Category Archives: Polynesia

Islands Seeking Hawaiian Protection

From A Power in the World, by Lorenz Gonschor (Perspectives on the Global Past, U. Hawaii Press, 2019), Kindle Loc. c. 2340ff:

Unsurprisingly, one of the key elements of this reassertion of Hawaiian political, cultural, and spiritual identity during Gibson’s premiership was a public reiteration of the concept of Hawaiian primacy in the Pacific. In late 1880, still dealing with the aftermath of the Moreno affair and preparing for his voyage around the world, Kalākaua had received a request by Tonga’s King George Tupou I to enter negotiations for a friendship treaty with Hawai‘i, modeled after those Tonga had already concluded with Germany in 1876 and Great Britain in 1879. The Hawaiian king had responded enthusiastically. Tonga did not follow through on it, however, likely because it experienced domestic instability throughout the 1880s (Rutherford 1996, 143). Against this backdrop of renewed interest in the South Pacific for engagement with Hawai‘i, shortly after the king’s return from the world tour, Gibson had once more written an editorial urging that “the policy of this kingdom should be to assist, in every way that is practicable, to preserve the independence of all those communities of Polynesian race which have not already been driven by circumstances to seek the protection of foreign Powers.” He went on to mention “the significant fact that twenty years ago the Hawaiian Government had been thus represented in the South Pacific by a Commissioner, Mr. St. Julian, whose assistance had been gladly availed of by the inhabitants of the islands.” When this proposal was ridiculed by the Missionary Party press, Gibson had provided a lengthy Hawaiian-language rebuttal, written as a fictional discussion between a Hawaiian diplomat and the minister of foreign affairs of the island of Rarotonga. As the new head of the foreign office, Gibson had now full access to the department’s archives and further studied St. Julian’s earlier correspondence with Wyllie (Bailey 1980, 200–201). Being of like mind with the king on this matter, the two men now intended to bring those visionary ideas to fruition at last.

At the same time, during 1882 and 1883, petitions were received from Butaritari and Abaiang in the Gilbert Islands, asking for Hawaiian protection or outright annexation by the kingdom (Horn 1951, 62). One such petition had already been received in 1878 from Tabiteuea in the same archipelago (60), which had led to detailed discussions in the English-language press, referring to Wyllie’s and St. Julian’s earlier project. Replying to these requests, Kalākaua refused outright Hawaiian annexation but declared his intent to establish closer political relations with the islands’ leaders and unsuccessfully invited them to attend his coronation (63). In May 1883, the king of the Tokelauan atoll of Fakaofo also wrote Kalākaua, requesting him to bring back his people who had left the island. To follow up with the Gilbertese chiefs, in July 1883, Gibson commissioned Alfred Tripp, a ship captain involved in recruiting Gilbertese laborers who had been a member of Kalākaua’s privy council since 1874, as special commissioner for Central and Western Polynesia. Tripp’s mission was cut short because his ship was wrecked in the Gilbert Islands, but he communicated with all major chiefs of that archipelago and brought home more petitions for Hawaiian aid or protection.

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Sources of Samoan Legal Terms

From A Power in the World, by Lorenz Gonschor (Perspectives on the Global Past, U. Hawaii Press, 2019), Kindle Loc. c. 3412ff:

What is also intriguing about the Samoan constitutional system is that despite the absence of classical state-like political structures, the vocabulary created for concepts of modern statecraft was remarkably traditional, much more than the equivalent terms in Tongan and Fijian. For instance, the Samoan term for law is tulāfono, a concept clearly grounded in classical concepts of governance. Other terms for innovative institutions were literal translations, such as failautusi (someone doing writing or accounting) for secretary (that is, cabinet minister). Very few words, however, were direct borrowings from foreign languages comparable to Tahitian ture and basileia or Tongan lao and minisitā.

