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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tupaia, North & South

"The intricacies of Tahitian society make Byzantium affairs look like a Playcentre committee meeting"

-- Paul Little, in his review of Tupaia, The Remarkable Story of Captain Cook's Polynesian Navigator

A warmly enthusiastic review of Tupaia appears in North & South (July 2011, but available already), a magazine that prides itself on featuring "New Zealand's best journalism and photography," and on the many awards it has won.

"Tupaia is the noble Tahitian priest who facilitated contact with early European explorers of the Pacific.  Today we would call him a skilled networker," Paul Little begins by remarking. "He was certainly a skilled politician, linguist and, above all, navigator."

Much to the inner satisfaction of this maritime historian, Little devotes good space to Tupaia's navigation, the talent which, of all his impressive array of gifts, is closest to my heart.

"In particular, as the title suggests, [Joan Druett] emphasises his skill at navigation, which was largely spurned by Cook when the Tahitian joined the Endeavour to sail from Tahiti to New Zealand and Australia," he writes. "We are often told what great navigators ancient Polynesians were but we've seldom had it demonstrated so convincingly or with such clarity...

"This is a stimulating read, and challenging in a good way," he concludes. "An additional pleasure is the inclusion of several of Tupaia's own watercolours, some familiar, representing several key events, from Joseph Banks attempting to trade a lobster to a battle between Tahitians at sea and Aboriginals fishing.

"This addition to Tupaia's other undoubted skills emphasises the tragedy of his premature death on Batavia."


Amber said...

Congratulations on the great review, Joan! Wonderful news.

Joan Druett said...

Thank you, Amber! McLeod's bookstore (David) phoned me the other day so of course we wondered how you are, and what life is doing to you these days. Good to hear from you!