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‘Polynesians discovered Antarctica 1,000 years before Western explorers’

Sydney, Australia, June 11 (EFE).- Polynesians spotted Antarctica in the seventh century, more than 1,000 years before European explorers, a new study has found, lending credence to a known narrative on who was the first to see discover the icy continent.

The study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand notes that the narratives of under-represented groups and their connection to the Earth’s southernmost continent remain poorly documented and acknowledged in the research literature.

The research by the University of Otago has begun to fill the gap.

The researchers combined the gray literature with oral histories known to the world through extended whanau sources to provide a compiled record of Maori presence in Antarctic narratives and exploration.

“One of the exciting things coming out of this work is it shows how oral tradition can really be considered as a reliable source of evidence, along with archeological and paleoecological data,” lead researcher Priscilla Wehi said.

She said they did not want to talk about the discovery because “we do not know the stories of other indigenous peoples.”

“Such as those of South America, which may refer to the connection with Antarctica and are not in the public domain,” Wehi said.

The western world had long speculated about the existence of a Terra Australis Ignota (unknown southern land) before the Russian explorer Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen sighted a vast ice shelf on Jan.27, 1820, which later came to be known as Antarctica.

However, the oral history of the Pacific Islands indicates that the oldest contact of the Polynesian people with Antarctica dates back to the beginning of the 7th century.

That was when Polynesian chief Hui Te Rangiora and his crew sailed from Rarotonga in the Cook Islands toward Aotearoa (New Zealand) but ended up in Antarctica.

She said the researchers studied descriptions from the tribes on the Cook Islands and elsewhere in the sub-region of Oceania about the kind of lives the chief came across.

All that seemed to be strong evidence that they were in Antarctic waters, said Wehi.

The study shows that Hui’s round trip was captured in a series of carvings by the Ngati Rarua people, descendants of ancient Polynesians who populated what is now known as New Zealand.

The conservation biologist said another Polynesian explorer, Tamarereti, may have also traveled down south in the 13th century “to discover the origin of the Aurora Austral.”

The Maoris have dedicated a pou whakairo, or carved post, to Tamarereti, portrayed as a protector of the southern oceans.

The post stands on the southernmost tip of the South Island of New Zealand.

The study also mentions other Maori repositories of knowledge, including carvings that depict the two voyagers and navigational and astronomical knowledge.

These carvings act as repositories of knowledge in an oral culture, it said.

Wehi said a massive repository of narratives about traditional peoples needed in-depth studies to understand the history supported by Western records and documents of a strong written tradition.


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