In the end, however, the Constitution failed to produce a stable government, but this was due to antagonistic foreign interests, agitation by settlers, and naval intervention. In early 1876, Steinberger was arrested and deported by a visiting British warship due to a conspiracy of the US and British consuls who objected to the premier’s pro-Samoan policies, especially his commitment to examine fraudulent land sales in the past and prevent further such sales (Gilson 1970, 321–331).

In the resulting chaos, the Ta‘imua deposed Laupepa, who then set up a rebel government. Although all parts of the Constitution were not fully in force, the Ta‘imua continued to run at least the external affairs of the government quite successfully for a while. This included sending High Chief M. K. Le Mamea on a diplomatic mission to the United States to sign a Samoan-American treaty in 1878 and concluding similar, albeit unequal, treaties with Germany and the United Kingdom in 1879. After multiple crises and hostilities between the rivaling parties, Malietoa Laupepa was restored to the throne in 1880—Mata‘afa Iosefo, another paramount title holder, serving as premier—but the government’s authority remained tenuous (Gilson 1970, 332–382; So‘o 2008, 39–41). Nonetheless, the Samoan government published a new set of laws, a copy of which was sent to the Hawaiian government (Kingdom of Sāmoa 1880).

In the absence of Steinberger or another trusted European, the position of premier was abolished and a more extensive executive cabinet created instead. By the mid-1880s, this cabinet included a failautusi sili (secretary of state), failautusi mo Sāmoa (secretary of interior, literally secretary for Sāmoa), failautusi teu tupe (secretary of treasury), failautusi o taua (secretary of war), failautusi o fanua (secretary of lands), failautusi o galuega (secretary of works), the faamasino sili (chief justice), and a failautusi faamau-upu (registrar). The American-derived terminology for these offices reflected the continuing legacy of Steinberger’s political ideas.

In Samoa, Robert Louis Stevenson was called Tusitala ‘Write-story’.

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Sources of Tahitian Legal Terms

From A Power in the World, by Lorenz Gonschor (Perspectives on the Global Past, U. Hawaii Press, 2019), Kindle Loc. 3001:

Unlike the Hawaiian constitutional model with its hybrid forms combining classical elements of statecraft with Western forms, the Tahitian legal code and its derivatives primarily used concepts from either biblical or English law, for example, the word ture for “law,” a Tahitian form of the Hebrew word ה רָוֹתּ (torah), basileia (pātīreia in contemporary Tahitian spelling), deriving from Greek βασιλεία (basileía) for kingdom, or tāvana, Tahitian rendering of governor (>*gāvana>tāvana) to designate the heads of the formerly independent clans or chiefdoms that were reorganized as districts within the new Christian kingdom (Académie Tahitienne 1999, 530; Montillier 1999, 270–271).

The marked contrast to the terminology for the equivalent political institutions in the Hawaiian kingdom—namely, kānāwai, aupuni, and kia‘āina, all of which derive from classical Hawaiian statecraft—is clear. It is also hardly surprising, given the nature or Pomare’s kingdom and the other Tahitian-language realms as secondary states modeled on outside examples, and not primary states that developed endogenously, such as the classical Hawaiian predecessor states of the Hawaiian Kingdom (Hommon 2013, 184–185).

For this book, the contrast becomes most relevant where influence of the Tahitian model intersected with that of Hawai‘i. For a short period, this also included the Hawaiian Islands themselves, where Tahitian converts played a significant role in converting the leading figures of the Hawaiian court to Christianity in the 1820s. However, this influence was short lived, and the Hawaiian political system developed along significantly different lines as we have seen earlier in this book.

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Kalākaua as pan-Austronesianist

From A Power in the World, by Lorenz Gonschor (Perspectives on the Global Past, U. Hawaii Press, 2019), Kindle Locs. c. 2060, 2160:

During Kalākaua’s stay in Bangkok, relations with King Chulalongkorn of Siam were similarly warm and deep, and included the mutual conferral of high decorations. Like the Meiji Emperor and Viceroy Li, Chulalongkorn was presiding over a rapidly modernizing non-Western nation attempting to reach parity by hybridizing its system of government (Wyatt 1969, 1976, 2003, 166–209; Baker and Phongpaichit 2005, 47–80). Unfortunately, documentation of what exactly might have come out of possible discussions about Siam joining the proposed pan-Asian league has not been found.

