Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The First Pacific Ocean Explorers were Natives




Illustration from The Pacific Navigators. / Oliver E. Allen. Alexandria, Virginia: Time Life Books, 1980.

European explorers of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries encountered Pacific Islanders who matched their ability to navigate unknown waters. The illustration here depicts a band of travelers who migrated, or island-hopped, in search of home, resources and food. Since ancient times, not having adopted nation-statehood, they nonetheless defended themselves. When they lost wars, or ran out of food, the living environment became unsustainable, and they moved on. Polynesians were aggressive voyagers, their survival depended on it. Their story begins as an intimate conversation with nature, not with iron and steel; sailing by celestial navigation, they surpassed European knowledge of the Pacific.

They crossed 15 million square miles of unknown ocean, and by the eighth century had colonized virtually every habitable spec in a vast triangle bound by Hawaii on the north, New Zealand in the southwest and Easter Island to the east.” – Allen, p. 98.

Explanation of terms used:
argonaut: explained from ancient Greek and common useage.
European explorers of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries: Magellan was the first circumnavigator; the Dutch claimed the Spice Islands, and finally the British led enterprises of exploration across the Pacific Ocean.

More books about Pacific Islanders from historical points of view:


Argonauts of the Western Pacific. / Bronislaw Malinowski. New York: E.P. Dutton & Company, Inc., 1961. 527 p., illustrations, maps, index.

Malinowski's work considered the lives and customs of the Melanesians of New Guinea. His participation in an expedition there between 1914-1918 culminated in this book, originally published in 1922, became a classic in anthropology in the 20th century.



Ancient Voyagers in Polynesia. / Andrew Sharp. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1964. 136 p. plus sources and index.

Sharp's explanation of the history of Polynesian voyages of discovery was a lively scholarly debate when it was published in 1963.




Vikings of the Pacific. / Peter H. Buck. Chicago; London: The University of Chicago Press, 1972, c1959. 339 p., illustrations, index.

Written by a native of New Zealand and anthropologist at the Bishop Museum in Hawaii, this account contains the view and the images, both modern and several hundreds of years old, from the collections of the Museum.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Captain Cook and Kamehameha the Great




The Rise and Fall of the Hawaiian Kingdom: A Pictorial History; A Concise Picture History of Hawaii and Its Rulers from the Birth of Kamehameha the Great to the Establishment of the Territory of Hawaii in 1900. / by Robert Wiesniewski.Honolulu : Published and Distributed by Pacific Basin Enterprises, c1987.

The Rise and Fall of the Hawaiian Kingdom… is a fascinating account, albeit from the European point of view, of the history of our 50th state. Two key points about its history: no one in Europe knew Hawaii existed until James Cook and his expedition landed there, and, it may be the only island tribal culture in history to maintain a monarchy while meeting the Europeans on their own terms. Unknown to Europeans until Captain Cook “discovered” it for them in 1778, the Hawaiian Islands lie at a distinct geographic advantage, since they are located centrally between landfall in Asia, Australia, Chile, Panama, and the West coast of North America. The archipelago became a roadstead for voyagers trading in fur, sandalwood and other goods: its wealth and independence between 1812 and 1900 transformed an ancient culture to modern ways. This unique position was carefully guarded by the warrior-king, Kamehameha the Great, between 1805 and 1819, and continued through Kamehameha V’s reign into the 1870s. The Kingdom of Hawaii achieved status in Pacific trade, but finally was defeated as a sovereign power at the hands of the Americans who wished to claim all of Hawaii for their own interests.





