This week in history: Captain Cook

This week in history, the United Kingdom’s Captain James Cook celebrated two accomplishments. In 1773, he led the first known expedition to sail south of the Antarctic Circle. Cook and his crew were trying to find an imagined continent called Terra Australis – or to prove that it didn’t exist. Scholars had long believed the Earth must be “balanced,” with the same amount of land in the northern and southern hemispheres. The south had too little, so there had to be a missing continent. But Cook sailed to every predicted location of Terra Australis (“southern land”) and found nothing but open water, more or less disproving the theory. (Cook did not find Antarctica, though he suspected its existence. But this actual southern continent was too small to support the Terra Australis “hemisphere balance” theory.) Continue reading “This week in history: Captain Cook”

Stone Age GPS and the Discovery of Hawaii

Polynesians settled Hawaii during the 400’s C.E. They came by double-hulled sailing canoe from the Marquesas Islands in the South Pacific. The trip probably took months, and survival required substantial supplies of food and fresh water. Even then death loomed for any canoe the gods didn’t favor with rain, fish, and good winds. It’s hard enough to imagine making the trip when you know the destination. But how did the Polynesians ever discover Hawaii in the first place? Continue reading “Stone Age GPS and the Discovery of Hawaii”