During the following visit in Johor, at the southern tip of present-day Malaysia, relations between the Hawaiian king and another non-Western ruler reached another climax. Johor’s ruler, Maharajah Abu-Bakar, was another monarch using the tools of modernity to secure a certain degree of parity for his country (Trocki 1979; Andaya and Andaya 2001, 173–174, 202; Keng 2014). Because he had traveled extensively on his own, Abu-Bakar was Kalākaua’s first non-Western host as fluent in English as himself, so they could talk without an interpreter. But this more familiar atmosphere aside, the king also found the maharajah physically quite similar to a Hawaiian ali‘i, specifically, the late Prince Leleiohōkū I. As Kalākaua remarked in a letter to his brother-in-law, “if [the maharajah] could have spoken our language I would take him to be one of our people the resemblance being so strong.” Although Abu-Bakar could not speak Kalākaua’s native language, the two monarchs compared words in Hawaiian and Malay, and within a few minutes could identify a number of them that the two Austronesian languages had in common, and they reflected on the common origins of their peoples (Armstrong 1977, 44; Requilmán 2002, 164). Back home, Gibson was delighted to see his long-time vision of pan-Austronesian relations finally become reality and used the comparison between the two realms to point out flaws in the current state of affairs in Hawai‘i:

We are very glad that our Hawaiian King visited a Malay sovereign, the Maharajah of Johore: that His Majesty recognized striking evidences of kinship between Hawaiian and Malay: that His Majesty observed that these brown cognates of Johore were healthy, prolific and an increasing people, though living under the guidance and dominion of the European race; that His Majesty recognizes that there is no natural law, or destiny, that the brown races shall pass away in the presence of the whites, as is alleged in Polynesia; and that evidently decay and decline among His Majesty’s native people must be the results of some mischievous interferences with the natural order of things, and of hurtful radical changes affecting the sanitary condition of the aborigines of Polynesia.

Kalākaua maintained close relations with the court of Johor during the rest of his reign, attested by a steady exchange of letters between the two monarchs and their government officials throughout the 1880s. It was likely similar considerations of pan-Austronesian solidarity that later motivated Kalākaua to include Queen Ranavalona III of Madagascar among the heads of state he notified via autographed letters of the death of his sister Likelike in February 1887. Like Siam and Johor, the Kingdom of Madagascar was another non-Western hybrid state using strategies of selective similitude to achieve international parity (Valette 1979; Esoavelomandroso 1979; Brown 2006). At the time of Kalākaua’s letter, however, Queen Ranavalona’s government was embattled by French imperialism, which had led to the forcing of a French protectorate on the Indian Ocean island kingdom in 1885 and would culminate in the French conquest and colonial annexation of the island in 1896 (Randrianarisoa 1997). Hence, Kalākaua’s gesture to include the Malagasy queen among the heads of state of the world should be seen as a remarkable gesture of pan-Austronesian anticolonial solidarity.

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Achieving Parity via Hybridity

From A Power in the World, by Lorenz Gonschor (Perspectives on the Global Past, U. Hawaii Press, 2019), Kindle Loc. 194ff:

