According to a new study, Polynesians visited Antarctica approximately 1,300 years earlier before Westerners arrived.
Antarctica's history revise?
Scientists in New Zealand revealed that oral histories point to a Polynesian explorer seeing an icy, mountainous continent without much sunlight, reported Live Science. Combined with "gray literature", or historical accounts unpublished in peer-reviewed journals as well artwork and oral history of the culture, researchers theorize that Polynesians visited Antarctica more than a thousand years before Westerners. Most records date the continent's discovery as 1820.
Study members state," The Maori link to the discovery of Antarctica is part of the story from the seventh century." When the first Westerners made voyages to the south during the 19th century, several Maori were present as crew members and as doctors, but they were subject to prejudice according to the study, noted Science Daily.
Antarctica is regarded as a legend by ancient peoples. The Greeks had an idea of the cold continent's existence, one reason is that a lower continent would need another one in the south as opposed to the northern hemisphere.
This is explained by the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) saying the Greeks called the southern continent 'Antarktikos' which was opposite of 'Arktos' (arctic) in the Northern hemisphere. The discovery of the Antarctic predates claims by 1,300 years gives the Greeks notion as something surprising even before it was verified.
Search for legendary 'Antarktikos'
During the age of exploration, many seafarers in the 1400s to 1600s were trying to locate Antarctica. One of them was Captain James Cook, who tried but did not succeed. Records do not say who came across it first, whether it was a Russian officer, someone from the Royal Navy, or an American sea captain. In any case, this "discovery" is a late arrival, based on the new study published online on June 6 in the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand.
The study uses the oral histories of different Māori groups. Priscilla Wehi, a conservation biologist at the University of Otago in New Zealand noted one of these stories, which is about a Polynesian explorer, Hui Te Rangiora (also known as Ūi Te Rangiora) and his men. It talks about how they sailed to the southern continent on the vessel Te Ivi o Atea.
Researchers found that even if the early 600s date is correct, indigenous explorers reached Antarctica even before Mori arrived in New Zealand between 1200 and 1300. The Mori's ancestors lived in Polynesia at the time.
According to New Zealand ethnographer Elsdon Best, he documented the Maori starting in the late 1800s to early 1900s. He concluded that the Maori were traveling great distances in the Pacific. Studying at the Mori name "Te Tai-uka-a-pia," wherein "tai" refers to "sea," researchers showed supporting evidence. According to an 1899 report by ethnologist S. Percy Smith, "uka" signifies "ice," and "a-pia" implies "like the arrowroot," which resembles snow when scraped. To this effect, Maori researchers were studying Antarctica and artwork done by indigenous peoples, seen near the research stations.
The discovery of the Antarctic predates claims by 1,300 years is a major claim that changes how we approach the Southern continent.
Related article: National Geographic Cartographers Add the Southern Ocean of Antarctica on The World Map as The Fifth Ocean