Tupaia - Captain Cooks Polynesian navigator
by Druett, Joan
pub. by Praeger an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC, Santa Barbara, California, USA, in 2011 - isbn; 978-0-313-38748-7 map and some B and W pictures Bibliography p. 241-246 Acknowledgments and Chapter by chapter commentary p.218-240 total size 257 p.
This is a thorough biography of Tupaia (name variously spelled in original documents) who was a Polynesian nobleman Navigator and perhaps on some level a priest. He was born and raised on the island of Raiatea. In his adulthood people from the island of Bora Bora captured Raiatea and he escaped, eventually to Tahiti. There he became an adviser to Purea (female) one of the rulers of Tahiti and became a powerful person on the island. Polynesian society was rigidly stratified. Tupaia was of noble lineage and was always treated as a noble. He also had considerable training in navigation and religion, so was powerful on a number of levels.
Tupaia was one of the noble group who encountered the English when HMS Dolphin commanded by Capt. Samuel Wallis discovered Tahiti on June 19, 1767. They named the island King George III Island. The Wallis and crew were suffering from scurvy and other ailments. After a number of violent altercations the situation settled down and the Dolphin anchored down for a long visit. The crew soon learned that the female Tahitians were sexually available and took full advantage of their company. The Dolphin left on July 26, 1767 leaving with good feelings toward Purea and her group. May 18, 1768 HMS Dolphin arrived back in England.
Between English visits French explorer Bougainville briefly visited Tahiti.
Also during this time Tupaia had a very large pyramidal temple (marae) constructed. After that there was war between Pureas followers and those of rival Tutaha. Tutaha won. Purea escaped to the mountains. Tupaia also escaped, mostly by changing sides.
England was scientifically involved with astronomical measurements and viewing a transit of Venus across the face of the Sun from various places on Earth would allow certain measurements to be made. Also the current theory was that there was a continent in the South Pacific to balance the mass of the continents north of the equator. An expedition was formed to be led by Capt. James Cook on HMS Endeavor . They were to take those astronomical measurements from the island of Tahiti in June 1769. Several of the Dolphin crew signed on HMS Endeavor for the trip. English nobleman Sir Joseph Banks and some scientists were also aboard.
The ship arrived in Tahiti April 11, 1769. The crew was puzzled that Purea was not in evidence and managed to form a trading relationship with Tutahas group. He was much more difficult to work with. At first Tupaia was not recognized, but after some time he became known for who he was, and also even Purea showed up in her diminished leadership capacity. Tupaia, among a few others moved aboard HMS Endeavor and with a few others became part of the crew. From Tahiti they sailed west visiting Raiatea, which the Bora Borans captured and ruled, then sailed south in search of the non-existant southern continent. Tupaias body did not thrive on navy rations. He began to suffer from scurvy. After taking a beating in the roaring 40s they headed west and came upon New Zealand. They were very lucky that Tupaia could communicate with the Maori, who were Polynesians isolated from their roots. The Maori are very warlike, and difficult to work with, and any relationship would have been impossible without Tupaias intervention. They had arrived approximately 500 years earlier, and 300 years previously a huge tsunami had devastated their coastal population. The Maori had to totally re-build their society without most of the keepers of the old ways (and elders who knew the religion) who had been killed in the inundation and/or famine which followed. Tupaia worked well with their current leaders and priesthood and helped them re-establish their religious knowledge. Capt. Cook surveyed both North and South islands and with Tupaias help with little bloodshed.
From there HMS Endeavor sailed for Australia and sailed the whole east coast, threading inside the Great Barrier Reef with much difficulty. The Australian aborigines did not speak Polynesian however Tupaia managed to communicate with them with much patience and hand signaling. They finally rounded Cape York at the northeastern corner of Australia and arrived at the southern coast of New Guinea on September 3, 1770. Most of the crew were sick, they were on short rations. Soon after they arrived in Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia) on October 10, 1770. There at the Dutch port they hired a major re-fit of HMS Endeavor . It was a very unhealthy place. Many died of disease, including both Tupaia and his young protege Taiata. Tupaias intention was to get support in England to fit out an expedition to route out the Bora Borans from Raiatea and and utterly destroy them. He did not live to attempt this.
Capt. Cook and the remaining crew of HMS Endeavor arrived back in England July 13, 1771.
Captain James Cook sailed on 2 additional expeditions to the Pacific, eventually dying in Hawaii in a skirmish with the Hawaiians.
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