Japan’s late nineteenth-century developments are perfect examples of what scholars have termed the use of similitude and selective appropriation to create a hybrid system in order to achieve parity. Hawai‘i-based Swiss scholar Niklaus Schweizer describes parity as “an effort to be taken seriously by the Western powers, to be accepted as an equal and to be accorded the civilities and privileges established by international law,” adding that “the preferred option in Polynesia was to achieve at least a degree of parity with the West” (2005, 177), a statement that is true not only for Polynesia. In the nineteenth century, transforming one’s political institutions to some degree to achieve such diplomatic parity was a goal most emerging non-Western nation-states shared. One of the ways to do so was the use of what historian Jeremy Prestholdt calls the strategy of similitude—a transformation of certain forms of behavior, cultural protocols, and aesthetic standards—to make them similar to those of the West. Prestholdt defines similitude as “a conscious self-presentation in interpersonal and political relationships that stresses likeliness” (2007, 120). Superficially akin to assimilation under colonial coercion, similitude is voluntarily done by a society outside colonial control yet confronted with Western imperial hegemony. Mentioning the international relations of nineteenth-century Hawai‘i, Siam, and Madagascar as further examples, Prestholdt describes similitude “as a mode of self-representation [that] links symbols and claims to sameness in order to leverage relationships with the more powerful” (120). Rarely, however, would a country push similitude to the point of sameness with the West, but rather appropriate Western elements selectively, resulting not in cultural assimilation but rather in cultural and political hybridity, preserving aspects of traditional governance and culture while also embracing modern technology and the Western model of the nation-state as well as Western cultural protocols. In the case of Hawai‘i, geographer Kamanamaikalani Beamer uses the concept of hybridity, based on an earlier conceptualization by Homi Bhabha (1994, 159–160), “to illustrate the ways in which Hawaiian rulers used traditional structures and systems of knowledge in an attempt to construct a modern nation-state” because “they were modifying existing structures and negotiating European legal forms which created something new, neither completely Anglo American nor traditionally Hawaiian, but a combination of both” (Beamer 2008, 30, 177).

In many cases, such strategies clearly paid off. As a result of their selective use of similitude to hybridize their societies and political systems, which resulted in the achievement of at least a degree of recognition by the Western powers, Japan, Thailand, Iran, Turkey, and Ethiopia never became colonies, an enormous source of pride for their inhabitants to this day.

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Era of Maritime Polynesian Pidgin

I’ve lately been reading several books in paper, the most recent being Language Contact in the Early Colonial Pacific: Maritime Polynesian Pidgin before Pidgin English, by Emanuel J. Drechsel (Cambridge U. Press, 2014). When I heard about it, I immediately went to order it from Amazon, but the hardcover is listed at $99 and the Kindle version listed for $79, so I resorted to borrowing a copy from the University of Hawai‘i Library’s Hawaiian & Pacific Collection. However, Cambridge UP’s website does offer a free download of a Maritime Polynesian Pidgin Vocabulary listing (pdf).

It’s a dense work. The author, an expert in two North American trade pidgins, Chinook Jargon in the Northwest and Mobilian Jargon in the Southeast, relies on a combination of ethnohistorical and philological methods to reconstruct Maritime Polynesian Pidgin, which served as a lingua franca during the early period of regular Western trade with islands in the Pacific. During this era, from the 1760s into the 1860s, powerful chiefs controlled critical resources on the larger Pacific Island groups, especially water, food, timber, and manpower. Pacific Islands also supplied bêche-de-mer and sandalwood for the China trade. Polynesians were highly valued as sailors on Western ships, whose crews were frequently depleted by disease and desertion. Polynesians could not only handle boats, they could also swim, unlike many European and American sailors in those days.

Moreover, the Polynesian languages spoken in the principal island groups during the early trading and whaling era—Tahiti, the Marquesas, Hawai‘i, and New Zealand—were similar enough that Polynesians were also recruited as interpreters during negotiations with island chiefs. Their Maritime Polynesian Pidgin was later supplanted by English-based and French-based pidgins during the era of settler colonization and plantation economies.

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Alien Encounter at Mercury Bay, 1769

From: Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before, by Tony Horwitz (Picador, 2002), pp. 104-105:

Most scholars believe that sailing canoes set off from the Society Isles, or the nearby Cook Islands, between A.D. 800 and 1200, carrying pioneers as well as plants and animals. They landed on the unpopulated North Island and gradually spread out, making New Zealand the last major landmass on earth to be settled. Then, nothing—until Cook arrived, the first intruder on the North Island since roughly the time of the Crusades.

