Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Few subjects captured the imagination of early European explorers more than the seafaring exploits of Pacific islanders. In 1768, the French explorer, Bougainville, dubbed Samoa “The Navigators' Islands,” and the British captain, James Cook, noted that Polynesian canoes were often as fast and maneuverable as his ships. Subsequent commentators, particularly within the anthropological community, have retained their predecessors' fascination. Western views of oceanic seafaring abilities have shifted several times. Through the mid-20th century, indigenous traditions of voyaging, exploration, migration, and settlement were taken quite literally. In 1957, Andrew Sharp argued that, unless aided by instruments, human beings couldn't navigate successfully over long distances. Therefore, colonization of new islands was almost certainly the result of accidental drift voyages by sailors blown off course or forced, against their will, out to sea. Sharp's conclusions were challenged by the pioneering ethnographic work of Thomas Gladwin (1970) on Puluwat in Micronesia and David Lewis's ...