Vanessa Collingridge

Breaking the Waves

Beyond the Blue Horizon: How the Earliest Mariners Unlocked the Secrets of the Oceans


Bloomsbury 313pp £20 order from our bookshop

In January 1778, in the seemingly boundless blue of the northern Pacific, world-renowned navigator James Cook chanced upon the wondrous volcanic islands of Hawaii. The discovery took every-

one by surprise: since Cook left Tahiti and her neighbours, all his charts and the Tahitians’ knowledge had led him to expect clear and open water up to the coast of North America. Instead, an archipelago new to Western cartography grew large on the horizon. As the inhabitants paddled their canoes out to meet him, Cook realised to his great astonishment that they spoke the same Polynesian language as the people of Tahiti and even New Zealand some 4,300 miles away. Shortly afterwards, he mused in his journal: 

How shall we account for this nation’s having spread itself in so many detached islands, so widely disjoined from each other, in every quarter of the Pacific Ocean! We find it from New Zealand in the south, as far as the Sandwich Islands

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