Thursday, June 4, 2020

Was Polynesia Settled from South America? – Part III

Continuing from the previous post regarding the settlement of Polynesia, the first five points were covered. It might be of interest to know that the interpretation of the three island groups of the western South Pacific are: 1) Micronesia: “Small Islands,” 2) Melanesia: “Black Islands,” and 3) Polynesia: “Many Islands.” Now, beginning with #6 below:
6. “Theorists claim that Lapita navigators explored in only one direction – south-east, against the prevailing trade winds.”
Response: Why did they explore in only one direction? Why not northward toward Micronesia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Guam? Why not northeast toward Midway, and Hawaii? Why not westward toward Indonesia, Java, Malaysia or Sumatra? Why not southward, with the currents around Australia and into the Southern Ocean?
    Why did they only east? After all, they did not have maps and know where the islands fell. When starting out from Taiwan, or when starting out from the Philippines, why did they go south to Borneo (today’s Malaysian Sabah and Sarawak, and Indonesian Kalimantands, and Brunei)? They would not have known in what direction lay other lands or islands. And most importantly, how did they sail against the winds and currents
The currents passing by Taiwan to the east and west are moving northward, yet theorists claim the early Lapitas sailing south (against the winds and currents)

One of the simplest answers, and the one archaeologists choose, is that they moved only toward the east and southeast is because that is where they were later found. Melanesia sits along the equator—to the north in any direction would be different winds and currents, and crossing the equator requires crossing the counter-current, also known as the doldrums , which often resulted in long periods of no wind at all. In addition, to the west of Melanesia, or the described original area of the Lapita culture lies the large island of Papua New Guinea, an area 178,704 square miles, blocking the sea routes in that direction, nor would they have sailed south for the same reason.
The currents through Indonesia flow westward, transferring water from the Pacific into the Indian Ocean—these currents are quite strong and circle islands on their path westward

The Indonesian Through Flow is an ocean current with importance for global climate since it provides a low-latitude pathway for a constant supply of warm water to move from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean and this serves as the upper branch of the global heat conveyor belt.  As the earth spins ocean currents bring warm water from the Pacific Ocean into equatorial regions of Asia.  In the Pacific Ocean northeast of the Indonesian archipelago, as water is pushed up against Asia the sea level is twenty centimeters above average. 
    In the Indian Ocean, because of similar forces acting in an opposite direction, the water is sucked away from Indonesia (and pushed up against Africa) therefore the sea level south of Indonesia is ten centimeters below average. This 30cm sea-level height differential causes a northeast-to-southwest current through Indonesia. This water flows westward from the Pacific into the Indian Ocean through an intricate series of channels around the islands. As one of the greatest volume of water flowing on earth passes the channels and restrictions of Indonesia, the earth’s spin is actually slowed down! 
    Finally, through the more than 17,500 islands in Indonesia the Through Flow passes through the Lombok Strait into the Indian Ocean. This suggests that any ancient people in Taiwan could have reached the islands in Indonesia, but not the islands around New Guinea and beyond to the east.
Philippine Islands ocean currents: Red line shows the constant current east and south of Taiwan; Yellow line is the only wind and ocean for sailing from Taiwan; White line shows if an attempt was made to the east it would hit a wall (blue line) of opposite wind and currents

Thus, any ancient people leaving Taiwan by boat to the east or southeast, as archaeologists and anthropologists claim, would have encountered winds and currents against them. Now it should be considered that these early craft were paddled, and any crew could paddle against winds and currents for a short distance.
    It would not have been very likely that early seamen would have set out to paddle from a home island to something they could not see and did not know if anything was ahead of them. Where sailors under sail might do this, people in a small canoe without sail would not, nor have any reason to do so.
    It is easy for scientists to look at a map today and see all these islands in the south Pacific and claim that early man island hopped across the ocean, but the reality of time and means with a total lack of knowledge, works against such outlandish claims.
    It should also be kept in mind that the distances from Taiwan to other lands plays a part in such claimed achievements. That is not to say that early people did not leave Taiwan, after all there are numerous islands around Taiwan to allow for movement across open seas. As an example, Penghu is about 50 miles off the coast to the west, and Yonaguni about 130 miles off the east coast to the east, and about 80 miles beyond that is Irionmote, and twenty miles further is Ishigai. To the southeast if 20 miles off the coast is Green Island and 25 miles off the coast to Orchid Island; and 60 miles to the Batanes. However, it is 100 miles to mainland China, and 300 miles to the northern shore of the Philippines.
    Now who, and why, would early man start off across open waters paddling for some 300 miles without even knowing there was land there? Or anything but open ocean for hundreds of miles.
    Today, of course, scientists look at maps and see the hundreds of islands in what is called the Coral Triangle, an area of shallow ocean running over the world’s largest coral reefs in the world laying between the Philippines and Indonesia and eastward to New Guinea (Papua New Guinea).
Top: Some of the numerous small islands that make up the Coral Triangle to the southeast of Taiwan; Bottom: Some of the hundreds of coral reef fish that make the Triangle waters their home

From volcanic islands with rocky shores to white sand beaches to mangrove forests, the Coral Triangle consists of a wide range of habitats. The Triangle hosts an astonishing amount of marine life. Seventy-five percent of the world’s coral species are found here—nearly 600 different species. Over 2000 different types of reef fish find refuge in these dazzling underwater gardens, and this is an important place for tuna to spawn. Whales, dolphins, porpoises, dugongs and whale sharks feed, breed and migrate in these waters.
And the Coral Triangle is home to six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles.
    Scientists suspect that the diversity of landscapes contributes to the diversity of species in the region because these species have been forced to adapt to the geographically complex reef system.
    Here prevailing easterly currents pour water into the Coral Triangle from the Pacific Ocean, partly through the Indonesia Through Flow as warm ocean waters pass through Indonesia to the colder Indian Ocean.
    Today, Coral Triangle marine resources support the livelihoods of over 120 million people and provide food to local coastal communities and millions more worldwide. The region also holds incredible cultural diversity. There are over 2,000 languages spoken across these waters and cultures share a strong connection to the sea. One can only wonder, with movement between these small islands, and an overabundance of food resources, why early man would want to leave this area and paddle or sail out to sea in search for newer lands. Why would anyone leave paradise in search for—what?
(See the next post, “Polynesia Settled from South America – Part IV,” for more on the lack of reasoning behind claiming that early man island-hopped across the Pacific from west to east)

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