To me, this was the most extraordinary and enviable facet of Cook’s travels: the moment of first contact between the “discoverer” and the “discovered.” No matter how far a man traveled today, he couldn’t hope to reach a land and society as untouched by the West as the North Island was in 1769. Cook, at least, anticipated first contact; finding new lands and peoples was part of his job description. For those he encountered, the moment of European arrival must have been so strange as to defy modern comprehension. The only experience that might resemble it today would be to find an alien spacecraft touching down in your backyard—except that Hollywood has prepared us even for that. Pacific islanders had no basis for so much as imagining a tall-masted ship, much less one from the other end of the globe carrying white men speaking an unfamiliar tongue.

According to stories told long after Cook’s arrival in New Zealand, some natives thought the ship’s billowing sails were the wings of a giant bird. Others saw three trees sprouting from the vessel’s base and guessed it was a floating island. A much fuller account survives from Mercury Bay, up the coast from Cook’s first landfall, where the Endeavour visited a month later. A boy about the same age as Young Nick, named Te Horeta, stood watching the ship’s approach from shore and lived long enough to share his memory with colonists, several of whom recorded his words. Te Horeta’s vivid and poetic detail, corroborated by the journals of Cook and his men, makes his story one of the most remarkable accounts in the annals of exploration.

“In the days long past,” Te Horeta recalled, he went with his clan to gather oysters and cockles beside a calm bay known by the name Gentle as a Young Girl. One day, an apparition appeared on the water, a vessel much larger than any canoe Te Horeta had ever seen. Watching from the beach, the clan’s elders wondered if the ship had come from the spirit world. Then pale creatures climbed from the vessel and paddled small craft toward shore, with their backs to the land. At this, the clan’s aged men nodded and said, “Yes, it is so: these people are goblins; their eyes are at the back of their heads.” Te Horeta fled into the forest with the other children, leaving the clan’s warriors on the beach.

At first, the goblins did no harm. They gathered oysters and other food. One collected shells, flowers, and tree blossoms, and knocked on stones, putting them in bags. Curious, the children crept out of the woods. “We stroked their garments,” Te Horeta recalled, “and we were pleased by the whiteness of their skin, and the blue eyes of some of them.” The goblins offered food from their ship: hard, dry lumps that looked like pumice stones, and fatty meat so salty that even the warriors winced. Was it whale’s flesh? A man’s? One goblin pointed his walking stick in the air. “Thunder was heard to crash and a flash of lightning was seen,” Te Horeta said. Then a bird fell to the ground. “But what had killed it?” Later, a warrior offered to trade with the newcomers, then snatched a goblin’s cloth and paddled away without surrendering his own dogskin cloak. A walking stick flashed and the warrior fell with a hole in his back. The clan buried him in the goblin’s garment; because the warrior had caused his own death, there was no utu, no revenge. The site of his killing became known by the name A Warm Bad Day.

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Fumigating the Polynesian Voyagers, 1995

From Out of Eden: An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion, by Alan Burdick (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005), pp. 65-66:

In 1995 three Hawaiian canoes sailed south to the Society Islands, met a contingent of three other South Pacific canoes, then sailed to the Marquesas and north again to me Big Island of Hawaii, for the first time retracing the original route of discovery of the Hawaiian Islands.

This historic voyage encountered only one significant problem. Three days before the canoes were due to arrive home, the crew radioed Honolulu with news that they were suffering the painful bite of some undetected insect. Entomologists were consulted. The suspects were narrowed to three: the nono, a tiny, vicious blackfly that plagues beaches of the Marquesas and doomed those islands’ resorts; the punkie midge, a no-see-um half the size of the nono that also haunts the Marquesas; and a biting midge known in French Polynesia as the white beach nono. The first is native to the Marquesas; the latter two arrived in Polynesia sometime between 1920 and 1950. All three are functionally identical—with mouths like scissors, they bite holes in the victim’s skin, producing welts that if scratched can quickly fester. A single nono fly can inflict five thousand bites in an hour. After securing a blood meal, the fly retreats to a crevice in any nearby decaying organic matter—waterlogged wood a coconut husk, the hull of a Polynesian voyaging canoe—to reproduce. Its larvae emerge several days later to begin the cycle anew. With these facts in mind, Honolulu newspapers treated readers to several days of midge coverage, disagreeing only as to whether the midges posed a worse threat to the tourist industry than the brown tree snake, or merely an equivalent one. Cynics whispered of a midge conspiracy, of midges planted aboard the canoes by an environmental group eager to publicize the dangers of alien species in Hawaii.

