The first confirmed sighting of mainland Antarctica has long been attributed to a Russian expedition in 1820, and the first record of a person who set foot on Antarctica is attributed to an American explorer in 1821.
But the excursions of Polynesian sailors to Antarctic waters date back some 1,320 years, a rich history that has been overshadowed by that of European exploration, according to the study.
“We found that Polynesian travel narratives between the islands include trips to Antarctic waters by Hui Te Rangiora and his crew on the ship. The distance bone, probably in the early 7th century, “said lead researcher and conservation biologist Priscilla Wehi.
The study draws on oral traditions and narratives shared within the Maori community, and Maori carvings, which researchers say represent both travelers and astronomical and navigational knowledge.
The researchers also found a large body of existing “gray literature” – research conducted outside of traditional academic and business channels – that had not been adequately examined.
“When you put it together, it’s very clear, there is a very long history of connection to Antarctica,” Professor Wehi said.
“The Maori participated in many different roles and in many different ways in terms of Antarctica.”
The study challenges commonly held preconceptions around Maori knowledge about Antarctica, both past and present, said co-author Billy van Uitregt.
“There are many Maori working in Antarctica as researchers, participating in New Zealand fishing boats in the Southern Ocean,” said Dr. van Uitregt.
“Many Maori have this kind of lived and physical experience of the Antarctic landscapes and seascapes.”
According to Professor Wehi, looking at the past through different perspectives shows that history is “multidimensional.”
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“The contribution of many underrepresented groups, from indigenous peoples to women, becomes visible, and that is certainly the case in the history of Antarctica,” said Professor Wehl.