Kamehameha, the grandson of an earlier ruler of the island of Hawaii, was groomed from birth to be a warrior. The vision of their first monarch, King Kamehameha (1758-1819), was to unite the islands of Hawaii, Oahu and Kauai under his rule.
“Kamehameha learned spear throwing and the rudimentary tactics of warfare… Without a written language, he learned navigation, astronomy, religious ceremonies, prayers and kapus (taboos), and other vital information necessary to become an Alii-aimoku (a District Chief).” (Wisniewski, p. 13)

The booklet is a 1979 version of Hawaiian history and features explanatory text and many illustrations and photographs depicting the Hawaiian monarchy, the influence of European, Chinese and American traders, and a glimpse of the cultural values that led to complete transformation of the Kingdom into a Territory (of the U.S.) and finally to statehood in 1959. More recent scholarship reveals the Hawaiian culture and the nature of the conflict between cultures.

Resources on Hawaii history on the Web:
The Hawaiian Historical Society was founded in 1892. Publishers of the Hawaiian Journal of History, Books and papers about the early Hawaiian government, cultural influences of Spanish America and Russia, trade and canoe voyages of Hawaiians, they also offer transcribed radio broadcasts of “Hawai’i History Moments”, Hawaiian culture from A to Z.

HawaiiHistory.org a community learning center is a lively site containing expert-reviewed pages of articles, photographs and contributions by readers on the history of Hawai’i.


The Bishop Museum
began to collect artifacts of the history of Hawai’I and Pacific Islands in 1889.

Other books by Richard Wisniewski:
Hawaiian monarchs and their palaces : a pictorial history / compiled, written, and edited by Richard A. Wisniewski. Honolulu : Published and Distributed by Pacific Basin Enterprises, c1987.

Hawaii, the territorial years, 1900-1959 : a pictorial history / compiled, written, and edited by Richard A. Wisniewski. Honolulu, Hawaii (P.O. Box 8924, Honolulu 96815) : Pacific Basin Enterprises, c1984.

Hawaiian history and culture:
Voyage: The Discovery of Hawaii. / Herb Kawainui Kane. Honolulu: Island Heritage Limited, 1976.

Explanation of words:
Archipelago: explained from a geological and geographical point of view.
Hawaiian Archipelago: This site is a portal to sites about the ecology and natural environment. Choose from Environmental Data Organizations and General Interest tabs that take you to links about weather and climate, ecology, water quality, plant and animal life, sanctuaries, landmarks and maps, and much more.
Roadstead:a sheltered offshore anchorage for ships, as explained by the Free Dictionary online.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

240-year-old science



The Explorations of Captain James Cook in the Pacific: As Told by Selections of His Own Journals 1768-1779 / edited by A. Grenfell Price. Published by Dover Publications, New York, 1971. ISBN 79145750, 292p.


240 years ago Captain James Cook sailed to Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, Batavia, and then around South Africa and home to England in the Endeavor on the first of his three voyages to the Pacific Ocean between 1768-1779.
“The greatest of sailor explorers the world has known…” Percy Adams, Introduction.
“… no man did more to alter and correct the map of the earth, abandoning the great southern Terra Incognita and the equally mythical Northwest Passage. After him map makers were able to correctly represent Australia’s east coast and the Great Barrier Reef, Hawaii, and northwest coast of North America, and dozens of islands in Polynesia, New Zealand as two islands.”

Accomplishing these discoveries, he fulfilled the orders bestowed on him in the spring of 1768 by the British Admiralty and Royal Society to monitor the transit of Venus. European countries were engaged in a race for scientific discoveries, and Great Britain wished to take the lead in astronomy and map making.

His journals are compelling accounts of his expeditions, the manner in which he kept his crew healthy and free of scurvy, the description of life in societies of the Pacific Islanders, and of the supernumeraries aboard with their own scientific agenda.

Selected titles about Captain Cook:
Farther than Any Man: the Rise and Fall of Captain James Cook. / Martin Dugard. New York: Pocket Books, 2001.

Cook: The Extraordinary Voyages of Captain James Cook. / Nicholas Thomas. New York: Walker & Company, 2003. Read by Museum Volunteer Ron Ellis.

Captain Cook in the Pacific. / Nigel Rigby and Pieter van der Merwe. Greenwich, England : National Maritime Museum, 2002.