Riding a strong headwind, a biting midge can cross fifty miles of open ocean. To forestall such an event, and despite prime sailing conditions the six voyaging canoes were ordered to a halt some two hundred miles south-southwest of Hawaii’s Big Island, Hawai’i. The following morning, after much wrangling over which government agency should take responsibility for a nuisance insect that is neither an agricultural pest nor strictly speaking, a public-health threat, and which in any event now sat in international waters, a Coast Guard plane dropped thirty-six aerosol cans of pyrethrin, an insecticide made from daisies, into what were now heavy seas. The canoes’ holds were emptied, clothes and equipment sprayed with disinfectant, the hulls scrubbed four times with seawater, the sails keelhauled. Everything organic was tossed overboard: religions carvings, palm-frond baskets, breadfruit seedlings wrapped in coconut husks, and traditional foods like sweet potato, taro leaf patties, and poi—which crew members perhaps were happy to see go, as they later confessed a preference for sausage and Spam. Inspectors from the Hawaii Department of Health then boarded the canoes and sprayed everything again. A series of triumphal celebrations had been planned to mark the voyage’s end. Instead, the canoes were escorted into Hilo Harbor, sprayed once more, and enclosed in fumigation tents. A crowd of two dozen, including several customs and immigrations officials, greeted them.

Health and agriculture inspectors still do not know what sort of midge they nearly encountered; the cleaning, spraying, scrubbing, and fumigation had left no trace of them. Other survivors were discovered, however, including four species of fly, two species of ant, a cockroach, two spiders, a book louse, a parasitic wasp, a beetle, several snails, some live shrimps, a gecko, two species of eye gnat, and a scale insect that in some parts of the world is considered a serious agricultural pest. Some time afterward the chief of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture was heard expressing nostalgia for the days when state inspectors could walk down the aisles of arriving aircraft and fumigate freely, as they still do in New Zealand. As for the canoes, they reached their destinations. The Hawaiian crews sailed to warm homecomings on Maui, Molokai, and Oahu. The Cook Islanders disembarked, showered, and dried off with one hundred and fifty donated towels. The Tahitian voyagers, though they had a fine canoe, never arrived; in fact, they never embarked. They had failed to apply for U.S. visas, and were gently advised to stay home.

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Mutiny & Tragedy Aboard the Hōkūle‘a, 1976-78

From “Playing with Canoes,” by Ben Finney, in Pacific Places, Pacific Histories, ed. by Brij Lal (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2004), pp. 294-296:

Hōkūle‘a was launched in 1975, and after a year of testing, training, and making modifications we sailed her to Tahiti and returned as promised. That demonstration blew a big hole in [Andrew] Sharp’s claim that Polynesians could not have intentionally made long, navigated voyages. Furthermore, Hōkūle‘a emerged as a cultural icon credited with helping to spark a general cultural renaissance among the Hawaiians, as well as with stiffening the resolve of the Tahitians to secure more autonomy from the French. These triumphal aspects of the story have often been told. Less well known are the politics of the voyaging revival.

