Fan Coral, West New Britain, Papua New Guinea Photographic Print

Fan Coral, West New Britain, Papua New Guinea

Fan Coral, West New Britain, Papua New Guinea Photographic Print
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Pacific islanders came from Asia. Far back in the history of the human race the ancestors of the natives living on islands in Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia had their homes on the great Asiatic continent. The first inhabitants of Australia, Java, Borneo, and the Philippines also came from the Asiatic region. The route by which they came is marked out by islands, peninsulas, and straits. From the continent of Asia down along the Malay Peninsula to Sumatra, Java, Borneo, the Celebes, the Moluccas, and on to Papua and Australia it is possible to sail from island to island without going out of sight of land. The large islands are joined together by chains of small islands, and the passage from one to another is no more difficult or dangerous than to go from Maui to Lanai or from Oahu to Molokai. In good weather the crudest craft, even a log or a raft, might safely take the voyage.

Pacific islands are far apart

The islands of Melanesia lying between Papua or New Guinea and Fiji are not very far apart, and primitive canoes might make the journey from one to another of them in two or three days. But cast, northeast, and southeast of Fiji the islands are widely separated; most of them are very small and low and cannot be seen at a distance. Most of the island groups and some single islands are from 100 to 300 miles from their nearest neighboring island. Easter Island is 1,100 miles from the outermost island of the Gambier group, and Hawaii is 900 miles from Fanning Island, the nearest land which might be used as a stopping place. To cover these great distances requires boats which can live through rough seas, a way of carrying food for voyages of weeks and months, and fearless men who are skilled in navigation. Elarly in the history of the human race there were no such boats and no such men. This makes it possible to understand why Java and the Philippines and Australia were inhabited probably more than 10,000 years ago and also why many of the Polynesian islands were first seen. by men within the last 2,000 years, some of them within the last 500 years. It is probable that Polynesia is the last habitable part of the world to be occupied by the human race. It is remarkable that Hawaii, so far removed from America, Asia, and from the other islands in the Pacific, was found at all before the days of big sailing vessels.

Why the pioneers came

The causes which led the early Polynesians to make short voyages to near-lying islands in the western Pacific and to the remote and widely separated islands of the central and eastern. Pacific are not known, but they are probably the same as the causes which have led to the migration of other primitive people in other parts of the world. To escape slaughter in battle some people were forced to find new homes in more favorable places. The destruction of food plants and homes by storm waves which sometimes sweep across low islands led to the abandonment of fields and village sites. Some migrations of small groups of people were probably involuntary; the boats were blown to sea and carried wherever wind and currents directed until land came in sight. For other migrations plans may deliberately have been made for the purpose of finding new islands where fishing was better and where food for an increasing population was easier to obtain. There is evidence also that many migrations were the result of love of adventure a deliberate intent to find something new. When a new island was discovered, the adventurer made his way back to his people, only to return with his family or with a company of immigrants who were attracted to the new-found land.

This love of adventure which led to the finding of islands, fishing grounds, food plants, and choice places for settlements is a marked characteristic of all branches of the Polynesian race.

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