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History

A Natural Experiment of History from the book; Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

A Natural Experiment of History from the book; Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond

I quote chapter two of Professor Diamond's book in full because it contains within it one of the best  sumations of how the geography of Polynesia affected the lives of the Polynesian People and how  each island community adopted to their specific enviroment.

A Visit from Hongi Hika by Augustus Earle

A Visit from Hongi Hika by Augustus Earle

A few days after my visit to the missionaries, while we were busily employed in constructing our huts, assisted by about fifty natives, on a sudden a great commotion took place amongst them. Each left his work and ran to his hut, and immediately returned armed with both musket and cartouch box: apparently all the arms in the village were mustered, and all seemed ready for immediate use. On inquiring into the cause of all these war-like preparations, I was informed that Hongi and his chief men were crossing the bay in several large war canoes; and though he was considered as a friend and ally, yet, as he was a man of such desperate ambition, and consummate cunning, it was considered necessary to receive him under arms, which he might take either as a compliment, or as a proof of how well they were aware of the guest they were receiving.

Captain Cook and Captain Bligh by J C Beaglehole

Captain Cook and Captain Bligh by J C Beaglehole

John Cawte Beaglehole, 1901 –  1971) was a New Zealand historian considered by most the best writer on Captain Cook, which this example well shows. He is not blind to Cook's faults and certainly is intelligent in viewing Cook's talents. This comparison of Cook and Bligh is an interesting exercise as history has been savage on Bligh or should we say Hollywood has. Only Anthony Hopkins played Bligh as the complicated character he was. No doubt sometime in the future the motion picture industry will revisit the Bounty Saga again, with no bets on them getting any closer to the truth.

Easter's End By Jared Diamond

Easter's End By Jared Diamond

In just a few centuries, the people of Easter Island wiped out their forest, drove their plants and animals to extinction, and saw their complex society spiral into chaos and cannibalism. Are we about to follow their lead?

Among the most riveting mysteries of human history are those posed by vanished civilizations. Everyone who has seen the abandoned buildings of the Khmer, the Maya, or the Anasazi is immediately moved to ask the same question: Why did the societies that erected those structures disappear?

Excavation of Cave on Okia Flat, Wickliffe Bay by Ellis Sinclair

Excavation of Cave on Okia Flat, Wickliffe Bay by Ellis Sinclair

The following is a description of an archaeological dig by Ellis Sinclair in 1938 of a cave at Okia Flat on Otago Peninsula and the discovery of a curious Archaic Period figure with broken arms and legs. This little carving is I believe of the Eastern Polynesian War God Rimaroa, Rimaroa meaning long arms and is one of the only Polynesian statues that has a rigid  upright stance as opposed to the the classic bent knee stance of Polynesian images. What form the missing arms and legs took and how they related to what remains is mystery that thus far despite much effort I  have failed to solve.

Extracts from Augustus Earle's book a Narrative of a Nine Months' Residence in NZ in 1827

Extracts from Augustus Earle's book a Narrative of a Nine Months' Residence in NZ in 1827

I was roused one morning at daybreak by my servant running in with the intelligence that a great number of war canoes were crossing the bay. As King George had told us but the evening before that he expected a visit from Ta-ri-ah, a chief of the tribe called Ngapuhis, whose territory lay on the opposite side of the bay, and given us to understand that Ta-ri-ah was a man not to be trusted, and therefore feared some mischief might happen if he really came, the sight of these war canoes naturally caused us considerable alarm, and we sincerely wished that the visit was over.

Extracts from Noqu Talanoa: Stories from the South Seas by Herbert Tichborne

Extracts from Noqu Talanoa: Stories from the South Seas by Herbert Tichborne

Herbert Tichborne's love and affection for Polynesians is stamped on all his writing, as in his introduction to; Rambles in Polynesia; “ There they all are in their pristine simplicity, without vice, temper, or way-wardness. No women of any colour or kind are more beautiful or tender-hearted than theirs, no men on earth more modest or brave. “ Our first Tichborne stories deal with Fiji, and I should explain that although Fijians are not Polynesians  but rather Melenesians, in general Fiji is included in most studies of Polynesia because Fiji, Tonga and Samoa are so bound up historically and artistically.

