Subject:      Re: Polynesian Sailors (was: Moorish sailors discovered the New W
From: (Yuri Kuchinsky)
Date:         1997/08/01
Message-ID:   <5rst58$e50$>

Greetings, all,

I have written here previously about comparisons between the traditional
Polynesian ocean craft, and what Columbus had, and that Columbus' ships
could not sail easily into the wind, while the Polynesians could do this

Here are some passages from MAN ACROSS THE SEA, Carrol L. Riley, et al,
eds, U of Texas Press, 1971 that are quite relevant. Stephen C. Jett
writes the following in his article in this volume:

"... it is true that the ability of Western ships, particularly larger
ones, to make headway against the wind was quite limited. Speaking of
ships like Columbus' SANTA MARIA, Culver (and Grant, 1935: 78) writes,
'...they went to windward slowly or not at all'". (p. 9, cited from
EVOLUTION AND ROMANCE. Garden City, N. Y., 1935)

Further, Jett writes:

"Southern and eastern Asia -- particularly the Malaysian region -- and
Oceania seem from ancient times to have possessed, in addition to large
ships, much more highly developed sailing rigs and techniques than existed
in the Western world, allowing craft to beat readily to windward (Bowen,
1953, 1959; Borden, 1967; Needham, 1970) ... Geographer Clinton Edwards
(1969), a watercraft expert, writes: "The eastern shores of Asia probably
have the greatest variety of watercraft to be found anywhere in the world.
This is especially true of southern China, Indochina, and the Bay of
Bengal, suggesting the theory that this region was one of the great
'hearths' of original invention and elaboration of many features of
watercraft technology." (p. 10)

And further:

"According to Borden (1967), Micronesian sailing canoes, which are largely
derivative from east Asian craft, were, for speed on the sea, by far the
best in the world and were able to sail closer to the wind than any other
sailing craft. ... There's one record from the Spanish period of a flying
proa running the seventeen hundred miles from Guam to Manila in six days."
(p. 10)

And I should also note that plenty of new articles and books appeared in
the last few years on the subject of the great achievements of ancient
(and modern) Polynesian sailors. I've seen the references posted in these
groups already. So we no longer need to rely on the works from the 1960s
to give us these facts...

This subject has been obscured for years by the obvious Eurocentrism in
our scholarship -- by the arrogant assumption, exhibited here recently by
certain posters, that nobody could be as "sophisticated" as the "legendary
European explorer". But the truth, which is of course otherwise, is
finally beginning to emerge now, as old facile and uninformed Eurocentric
assumptions about ancient tribal cultures are being challenged, and are
falling one by one.

[This article is certainly relevant in the African History newsgroup, as
many of the ancient sailors in the Pacific were Black Melanesians. It is
quite likely that some of them arrived to America long before the
Europeans. That some of the ancient giant Olmec heads in Mexico look
Black, in spite of the tremendous efforts by certain parties to obscure
and obfuscate this fact, may be accounted for by this possibility.]

Best regards,


Yuri Kuchinsky in Toronto -=O=- [22]

It is a far, far better thing to have a firm anchor in nonsense than
to put out on the troubled seas of thought -=O=- John K. Galbraith

Click here to go one level up in the directory.