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May 29, 2005

Speeding Across the Pacific

Austronesia / Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
Historians used to assume that all those Polynesian islands were discovered and settled by chance, as a result of canoes full of fishermen happening to get blown off course. It is now clear, however, that both the discoveries and the settlements were meticulously planned. [...] Transfers of many species of crops and livestock from taro to bananas and from pigs to dogs and chickens, prove beyond question that settlement was by well-prepared colonists, carrying products of their homeland deemed essential to the survival of the new colony.

- from Collapse, by Jared Diamond

You have to have a lot of respect for a people who spread out of Taiwan, through all of Indonesia and the Philippines, northern New Guinea, eastward to every inhabitable landmass in the southern Pacific, including New Zealand, Easter Island, and Hawaii, as well as well as westward all the way across the Indian Ocean to settle Madagascar, off the eastern coast of Africa. With outrigger canoes - an idea Westerners got from them, by the way - and sails, oars, and muscles, they settled half the Southern Hemisphere while Europeans were still living under the assumption that the Earth is flat.

Anyone who still watches the candy-assed "Survivor" on TV, read a book instead.