During fund-raising and construction and those first heady days when we sailed Hōkūle‘a around the Hawaiian chain, all went well except for a few mishaps and disagreements. However, by early 1976, just a few months before the voyage, serious troubles began while the canoe was being refitted. A number of Hawaiians, many of whom had not played any role in the project, began to claim Hōkūle‘a as their own and to use her locally for various purposes other than the stated mission. These ranged from the political to the personal—from invading the island of Kaho‘olawe to protest its use as a naval bombing range to cruising around the Hawaiian chain for the romantic benefit of male crewmembers. More chilling were the demands of a spiritual leader who claimed that Hōkūle‘a was ritually “dirty” and would sink with all hands unless he was paid an enormous sum of money to purify her.

All this might have been shrugged off as so much craziness but for the very real incongruity of having a haole professor run a project that had been so hyped as a Polynesian venture. That made me consider resigning as president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society and handing the job over to our vice president, Herb Kane, in hopes that he might be more effective in dealing with these demands. But then Herb himself abruptly left the project, saying that he was thoroughly burned out and financially impoverished from supervising the construction of the canoe and making the first test sails around the islands. As Tommy Holmes preferred to stay in the background, that left me, the haole who wasn’t even from Hawai‘i, to fend off all those who in the name of Hawaiian nationalism were attempting to take over the canoe.

Had those clamoring for control of the canoe been skilled seamen dedicated to carrying out the voyage as planned, I could have gone ahead and resigned the presidency and then concentrated on the research side of the voyage. But they were not real sailors, nor did they have any intention of conducting the experimental voyage. In fact, they had come to believe that using a canoe for research would desecrate the spiritual nature of Hōkūle‘a.

Given this situation I realized that if I did resign I would betray the hundreds of contributors and supporters, many of them Hawaiians whom I had promised to sail the canoe to Tahiti and back. Furthermore I would also have let down those expert sailors whom I had personally recruited for the voyage: Kawika Kapahulehua, the veteran catamaran sailor from the remote island of Ni‘ihau who was our captain; Mau Piailug, the master navigator from the Micronesian atoll of Satawal who would guide the canoe to Tahiti and back; and my longtime Tahitian friend Rodo Williams, a professional fisherman and copra boat skipper whose job was to pilot us safely past the atolls that lay just to the north-northeast of Tahiti.

So I stuck it out, and thanks to the help of Kawika, Mau, Rodo and several other sailors who were also determined to make the voyage a reality, plus the moral support of Edward Kealanahele and many others on shore, we finally set sail for Tahiti. After a little over a month at sea we entered Pape‘ete Harbor to be greeted by the largest crowd ever assembled on the island. Nonetheless, although the actual sailing of the canoe had proceeded as planned, leftover resentments had festered at sea among a number of crewmembers who had been caught up in the troubles back in Hawai‘i. Halfway to Tahiti they staged a confrontation to accuse the leaders of mismanagement and to demand special treatment for themselves. After that, they quit standing watch and spent the rest of the voyage eating, sleeping, and smoking pakalōlō (crazy tobacco, i.e., marijuana) that they had smuggled on board. Bizarre as that situation was, it did allow the rest of us to sail the canoe on to Tahiti in relative peace—until the night before landing, when the mutineers staged another protest that left blood on the deck. That so incensed Mau Piailug that upon landing he quit the canoe in disgust and flew back to Micronesia vowing never to sail with Hawaiians again.

Even after Captain Kawika Kapahulehua and some fine young crewmembers who had not been directly involved in the troubles sailed Hōkūle‘a swiftly back to Hawai’i, the travail was not over. I had made so many enemies by my efforts to keep the voyage on track that I became the scapegoat blamed for causing all the troubles. Enough was enough, and I resigned and started work on a scientific report about the voyage and a book—Hōkūle‘a, the Way to Tahiti—that I owed a New York publisher whose sizable contribution had enabled us to start building the canoe.

After taking stock of the situation the new leaders of the Polynesian Voyaging Society resolved to remove the stain left from the troubles by repeating the voyage to Tahiti with a specially selected crew. Unfortunately, in their zeal to distance themselves from those who had led the 1976 voyage they totally ignored Captain Kapahulehua, the man who had just taken Hōkūle‘a so surely and safely to Tahiti and back and could have showed them how to do it again.

