In the 1950’s and 1960’s, historians couldn’t agree on how the Polynesian islands — including the Hawaiian islands — were settled. Some historians insisted that Pacific Islanders sailed deliberately around the Pacific Ocean, relocating as necessary, and settling the islands with purpose and planning. Others insisted that such a navigational and voyaging feat was impossible thousands of years ago, before European sailors would leave the sight of land and sail into the open ocean. These historians believed that the Polynesian canoes were caught up in storms, tossed and turned, and eventually washed up on the shores of faraway isles.
- How could such a debate ever be settled one way or the other, given that we can’t go back in time to find out what happened?
- What kinds of evidence would support the idea of “intentional voyages”? What kinds of evidence would support the idea of “accidental drift”?
- What do you already know about how this debate was eventually settled?