Polynesians beat world by 1,000 years in Antarctica

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It was long thought that the first person to see Antarctica was Russian explorer Fabian von Bellingshausen, who snuck into the history books three days before British naval officer Edward Bransfield in 1820.

But a new study suggests that both were discovered by a Polynesian leader more than 1,000 years earlier.

Researchers say that the ancestors of New Zealand Maori sailed from the Deep South to Antarctica in the 7th century and may have even set foot on the continent.

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Discovery: Researchers say New Zealand Maori ancestors sailed from the Deep South to Antarctica in the 7th century and may have even set foot on the continent.  Hui Te Rangiora, a Polynesian explorer, set out from Rarotonga and is said to have reached the Ross Ice Shelf

Discovery: Researchers say New Zealand Maori ancestors sailed from the Deep South to Antarctica in the 7th century and may have even set foot on the continent. Hui Te Rangiora, a Polynesian explorer, set out from Rarotonga and is said to have reached the Ross Ice Shelf

Antarctica: Polynesian explorers such as Hui Te Rangiora could have

Antarctica: Polynesian explorers such as Hui Te Rangiora could have “crossed the Pacific Ocean as Western explorers could a lake.” A new study now suggests Rangiora was the first person to see Antarctica after leaving for the continent in AD 650

COMPETITION TO ANTARCTICA: WAS RUSSIA, UK OR POLYNESIRS GOING THERE FIRST?

Russian explorer Fabian von Bellingshausen was technically the first to discover Antarctica on January 27, 1820.

However, historians originally did not recognize him as being, as an incorrect translation of his diary meant that he was believed to have seen no land.

Bransfield saw the continent three days later, while the following year American explorer John Davis was recorded in history as the first person to set foot on it.

But a new study from the University of Otago now suggests it was the Polynesians who discovered it 1,000 years earlier.

Hui Te Rangiora, a local Polynesian chief, set out from Rarotonga about 650 AD and reached the Ross Ice Shelf, according to researchers, making him and his crew “the first people to see the Antarctic and perhaps the continent.”

Hui Te Rangiora, a local Polynesian chief, left around 650 AD. from Rarotonga – the largest of the Cook Islands, and described finding bull kelp in the Southern Ocean, marine mammals and huge icebergs that resembled arrowroot powder.

The white medicinal herb looks like snow when scraped, the researchers said. Rangiora also called the ocean Te tai-uka-a-pia – meaning the frozen ocean.

Rangiora and his crew are said to have reached the Ross Ice Shelf with their sailboat and were “probably the first people to see the Antarctic waters and perhaps the continent,” the study authors said.

Polynesian explorers such as Rangiora could have “crossed the Pacific as Western explorers could a lake.”

The research team was led by Dr Priscilla Wehi, a conservation biologist at the University of Otago in New Zealand.

They examined oral Maori histories and cultural features, such as carvings, depicting travelers as well as navigational and astronomical knowledge.

“We found that there has been connection to Antarctica and its waters for centuries, and later through participation in European-led travel and exploration, contemporary scientific research, fishing and more,” said Dr. wow.

“Hui Te Rangiora’s journey and return are part of the history of the Ngāti Rārua people, and these stories appear in a number of engravings.”

The findings of the Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research team led them to believe that the achievements of Polynesian explorers had been obscured in the history books.

Voyagers: Polynesians Explored the Pacific Centuries Before Europeans (Stock)

Voyagers: Polynesians Explored the Pacific Centuries Before Europeans (Stock)

Claim: Rangiora and his crew would have reached the Ross Ice Shelf in the 7th century

Claim: Rangiora and his crew would have reached the Ross Ice Shelf in the 7th century

If Rangiora did indeed see Antarctica, the debate over whether it was von Bellingshausen or Bransfield who discovered it first, or even whether the credit should go to an American, would end.

Von Bellingshausen was technically the first to see it on January 27, 1820, but historians did not originally recognize him as having done so, as an incorrect translation of his diary meant he was believed to have seen no land.

Mailed?  It was long thought that the first person to discover Antarctica was Russian explorer Fabian von Bellingshausen (pictured), who defeated British naval officer Edward Bransfield by three days in 1820.

Mailed? It was long thought that the first person to discover Antarctica was Russian explorer Fabian von Bellingshausen (pictured), who defeated British naval officer Edward Bransfield by three days in 1820.

Bransfield saw the continent three days later, while the following year American explorer John Davis was recorded in history as the first person to set foot on it.

All three succeeded where Captain James Cook failed.

He searched for Antarctica from 1772-1775 — and was only 80 miles from the coast at one point — but couldn’t find it.

Nevertheless, his efforts inspired 19th-century explorers such as Bransfield, Davis, and von Bellingshausen.

All hoped to discover the vast landmass called Terra Australis Incognita, or “unknown southern land,” which at the time was thought to “unbalance” land in the Northern Hemisphere.

Despite the achievements of Davis, von Bellingshausen and Bransfield, explorers would not reach the South Pole until nearly 100 years later.

Norwegian Roald Amundsen was the first on December 14, 1911, just over a month before Captain Robert Falcon Scott.

After discovering that Amundsen had defeated them to the South Pole, Captain Scott and his entire party perished trying to return to base during the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition.

Last December, several glaciers, bays, domes, mountains and inlets in Antarctica were named in honor of modern British scientists and explorers to mark the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica by von Bellingshausen and Bransfield.

A total of 28 sites within the British Antarctic Territory – a part of Antarctica claimed by the UK – have been named after Britons who have made ‘an outstanding contribution’ to scientific understanding of Earth’s southernmost continent.

The University of Otago study was published in the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand.

WHAT went wrong during Captain Scott’s ill-fated expedition to Antarctica?

Unhappy Journey: Captain Scott and his Terra Nova Expeditionary Group are pictured not long before they perished on their return journey from the South Pole in 1912

Unhappy Journey: Captain Scott and his Terra Nova Expeditionary Group are pictured not long before they perished on their return journey from the South Pole in 1912

Captain Scott and his crew of 65 departed Cardiff, Wales, in June 1910.

In November 1911, Captain Scott, Lawrence Oates, Edward Wilson, Edgar Evans and Henry Bowers set out for the pole and reached it on January 17, 1912. They soon discovered that Norwegian Roald Amundsen was ahead of them by only 34 days.

On their return journey, the group suffered horrific conditions and perished.

Evans died of a concussion when he fell at the base of Beardmore Glacier, while Oates sacrificed himself after realizing that his slow pace, caused by frostbite, threatened the others. He walked into a blizzard and said, “I’m just going out and maybe it’ll be a while.”

Later, the three remaining men were pinned down by a nine-day snowstorm with limited fuel and food. They died about March 29, 1912, 150 days from base and only 11 miles from the nearest depot.

Their deaths are attributed to poor planning by Scott, poor food supply and unlucky weather. He decided not to use dogs to hasten his journey after a bad experience, and relied heavily on ponies, many of which died of exhaustion or malnutrition.

Scott also planned to take just three men on the last trip to the South Pole, meaning he didn’t have enough food for the trip.

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