Overconfidence, a casual attitude toward safety, and basic errors in seamanship doomed this second attempt to reach Tahiti. Just before midnight, after less than six hours at sea, the canoe capsized while being foolishly driven hard under full sail in gale-force winds and immense seas. Not until dusk of the following day was the overturned canoe spotted by a passing aircraft just as she was drifting south of the interisland sea and air lanes. All crewmembers but one were rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter, and the following day Hōkūle‘a was towed in, severely damaged, though the hulls were still structurally sound. Missing was Eddie Aikau, a world-champion surfer who some hours before the canoe had been spotted had valiantly tried to paddle his surfboard through the breaking seas to the nearest island to get help. He was never seen again.

The waves are getting huge on O‘ahu’s North Shore and The Eddie is expected to begin any day now.

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Pacific Annexations, 1840-1906

From Sailors and Traders: A Maritime History of the Pacific Peoples, by Alastair Couper (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2009), pp. 140-141:

The managers of the major merchant companies based at the main entrepôts in the [Pacific] islands were often ex-sailors. Several acted as consuls for their governments and supported the companies in many ways, including evoking gunboat diplomacy. A prime example is John Bates Thurston. He served at sea in the island trades, was wrecked at Rotuma in 1865, became British consul in Fiji in 1867, was highly influential in the negotiations for the ceding of Fiji to Britain in 1874, and became governor of Fiji in 1887. The companies, the new settlers, and their sympathetic consuls pressed for annexations. The French were the first to act [but Waitangi was 1840—J.] and took Tahiti, the Marquesas, and the Tuamotus as French protectorates in 1842 and New Caledonia in 1853. These were declared colonies in 1880, and the Australs and Wallis and Futuna in 1887.

The British annexed Fiji in 1874 and established protectorates over southeast New Guinea in 1884, Gilbert and Ellice in 1892, most of the Solomons soon after, and Ocean Island in 1900. They agreed that New Zealand would exercise authority over the Kermadecs in 1887, the Tokelaus in 1889, and the Cooks and Niue in 1901. The Dutch took western New Guinea in 1848. Germany annexed northeast New Guinea in 1885, along with the Bismarck Archipelago and the northwest Solomons; took possession of most of the Carolines in 1885; and ultimately purchased Yap and other islands in the Carolines and Marianas from Spain in 1899. The Germans also acquired the Marshall Islands in 1884 and took over Nauru in 1888. Chile obtained Easter Island in 1888.

America, after its disastrous Civil War, had not recovered a significant merchant fleet and showed little inclination for acquiring Pacific territory. American guano companies had already secured legislation in 1856–1860 that allowed claims over some small Pacific islands, and the US government went on to secure others, including Baker, Jarvis, Johnson, Midway, Palmyra, and Wake. In 1893 the influential American maritime geostrategist Alfred Mahan wrote that it was “imperative to take possession, when it can be righteously done, of such maritime positions as can contribute to secure command.” In 1898, Hawai‘i was annexed (US citizenships were granted in 1900), as was eastern Samoa with Pago Pago as a main naval coaling station, while Guam was captured from Spain by the US Navy in 1898.

The Pacific was now effectively divided between several colonial powers mainly by agreements. In the final carve-up, it was confirmed that Western Samoa was a German colony separated from American Samoa in the east. In turn Germany agreed to relinquish claims for Tonga. As a result, in the closing days Tonga appeared to survive as the only independent Polynesian kingdom, although not quite. It was declared a British protectorate in 1900, and in 1905 it was decreed mandatory for the king of Tonga to take advice from the British consul on all matters of importance. Finally, in 1906 New Hebrides was divided as a condominium between Britain and France.

I’m not sure why Couper omits the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, which made British subjects of the Maori. Maybe he considered both New Zealand and Australia to be colonial powers by the 1840s, even though both were earlier annexed by another colonial power. (Like the Americas, of course.)

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