Welcome to our first episode on the Pacific Ocean and the cultures that explored and settled on the island chains. We'll be talking about the three sections of the Pacific: Micronesia, Melanesia, and Polynesia. But before we can talk about the people, we have to talk about the ocean itself. The Pacific Ocean was nicknamed the Peaceful Ocean by Ferdinand Magellan, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Ringed by volcanoes, and resting over several tectonic plates, the Pacific Ocean is vast, deep, and a hotspot for earthquakes and tsunamis.
So if the Pacific Ocean is so huge and dangerous, how in the world did the Austronesians find their way to land? As it turns out, they had an impressive array of tools at their disposal. Songs & chants to remember particular techniques, feeling currents through the water, memorizing star positions for each time of the year... And the unique design of their boats!
We have the Pacific & how the Austronesians navigated from place to place but when did they arrive at the islands? And how are there so many diverse cultures within such a small range of land? Time, distance, and extremely adaptable people.
Ferdinand Magellan has made a very, very big mistake. Determined to circumnavigate the world, and cross the ocean Balboa had sighted in 1513, he’d just finished a perilous four-month journey—rounding South America and making it all the way to a previously unknown series of islands: the Philippines. He’d gotten involved in local politics, converting a ruler and his kingdom to the Catholic faith. But to keep their new conquest secure, they must crush a rival sub-chieftain, Lapulapu, who would not submit to Catholicism. Magellan tells his local allies to stay on the ship—he will take forty-nine men and overawe Lapulapu’s men with muskets and crossbows. They wade into knee-deep water, firing muskets, but to little effect. The Mactan warriors are unafraid of their weapons. Magellan has come a long way to die in the surf.
The attempt to catalog the Pacific was made a little tricky by the nature of European exploration. Everything that was discovered by one country was usually kept a state secret so that other countries couldn't contest the ownership of their colonies. Enter France. With Louis Antoine de Bougainville came the ideas of the Enlightenment and scientific voyages dedicated to exploration rather than setting up colonies or claiming new territory. And that would be exemplified with James Cook, the commander of the HM Bark Endeavour, an explorer that would inspire the Starship Enterprise and James T. Kirk & Tupaia, the incredible navigator & priest mentioned in episode 2.