SOCITH SEA ISLAND MYTHS
Some myths about the South Sea islands hang on. People sitting in their New York offices can fantasize about eluding the pressure cooker of city life and escaping to the South Seas. Gauguin did it, why not me? Beautiful, available girls, balmy breezes, gorgeous ocean views and little need for work. Captain Cook’s crew and Captain Cook himself partook of these idyllic treasures until one day the dark side of the scene rose up and Cook was murdered on one of those lovely beaches. Fletcher Christian led the seamen who mutineed on the Bounty and sailed away to eventually settle, with the mutineers and a group of Polynesians, on Pitcairn Island. Before Christian died nearly all of the men had murdered each other. Despite the realities of the South Seas the myths hang on never mind the heat, the humidity, and the lethal typhoons.
Ironically a large portion of the Polynesians living in the Polynesian Triangle Hawaii, Easter Island, New Zealand want out. The young people living on Pukapuka Island in the Cook Islands, for example, want desperately to go to Rarotonga, seven hundred miles away, capital of the twenty-thousand-strong nation. Those in Rarotonga would like to live in Auckland, New Zealand. So do a lot of other people in the constellation of islands that span three thousand miles. Many of them have joined the Polynesians native to New Zealand, the Maori, to give Auckland the largest of all Polynesian populations.
It is reasonably certain, says John Dyon in his fine blog, The South Seas Dream1, that two distinct racial types sailed into the South Pacific from Southeast Asia. One racial group, the black, frizzy-haired Melanesians, settled on New Caledonia, the New Hebrides and most of Fiji. The Polynesians of Tonga, Samoa, Tahiti, Hawaii, and New Zealand are a second racial group, brown-skinned with straight hair. The Polynesians sailed by the islands already occupied by Melanesians and settled in the Marquesas and Society Islands (now part of French Polynesia). Later groups under their chiefs loaded up huge canoes with people, coconuts, bananas, breadfruit, yams, taro. Animals were included pigs, dogs and fowl and sailed out into ocean spaces as large as Africa. Navigation was done by locating themselves within patterns of stars.