Coming March 2019
THE POLYNESIAN TRIANGLE is an area of ten million square miles, defined by the three points of Hawai‘i, New Zealand, and Easter Island. All the islands inside this triangle were originally settled by a clearly identifiable group of voyagers: a people with a single language and set of customs, a particular body of myths, a distinctive arsenal of tools and skills, and a “portmanteau biota” of plants and animals that they carried with them wherever they went. They had no knowledge of writing or metal tools—no maps or compasses—and yet they succeeded in colonizing the largest ocean on the planet, occupying every habitable rock between New Guinea and the Galapagos, and establishing what was until the modern era the largest single culture area in the world.
When I first set out to write this book I imagined I would be recounting the story of these epic explorers. But it almost immediately dawned on me that one could only tell such a tale by pretending to know more than can actually be known. This realization quickly led me to another: that the story of the first human settlement of the remote Pacific is both the story of what happened and the equally intriguing story of how we know.