Gustavus Ferdinand von Tempsky – New Zealand's 19th Century Hero

Gustavus Ferdinand von Tempsky – New Zealand's 19th Century Hero

America has always celebrated its 19th Century Heroes, who were in many ways deeply flawed individuals, but all of whom could never be accused of being uninteresting. These begin with Daniel Boone and end with Butch Cassidy and in many ways all of these characters strike a chord with how America sees itself, in a way that does great credit to America as a people. All of these 19th Century American Heroes were firstly competent people who did something extremely well, whether it was killing Indians or robbing banks and all did it as Frank Sinatra sang in the song “My Way.”  Now that does not mean that Americans have to agree that killing Indians or robbing banks  is a good thing, it is more an admiration firstly of competence and the considerable courage that is required to live and die without bothering too much what other people think.  Which is a good summation of what essentually a Hero has always been to human society.

Land Ownership in Old Polynesia

Land Ownership in Old Polynesia

From Old New Zealand by Fredrick Maning

As usual on any subject when it comes to the customs and manners of Old Polynesia. For colourful description Fredrick Maning is the man.

A Ramble Ashore by Augustus Earle 1827

A Ramble Ashore by Augustus Earle 1827

A scene at Pakanae, on the southern shore of the Hokianga Harbour, in a Maori kainga, looking out into the harbour with a ship (the Governor Macquarie) and a Maori canoe in the stream. Earle and his friend, Mr Shand, are shown offering ribbons to two young women who are cooking a fish, spiked on a stick, over a fire. The group is watched by a squatting man wrapped in a flax cloak. A storehouse on legs and a low thatched shelter, and food stored in bags tied to tall sticks complete the scene.

Easter Island's Fate at the Hands of Peruvian Slavers

Easter Island's Fate at the Hands of Peruvian Slavers

Rapanui or Easter Island has had a horrible history at the hands of those of European decent, beginning with the first European visitor in 1722 the Dutchman Ruggenden whose men  fired on islanders killing 22. At one point the population of Rapnui has been estimated as as high as twelve thousand but as the below shows fell to 110 individuals by1877 .

Tales of the Savage Coast from the book Kaikoura Coast by William J Elvy

Tales of the Savage Coast from the book Kaikoura Coast by William J Elvy

Bill Elvy was a survey draughtsman who worked for years along the Kaikoura Coast, but more importantly he was a keen amateur historian and his small book is a rare and little known gem that contains evocative sketches of the area's often violence past. The Kaikoura Coast is a stunningly beautiful part of the South Island and thanks to the deep sea trench off the coast was a rich food resource supporting  a high population of Maori.

The Art of Tattooing by Augustus Earle

The Art of Tattooing by Augustus Earle

This description by Earle says a lot about how artistry was viewed amongst the Maori, for his friend the tattoo artist; Rangi was a slave the lowest position a man could fall to in Maori society, yet was treated with honour by all, because no doubt his gifts were considered sacred.

Fighting for your Life in Old New Zealand

Fighting for your Life in Old New Zealand

This tale by Fredrick Maning gives some idea of the dangers faced by indiviuals in Polynesian Islands where every man was a warrior.

Tupaia’s Sketchbook

Tupaia’s Sketchbook

Two small naked brown figures paddle a canoe while a bigger man gazes intently into the water, poised to strike a dimly-seen fish with his four-pronged spear. This naive pencil and watercolour painting is the first known image of Aborigines fishing in southeastern Australia.

Extracts from Rambles in Polynesia by Herbert Tichborne -Tokalau Shark Hunters

Extracts from Rambles in Polynesia by Herbert Tichborne -Tokalau Shark Hunters

The pig is not much cultivated in the Tokalau groups. But the physical character of the islands, or atolls as they should, perhaps, be more properly called, makes the capture of fish in large quantities an easy matter. Most of the atolls are in shape something like a horseshoe, as they are for the most part tops of extinct volcanic craters, which at one time, according to high geological authority, flourished upon the great sunken continent which the Pacific Ocean now covers. The horseshoe-shaped islet thus possesses a lagoon in its centre, round which it circles, there always being an outlet to the sea, sometimes more than one.

The Unfortuate Slave by Augustus Earle

The Unfortuate Slave by Augustus Earle

Augustus Earle (c. 1793 – c. 1838) Was a London born travelling artist of no little talent, trained at the Royal Academy, he ventured widely ending up in New Zealand in 1827, where he met and painted the famous war chief Hongi Hika. Cannibalism as described by Earle did not die out until about 1840 when the numbers of Europeans in the country dramatically increased.

