What Cook Noticed

In his voyages across the Pacific, Cook had noticed that as far east as Easter Island and as far west as New Zealand and as far north as Hawaii, the people not only looked similar, they spoke only slight variations of the same language. But if they shared a common origin, Cook was hard-pressed to explain how these people managed to scatter themselves across such an immense space. He had seen the natives’ oceangoing outrigger canoes. They were capable of incredible speeds and had, on several occasions, literally sailed circles around his pudgy ships. But if the canoes were fast, they could only sail effectively with the wind, and the trade winds blew from the southeast. Since the Polynesians looked nothing like Native Americans, he reasoned that they must have come from the west. But how did they sail against the trade winds? And exactly where did they originally come from?

Sea of Glory: America’s Voyage of Discovery, The U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842, Nathaniel Philbrick