group is composed of eight inhabited islands which stretch in a line from north-west to south-east. Hawaii, the most southerly, is the largest, and now gives its name to the whole, byt the principal modern town Honolulu, is on the more northerly island of Oahu. The islands were known to the early Spanish voyagers, but their connection with the civilized world really dates from their rediscovery by Cook [stress added]." Katherine Routledge, 1919, The Mystery of Easter Island [Kempton, Illinois: Adventures Unlimited Press 1998 edition], page 322.

In addtion to Langdon's work, we also have the still-controversial 2002 publication by Gavin Menzies dealing with Chinese exploration in the Pacific and indeed throughout the world: 1421: The Year China Discovered America. Finally, new interpretations are being made all of the time!

"A new tribe is emerging from Mexico's scorched earth. A team of geoarchaeologists working on a programme investigating human evolution have found skeletal remains in the desert of the Baja California Peninsula that give rise to new theories on the colonisation of the Americas. The team from the Natural Environment Research Council and led by Dr Silvia Gonzalez, analysed the DNA of skulls with markedly different morphologies to Native American Indians, commonly regarded as the first settlers of the Americas. The skulls are long and narrow, not in keeping with the Native Indians' broader, rounder features. 'They appear more similar to southern Asians, Australians and populations of the South Pacific Rim than they do to Northern Asians,' said Dr Gonzalez of Liverpool John Moores University. 'DNA analysis of the Mexican remains suggest these people were at least partly contemporaneous to the first native American Indian settlers on the continent,' she added. 'We think there were several migration waves into the Americas at different times by different human groups. The timing, route and point of origin of the first colonisation of the Americas remains a most contentious topic in human evolution.' This debate has been running for more than a century. Consensus is split between two camps: the first camp believe settlers came across the Bering Straits, from Russia to Alaska, at the end of the last ice age 12-15,000 years ago. Evidence for this theory comes from Clovis Points - huge tools used to hunt mammoths - found all over the American continent. DNA analysis of skeletal remains close to these Clovis Points suggest just four tribes are responsible for populating the continent. The second camp say colonisation happened much earlier than this, 20-30,000 years ago, but their techniques, using genetics, linguistics and dental morphology, have been steeped in controversy. Dr Gonzalez's team have evidence of a previously unknown group, the Pericues, who went extinct in the 18th Century. She suggests this tribe may not have taken the traditional route to the continent. The work is one of 11 projects investigating whether environmental factors played a part in human evolution and dispersal. Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, the programme is tackling major anthropological questions such as: how did we become the only true global species? Why did our ancestors swap the tropical beaches of Africa for the icy tundra? How do we explain our trademark big brains? What role did climate play in making us adapt quickly to different environments? The programme, Environmental Factors in the Chronology of Human Evolution and Dispersal, is truly global in its outlook with scientists working in South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and southern Asia [stress added]."[from:]
# # #

VII. VERY SELECTED REFERENCES (in reverse chronological order):

in progress [Various Pacific References]

2004 [Mapping The Islands of the Pacific: Islanders and Others (Including Cook and Darwin). For a presentation at the WAML (Western Association of Map Libraries) Conference at CSU, Chico, April 29-30, 2004.]

2003 [Destination Polynesia: Tahiti And The Neighbor Islands. For the CSU, Chico Anthropology Forum, November 6, 2003.)

1993 [Peoples & Cultures of the Pacific: Okeania est omnis divisa in partes tres. For the CSU, Chico Anthropology Forum, September 30, 1993.).



French Polynesia (all)

1,297 sq. miles (3,360 sq. km).
Rhode Island (USA) is 1,545 sq. miles (4002 sq. km.)
266,339 (2004)
27.5% under age of 14.
Only Tahiti
402 sq. miles (1,041 sq. km.)
1/3 state of Connecticut

Only Mo'orea
53 sq. miles (138 sq. km.)
The city of San Francisco (CA) is 46.7 sq. miles (121 sq. km.)
14,550 (2002)
12.4 miles (20 kilometers) from Tahiti.

Marquesas (all)

482 sq. miles (1,300 sq. km.)
~ 1/2 Canberra (Australia).

Only Nuku Hiva
127 sq. miles (329 sq. km.)
About the size of Pohnpei (Ponape) in Microensia.
932 miles (1,500 kilometers) norhteast of Tahiti.
Only Hiva Oa
124 sq. miles (327 sq. km.)
Approximately 60% of the size of Tahiti.

740 miles (1,191 km) northeast of Tahiti.
Cook Islands (all)
93 sq. miles (240 sq. km.)
1.3 x Washington D.C.


FIGURE I: 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.

FIGURE II: Source:

FIGURE IV: Source:

FIGURE V: 23 December 2004 -> 2 January 2005.
FIGURE VI: 2 January 2005 -> 12 January 2005.

FIGURE VII: 29 May 2005 -> 24 June 2005

 (1) © [All Rights Reserved.] Originally placed on the World Wide Web on November 4, 2004, for a presentation(with numerous visuals) at the Anthropology Forum at California State University, Chico, on November 4, 2004, and modified (with one addition) concerning an auction of a Gauguin painting by Sotheby's on November 4, 2004. 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. To return to the beginning of this paper, please click here.

# # #

 [~11,468 words] } 6 November 2004

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

Department of Anthropology;

to California State University, Chico.

[This page printed from]

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

6 November 2004 2004 by cfu

# # #