The Death Of Captain Cook by J. C. Beaglehole

The Death Of Captain Cook by J. C. Beaglehole

John Cawte Beaglehole was and for many still is the most complete authority on Capain Cook. The New Zealand historian edited James Cook’s three journals of exploration and wrote the definative biography of Cook. James Cook was the greatest navigator/explorer the world has ever seen worshipped and admired in life and in death, his reputation has even survived the assaults of the current crop of revisionist historians. However in his case the revisionists have only succeeded in making Cook seem an even more interesting character and as Beaglehole shows in the following which was a speech he wrote that preseeded the concept of revisionist history by many years all these questions of Cook's character have been raised before. 

The Death of Relation Eater from Old New Zealand by Fredrick Maning

The Death of Relation Eater from Old New Zealand by Fredrick Maning

The following is a description of the life and manner of death of an old warrior very much representative of a type in the customs and manners of Old Polynesia.

The Burning of the Boyd

The Burning of the Boyd

The Boyd Massacre occurred in December 1809 when Māori residents of Whangaroa Harbour in northern New Zealand killed and ate between 66 and 70 Europeans, probably as revenge for the whipping of a young Māori chief by the crew of the sailing ship Boyd. This was reputedly the highest number of Europeans killed by Māori in a single event, and the incident is also one of the bloodiest instances of cannibalism on record. In retribution, European whalers attacked the island pa of Chief Te Pahi about 60 km south-east, in the possibly mistaken belief that he ordered the killings. Between 16 and 60 Maori and one European died in the clash. News of the events delayed the first missionary visits to the country, and caused the number of shipping visits to fall to "almost nothing" over the next few years.

Iron and Irony - A Strange Twist of Fate in Hawaii

Iron and Irony - A Strange Twist of Fate in Hawaii

Studying history makes its students no strangers to paradox, but sometimes history throws up facts that no sane writer would dare use in a novel.  While studying Pahoa, the Hawaiian version of the dagger I tripped over a quote from the 1780's that I found extraordinary and am still surprised that in a lifetime of reading about James Cook I had never read it before. 

Tahiti: From Wild Life among the Pacific Islanders by E.H.Lamont

Tahiti: From Wild Life among the Pacific Islanders by E.H.Lamont

This is a pretty good description, if coloured, of how missionaries gained control of Pacific Islands, and how equally nasty foreign governments followed their example.

The Maori View of Christianity by Augustus Earle

The Maori View of Christianity by Augustus Earle

In New Zealand London Missionary Society missionaries laboured for thirty years to convert the Maori to Christianity largely unsuccessfully. In Tahiti after the conversion of Pōmare the Second in 1815 the entire island converted, but largely because by then Tahiti was united under Pōmare. In New Zealand no one chief gained control and as the below quote from Augustus Earle experiences in 1827 suggest Maori were unimpressed with the very idea of Christianity. This was thirteen years after Samuel Marsden preached the first sermon in New Zealand. Much of their later success came from the effect of infectious diseases and the remarkable desire of Maori to learn to read, which was started by the missionaries printing the bible in maori. 

Journal of Joseph Banks, HMS Endeavour October 6th – October 10th 1769

Journal of Joseph Banks, HMS Endeavour October 6th – October 10th 1769

Joseph Banks was one of a pair of men made famous by HM Bark Endeavour 's voyage to the Pacific in 1769. That voyage which deserves the description of the first true scientific expedition in World History was unlike any circumnavigation before or since and was conducted with combination of maritime expertise and scientific enthusiasm for which Banks supplied the enthusiasm. That Banks ruined his chance for greater glory under the influence of the fame this voyage gained him is regrettable but his personality was such that he not only retained his friends and garnered fame at home and is why he deserves to be both respected and admired.

The Anaweka Estuary Waka

The Anaweka Estuary Waka

In 2011 at Anaweka Estuary on the rugged North-Western coast of the South Island a huge storm uncovered a 6 metre section of an ocean going waka hull later carbon dated to 1400AD. This would would have been a wonderful discovery in our attempts to understand Polynesian deep water sailing, but on the side of the hull was carved a beautiful representation of a sea turtle which to its rear has a ridged line that follows the curve of the hull.

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