Captain Cook’s Second Voyage. / John Elliot and Richard Pickersgill. London, England: Caliban Books, 1984.

Nu-Tka: Captain Cook and the Spanish Explorers on the Coast. / Barbara S. Efrat and W.J. Langlois, editors. Victoria, Canada: Sound Heritage, Vol. 7, Number 1, 1978.

Explanation of Words and Phrases:
Percy Adams: a travel writer who focused on books written by early explorers.
Tahiti: named King George’s Island when first sited by Samuel Wallis in 1767.
Batavia: name of Indonesia by Dutch settlers
Transit of Venus
Hawaiian visit of James Cook Waimea, Hawaii
Scurvy: disease contracted by sailors who ate no vitamin C, due to lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in their diet.
Supernumeraries: a traveler, not a sailor, “an extra person”, from (Random House Dictionary, ©1966.)
Museum volunteer: At the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, volunteers answer questions at the front desk, give museum tours, operate the tug ANGELS GATE, use the Morse code, build ship models, and staff The Sea Chest, the museum’s gift shop. Visit the web page for more information.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Propelled by teams of 170 oarsmen...



The Age of the Galley: Mediterranean Oared Vessels since Pre-classical Times. / Edited by Robert Gardiner. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1995. ISBN 155750024-X. 256 p., illustrations.

… galleys of Ancient Greeks were first pictured on pottery, coins and stone carvings. Oar-powered galleys were built as warships, merchantmen, or transports and plied the waters of the Mediterranean and other small seas from 3000 BC to the Middle Ages. Galleys are known by different names: pentecontors, biremes and triremes, indicating two and three levels of rowing oarsmen. In triremes, up to 170 oarsmen pushed and pulled their ship at a speed of 8 to 10 knots in short bursts called flights of half-days or more. These ships were long and narrow, would capsize in ocean waters and so in wars were best for maritime attack along coastlines. Conditions for oarsmen were severe: they were permitted about two quarts of water per day but were given no bathrooms aboard and very little space for air. Modern authors give us details of the battles collected from the ancient scripts of Homer and others. These were confirmed by the reconstruction and sailing of triremes like the OLYMPIAS, a joint project of the Hellenic Navy and the Trireme Trust of Britain in 1987.
See The Age of the Galley for the archaeology of galley ships, their design and architecture, and the human power that propelled the fleet of ancient navies.


More books from the Maritime Museum Library* on galleys and triremes:
The Athenian Trireme: the History and Reconstruction of an Ancient Greek Warship. / J.S. Morrison and J.F. Coates. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987. ISBN 0521311004. 266 p., illustrations, photographs and maps.


The Earliest Ships: The Evolution of Boats into Ships. / Edited by Robert Gardiner. Edison, N.J. : Chartwell Books, 2001, c1996 by Conway Maritime Press. 143 p., illustrations.

Oared Fighting Ships: From Classical Times to the Coming of Steam. R. C. Anderson. London, England: Percival Marshall, 1962. 102 p., illustrations and plates.

The Ancient Mariners. / Colin Thubron. New York, N.Y.: Time-Life Books, Inc., 1981. ISBN 0809427389. 176 p., illustrations, some in color.

* also available in public libraries.

Explanation of terms from the pages of The Age of the Galley:

Ancient Greeks = Minoans from the island of Crete who were explorers.
The Mediterranean = The Mediterranean Sea opening to the Atlantic Ocean on the western side and the Red Sea at the eastern extreme.
3000 BC to the Middle Ages = the period in history from about 5000 years ago to about 600 years ago.
pentecontors, biremes and triremes = long, narrow ships propelled by oars.
Homer and others = Greek Classical writers Herodotus and Thucydides.
reconstruction = a replica or exact copy of a historical ship.
OLYMPIAS = the reconstruction of a Greek trireme.
ancient navies = Egyptian, Cretan or Minoan, Phoenician.