Maori Associations with the Antarctic
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“It may have been about our year 750 that the astonishing Hui-Te-Rangiora, in his canoe Te Iwi-o-Atea, sailed from Rarotonga on a voyage of wonders in that direction (South): he saw the bare white rocks that towered into the sky from out the monstrous seas, the long tresses of the woman that dwelt therefin, which waved about under the waters and on their surface, the frozen sea covered with pia or arrowroot, the deceitful animal that dived to great depths – ‘a foggy, misty dark place not shone on by the sun’. Icebergs, the fifty foot long leaves of bullkelp, the walrus or sea-elephant, the snowy ice fields of a clime very different from Hui-Te-Rangiora’s own warm islands – all these he had seen”.1 The Maori of Aotearoa - New Zealand have stories which talk about this land far to the south of their home. However, until the expeditions of the age of Antarctic discovery the land that is covered in ice was to a fairly great extent still shrouded in a sense of mystery that is of the unknown. Thus not until the documentation of the late 19th and early 20th century adventurers who landed on the continent came into publication was this mystery, or veil, lifted. The scientific age of exploration which to a certain extent has dissipated the mythology of the Antarctic is the product of interest in the continent that goes back for thousands of years. What it is about the Antarctic that has drawn such great interest for people, in early times on the literal, mythological and even cosmological level as well as the times during and after its physical and scientific exploration? And how is this historic relationship with the Antarctic realised in contemporary Maori society?
This report hopes to consolidate a reference of Maori associations with the Antarctic – building on the rich historical context and looking forward to where this relationship has positioned Maori today.