by Andrew Crowe
At a time when no member of another culture is known to have deliberately ventured more than a few hundred kilometres from the shore Polynesians had spread themselves over one fifteenth of the Earth’s surface. The territory that they inhabited at that point was greater than occupied by any other race.
At the same time as the bronze age was ending in Europe, Polynesians began settling the remote islands of Oceania including Fiji and West Polynesia. By the time Portuguese navigators reached the Mediterranean, Polynesians had fanned further east and settled the whole of East Polynesia, including New Zealand. An area equivalent to the whole of Africa and Western Europe combined.
The story of how they came to New Zealand is the subject of this book. It takes its title from the annual migration of birds, to New Zealand in spring, and from New Zealand in the Autumn, returning to their feeding grounds in the Pacific or even further, to South America, Hawai’i or even Siberia. Even today some 20 million birds follow this annual migration pattern. The inhabitants of Pacific islands must have been aware that these birds did not breed in their islands but made the journey to an unknown land in the south and returned in the autumn.
The author sets out to prove that the inhabitants of the Pacific islands deliberately followed the birds and by use of the stars, ocean currents, and prevailing seasonal winds discovered New Zealand just as they had all the rest of Polynesia. He uses painstaking research involving, language, plants, animals, and the DNA of people, to make a very convincing case for not just journeys of discovery and return voyages, but well-established trade routes throughout the Pacific. He goes so far as to even consider the DNA of head lice across the Pacific.
The detail of this research is impressive and contains so much material of interest that I found I had to read the book in many parts, giving myself time to digest and take in the huge amount of information offered. It is written in a style that is easy to read and is not a dry academic book.
He approaches the subject by examining each island group one by one, comparing the archeological findings, culture, language and plants of each island group, and showing how they had come in contact with and indeed had traded with other islands. This is in contrast to some writers who considered that return voyages from New Zealand to the Pacific did not happen.
The result is a book that is greatly impressive, and very convincing. In a review it is impossible to cover every aspect of the author’s research and I urge people to read it to discover this for themselves.
The book itself is beautifully printed, on quality paper, with colour illustrations on almost every page.
It contains an extensive reference section and is well indexed.
The price seems very little for a splendid book that I am proud to own.
Author: Andrew Crowe
Publisher: Bateman Publishing