Voyage of Going:beyond the blue line
A One feels a certain sympathy for Captain James Cook on the day in 1778 that he "discovered"Hawaii.
Then on his third expedition to the Pacific, the British navigator had explored scores of islands across the
breadth if the sea, from lush New Zealand to the lonely wastes of Easter Island. This latest voyage had taken
him thousands of miles north from the Society Islands to an archipelago so remote that even the old Poly
nesians back on Tahiti knew nothing about it. Imagine Cook's surprise, then, when the natives of Hawaii
came padding out in their canoes and greeted him in a familiar tongue, one he had heard on virtually every
mote of inhabited land he had visited. Marveling at the ubiquity of this Pacific language and culture, he later
wondered in his journal: "How shall we account for this Nation spreading itself so far over this Vast ocean?"
B Answer have been slow in coming. But now a startling archaeological find on the island of Efate, in the
Pacific nation of Vanuatu, has revealed an ancient seafaring people, the distant ancestors of today's Polyne
sians, taking their first steps into the unknown. The discoveries there have also opened a window into the
shadowy world of those early voyagers. At the same time, other pieces of this human puzzle are turning up
in unlikely places. Climate date gleaned from slow-growing corals around the Pacific and from sediments
in alpine lakes in South America may help explain how, more than a thousand years later, a second wave of
seafarers beat their way across the entire Pacific.
C "What we have is a first or second-generation site containing the graves of some of the Pacific's first
explorers,"says Springs, professor of archaeology at the Australian National University and co-leader of an
international team excavating the site. It came to light only by luck. A backhoe operator, digging up topsoil
on the grounds of a derelict coconut plantation, scraped open a grave-the first of dozens in a burial ground
some 3, 000 years old. It is the oldest cemetery ever found in the Pacific islands, and it harbors the bones of
an ancient people archaeologists call the Lapita, a label that derives from a beach in New Caledonia, where
a landmark cache of their pottery was found in the 1950s. They were daring blue-water adventurers who
roved the sea not just as explorers but also as pioneers, bringing along everything they would need to build
new lives-their families and livestock, taro seedlings and stone tools.