By Michael A. Lilly
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Sep 06, 2012
~~<p>The conventional wisdom that Capt. James Cook was the first European to “discover” Hawaii in 1778 is wrong. <br />
The conventional wisdom that Capt. James Cook was the first European to “discover” Hawaii in 1778 is wrong. The debate over which Western nation first came to our shores was mentioned as early as 1899 when the book, “Our Islands and Their People — As Seen With Camera and Pencil” asserted that “Gaetano, a Spanish navigator, first recorded the discovery of these islands in 1542.” Others have dismissed that conclusion. But new evidence I discovered in Amsterdam this summer confirms that Captain Cook was preceded by the Spanish. But first, here is some of the evidence advanced to date that the Spanish arrived here first: >> For 223 years before Cook, Spanish galleons sailed each year between Acapulco and Manila. Because Hawaii lies along the route, it defies logic that Spanish navigators consistently missed our islands. >> In 1743, British Commodore George Anson captured a Spanish galleon near Acapulco which had a chart depicting several islands — “Groupe de la Mesa” and “Los Monges” — in the general location and exact latitude of Hawaii. >> Captain Cook’s own navigational chart of the Pacific included the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) and, to the east, seven islands called “Los Mejos.” >> In 1786, French explorer la Perouse searched to the east of Hawaii in vain for the “Los Mejos” islands, concluding they were in fact Hawaii. >> The late Hawaiian artist Herb Kawainui Kane’s book, “Voyagers,” references a 1613 globe in England’s National Maritime Museum that illustrates a “cluster of small islands” roughly where Hawaii ought to be. >> Kailua resident Alan Lloyd found pre-Cook globes in Innsbruck, Austria, and Australia’s James Cook Historical Museum portraying islands roughly at Hawaii’s location. >> Media Five architect Mike Leineweber received a letter from Misha Sperka of “Old Hawaiian Charts & Prints” in Kona reporting ownership of an original chart dated 1579 and hitherto unpublished “voyage documents” which contain the earliest and “major hard evidence” of the pre-Cook “discovery” of Hawaii. Other less persuasive reasons include: The fair-haired race of “ehu’s” discovered on Hawaii island were alleged descendants of Spanish explorers; Hawaiian flowered helmets seemed patterned after those of Spanish marines; Hawaiian legends of previous fair-skinned visitors; and the presence of iron on Kauai when Cook landed. When my wife, Cindy, and I visited Amsterdam this summer, I was anxious to tour its National Maritime Museum. The primary globes, maps and charts of the 16th and 17th centuries were painted by Dutch cartographers. To my delight, I found four original pre-Cook globes, dated 1600, 1665, 1728 and 1765, and a world map by famed cartographer Joan Blaeu dated 1665 on which were depicted a group of islands at about Hawaii’s location, including Los Monges, La Vexina and La Defgraciada. All of these maps place our islands exactly on Hawaii’s latitude, but several hundred miles to the east. Why? Primarily because while early navigators could accurately plot one’s north-south location (latitude) by the height of the North Star, one’s east-west location (longitude) can be reliably plotted only with a clock. No explorer before Cook carried an accurate navigational clock. Herb Kane told me that this explains why Hawaii was consistently depicted 500-700 miles east of Hawaii on pre-Cook Spanish charts. There isn’t any doubt the Spanish were the first Westerners to land on our shores. While some may still debate the issue, the following fact is not debatable: Long before my ancestors mustered the courage to venture much beyond sight of the European landscape, the Polynesians, in double-hull canoes and with only the stars, wind and ocean currents as guides, ventured thousands of miles across the sea to populate every inhabitable island in Polynesia, including Hawaii.
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