Indigenous Maori people may have laid eyes on the waters of Antarctica and possibly the mainland as early as the 7th century, new research published in the journal Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand shows.
For the past 200 years, the narratives of Antarctica have been those led by predominantly European male explorers.
However, this new study reveals the story of the Maori peoples’ (and Polynesian) deep-rooted ties to Antarctica dating back to the 7th century and continuing to the present day.
“We have discovered connections to Antarctica and its waters from the earliest traditional voyages, and later through participation in European-led voyages and exploration, contemporary scientific research, fishing and more. for centuries, ”says lead author Dr Priscilla Wehi of Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research, the organization that led the project, alongside researchers from Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.
“Our exploration begins to build a richer and more inclusive picture of Antarctica’s relationship with humanity and builds a platform on which much broader conversations about New Zealand’s relationship with Antarctica can. be deepened. “
The study was compiled by a team of researchers who scanned the literature and incorporated it into oral histories. The result is a compiled record of the presence and perspectives of Maori in the narrative and exploration of Antarctica, which the team says “play an important role” in filling knowledge gaps about exploration. Maori and Antarctica.
And these stories begin 1,320 years ago.
“We find that Polynesian accounts of inter-island voyages include the voyage to Antarctic waters by Hui Te Rangiora (also known as Ūi Te Rangiora) and his crew on the ship Te Ivi o Atea, probably in the early 7th century. century, “Wehi said.
“These achievements in navigation are widely recognized; and Maori navigators are described as crossing the Pacific just as Western explorers might do on a lake.
“In some accounts, Hui Te Rangiora and his crew continued south. A long way south. In doing so, they likely cast their eyes on the waters of Antarctica and possibly the mainland.”
Other evidence collected includes Maori carvings, which represent both travelers and knowledge of navigation and astronomy.
“Also,” Wehi said, “a ‘pou whakairo’ (translation by carved pole), represents Tamarereti as the protector of the southern oceans stands on the southern tip of New Zealand’s South Island at Bluff. Ngāi Tahu, the largest tribe group on the South Island, and other tribal or iwi groups also cherish other oral repositories of knowledge relating to these early explorers and travelers.
These Maori accounts of Antarctic ties were not limited to these early voyages, either. On the contrary, travels and expeditions have continued to this day; “but is rarely recognized or highlighted,” Wehi says.
And that research, she hopes, will begin further on the path to ensuring Maori inclusion in future relations with Antarctica.
“Recognition of responsibilities to under-represented groups, and in particular Maori as Treaty partners, is important for contemporary and future research programs in Antarctica, as well as for future exploration of Antarctic obligations. New Zealand within the Antarctic Treaty system. “
In conclusion, she said: “The growth of more Maori Antarctic scientists and the integration of Maori perspectives will add depth to New Zealand’s research agendas and, ultimately, to the protection and protection of New Zealand. management of Antarctica.
Further evidence of Maori exploration is likely to enter the public domain in the future, as tribal scholars team up with the iwi to share these tales, and Maori leadership in Antarctic research becomes more visible. , including that of the Maori Kāhui in the Antarctic Science Platform.