New Zealand’s Māori might have been first people to set eyes on Antarctica, research finds

New Zealand’s Māori explorers may have been the primary people to set eyes on the frozen continent way back to the seventh century, a brand new research suggests, regardless that for the previous 200 years, tales of discovering Antarctica have centered on Russian, European and American expeditions.

Polynesian tales of historic voyages embody the expeditions of Hui Te Rangiora and his crew on the vessel Te Ivi o Atea into Antarctic waters, probably within the seventh century, in line with the research printed this month within the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

In a few of these tales, Hui Te Rangiora and his crew traveled far south and in so doing had been probably the primary individuals to set eyes on Antarctic waters and maybe even the continent, in line with the authors of the report.

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Proof of how far these intrepid males probably ventured might be discovered within the identify they gave the frozen ocean — Te tai-uka-a-pia — which suggests just like the arrowroot, the paper says. Arrowroot is a kind of white starch that appears like snow and is obtained from scraping the stems of sure crops.

Previous to this report, Europeans extensively believed that the primary recorded sighting of Antarctica occurred in 1820, though there may be nonetheless some debate about whether or not it was a Russian or a British expedition that noticed it.

“It’s wholly unsurprising {that a} human neighborhood adept at seafaring and residing near the Antarctic continent might need encountered it centuries previous to European voyages to the identical space,” stated Meera Sabaratnam, senior lecturer in worldwide relations on the SOAS College of London.

She questioned as a substitute why Europeans had been so eager to claim their “discovery” of latest lands already inhabited by or identified to others.

“We all know that traditionally, claiming to have found ‘virgin lands’ gave rise to authorized claims for colonial occupation and possession in opposition to different European powers,” she stated. “Not solely was there a cloth profit, however it additionally performed ideologically into the concept of Europeans as a complicated and pioneering individuals who deserved to personal and identify these areas.”


The New Zealand research depends on literature and oral histories to higher perceive Māori presence and views on Antarctica and its exploration. It additionally references Māori carvings which depict voyagers and navigational and astronomical information.

The research cites a report printed in 1899 that implies Māori accounts of voyages referred to sub-Antarctic flora, fauna and bodily geography.


“The monstrous seas; the feminine that dwells in these mountainous waves, whose tresses wave about within the water,” S. Percy Smith wrote in The Journal of the Polynesian Society in 1899, recalling Māori descriptions of previous journeys, in line with the research. “Different issues are like rocks, whose summits pierce the skies, they’re fully naked and with out vegetation on them.”

Smith means that the account describes Southern Ocean bull kelp and icebergs amongst different options of life within the sub-Antarctic, the research says.

It notes that Māori participation in Antarctic voyages and expeditions has continued to the current day “however isn’t acknowledged or highlighted.”

Within the European age of Antarctic exploration, Te Atu is usually described as the primary Māori and New Zealander to view the coast of Antarctica in 1840. He traveled on the Vincennes ship, which mapped elements of the Antarctic shoreline, as a part of a U.S. expedition led by Charles Wilkes.

In the course of the so-called “heroic period” of European exploration within the late 19th century and early 20th centuries, Māori had been additionally a part of Antarctic expeditions, as they had been additional into the 1900s, demonstrating a broad vary of abilities regardless of a backdrop of discrimination and racism, in line with the research.

Māoris have additionally been concerned in modern scientific analysis, fishing and different relationships with the area, the paper stated.

“We discovered connection to Antarctica and its waters have been occurring for the reason that earliest conventional voyaging, and later by participation in European-led voyaging and exploration, modern scientific analysis, fishing, and extra for hundreds of years,” the paper’s lead writer, Priscilla Wehi, stated in a launch put out by Manaaki Whenua — Landcare Analysis, a analysis institute specializing in biodiversity, land assets and the setting, which co-led the research.

The research says ladies’s participation in Antarctic exploration is considerably tougher to pin down and that Pamela Younger was probably the primary New Zealand girl to work in Antarctic science within the late 20th century.

The researchers stated it was essential Māoris are included in future relationships with the continent.

“Rising extra Māori Antarctic scientists and incorporating Māori views will add depth to New Zealand’s analysis applications and finally the safety and administration of Antarctica,” Wehi stated.


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