Examining one bit of Maori “knowledge”: Did the Maori or other Polynesians discover Antarctica?

January 12, 2022 • 12:20 pm

UPDATE: Apparently the Guardian fell for this too (click on screenshot):

This one’s really bad because the paper fell for the whole story: hook, line, and sinker. Not a word of criticism do they utter, nor is there any attempt to seek out scientist-critics of this unbelievable myth.


I’m not sure whether the New Zealand Herald, where the article below was published, is a woke newspaper, but after reading the article (click on screenshot), a colleague said “It looks as if it’s both woke and asleep.” Indeed! Look at the article’s audacious title, first asserting that the Polynesians were the real discoverers of Antarctica (the first confirmed sighting of the continent was actually in January, 1820, by a Russian expedition), but also that the Polynesian discovery preceded the “western” one by over a thousand years! Further, this is apparently “not news to the Māori.”

My point in investigating this claim is because it may well be an example of mātauranga Māori, or Māori “ways of knowing” that are on their way to being taught in New Zealand (NZ) as “coequal to modern science” in secondary school and university science classes. I’ve already discussed this at length (see the several posts here), and won’t reiterate my opposition to the “coequal” proposal save to say these two things:

a. Some bits of mātauranga Māori do constitute “knowledge” and could conceivably become parts of science class, though clearly not dominating parts. Examples include how to capture animals and how to navigate the South Pacific.

b. The system of mātauranga Māori (henceforth “MM”) as a whole, however, is a mixture of legend, mythology, word of mouth, superstition (including full-blown creationism), morality, and philosophy, as well as some examples of knowledge, that would, if taught as co-equal with the “way of knowing” of modern science, destroy science education in New Zealand. Imagine a student learning both mātauranga Māori creationism and biological evolution in the very same class, and told “okay, now sort it out for yourself” (no assertion of hegemony allowed!).  But since the NZ government and many schools and universities see this as acceptable, those adherents to the “coequal” system are sacrificing the education of their populace in the cause of Wokeism. Of course Kiwis should all be acquainted with the history of the Māori, their beliefs, and their oppression, but an indigenous knowledge system based largely on non-empirical criteria should not be taught as “science”.

Well, below is a piece of MM that, it seems to me, is likely to be taught in science and history classes as “truth”. However, it’s almost certainly untrue. Click the screenshot below to read it, though is larded with Māori words that make it harder to read. See whether you find the claims credible. The article is based on an original paper published by Anderson et al. in the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, last year, and I’m not able to obtain from my library. However, I’ve put the reference at the bottom of this post.

The claims:

study by New Zealand researchers found that Polynesians may have been the first to discover the Earth’s southernmost continent, Antarctica, dating back to the seventh century.

But it comes as no shock to some iwi as this had always been known, but methods of recounting indigenous history do not receive the same recognition as western or academic literature.

“We didn’t discover this, it’s a known narrative,” lead researcher Dr Priscilla Wehi told the Herald.

“Our job was to bring together all the information [including oral tradition and grey literature] and communicating it to the world.”

Led by Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, the research focused on Māori connections with the frozen continent.

The first recorded sighting of Antarctica was during a Russian expedition in 1820, and the first person to touch the mainland of Antarctica was an American explorer in 1821.

Now the new paper can reveal a southern voyage was conducted by Polynesian chief Hui Te Rangiora and his crew over a thousand years before the Russian expedition, and long before Māori migrated to New Zealand.

But how did the authors know this? There was, after all, no written language to recount this epochal voyage, which, by the way, consists only of oral legend about “a southern voyage.” Traveling south is not the same as “discovering Antarctica,” and of course the Māori weren’t even in New Zealand in 650 AD, the legendary date of discovery (they began colonizing NZ around 1300 AD). To discover Antarctica, you have to either see the continent or land on it, and there’s no evidence from this article that they did either, much less made a voyage below the Antarctic Circle.

Here’s the “way of knowing” that the newspaper and the authors of the paper in Proc. Roy. Soc. NZ (Wehi et al., see below) used:

Much of Polynesian history is recorded through oral tradition and big discoveries as such are disregarded, but Māori scientists are proving it to be a reliable source of evidence. [JAC: Like creationism?]

“History tends to be told by one voice and there’s often a dominant narrative. Often indigenous history and even women’s history becomes invisible, so for me it’s about making that history visible.”

While the team explored grey literature (research, reports, technical documents, other material published outside of common academic or commercial publishing channels) co-researcher Dr Billy van Uitregt said oral tradition brought “richness to the conversation”.

I’ve never heard of “grey literature” before, but in this case it surely must be derived from oral tradition. It may be “rich,” but is it true? Well, author of the original paper William van Uitregt says that having evidence in writing is actually inimical to finding truth:

“It highlights the limitations of the written narratives that we have. that I don’t think can be captured in written word”.

“I’d probably argue that [translating oral tradition into academic literature] isn’t a good thing.”

“You can lose the wairua (spirit) of the human connection to the knowledge which I think is very fundamental to mātauranga Māori (Māori knowledge).”

And there you have it:  the real admission that MM is not the same thing as modern science. For empirical evidence (or archaeological evidence, not in existence in this case) is not enough to support a truth claim. Nope, you have to have the wairua, or “spirit” to have “truth” in MM. Are they now supposed to teach “spirit” in science class as a substitute for the empirical verification of modern science? It seems so.

Well enough of that palaver. I’ve ordered the original Wehi et al. article by interlibrary loan, and if it gives evidence for a Polynesian discovery of Antarctica, you’ll be the first to know. (Note the conflation of Polynesians with Māori in the headline above. Modern Māori people descend from Polynesians, but it wasn’t the Maori of New Zealand who supposedly discovered Antarctica.)

UPDATES: Here’s a recent paper, not yet in print, that I got from a colleague in New Zealand. This one I have the pdf for, so if you want to see it, make a judicious request.  The paper is now online, so click to acsess. It appears paywalled, but, as always, a judicious request may bet you the pdf. 

I’ve now learned that all  of the authors are Māori , so perhaps there’s some kind of internecine division among the indigenous people about what constitutes “truth”!


The paper is short—5.5 pages—and will repay reading, especially if you want to see the weakness of “traditional knowledge” going back 1300 years. It all rests on oral transmission, of course, and hinges crucially on the translation of what is orally transmitted. It rests on a seemingly mythical voyage of a Polynesian canoe constructed entirely of human bones! That alone makes it unlikely, but authors of the paper above persist in their inquiry.  For example, they translate the Māori story this way:

The rocks growing out of the sea beyond Rapa Island; the monstrous waves; the female dwelling in those waves, with her hair waving and floating on the surface of the ocean; the tai-uka-a-pia [the frozen sea]; the deceitful animal seen on the sea, which dived below the surface a very gloomy and dark place, where the sun is not seen. There is also there [a kind of] rock whose summit pierces the sky with steep bare cliffs where vegetation does not grow. Such was the work of this vessel at that time; and also to convey people to all the islands. It was this vessel, Te-Ivi-o-Ateathat discovered all these great and wonderful things on the ocean, and all the surrounding islands.

There is some consideration of the term “the frozen sea”, which Anderson et. al say is more likely to mean “sea foam”, but they add this:

Except for the rocks beyond Rapa, the things mentioned in it have no particular geographic provenance. They are anonymous rocky reefs, large waves, marine mammals, mountainous islands, bare cliffs etc., and the long-haired sea-woman is typical of the numerous oddities such as floating islands and canoe-swallowing clams, that inhabited the mythical Polynesian ocean. The list was interpreted imaginatively by Smith (1899, pp. 1011). He thought the female tresses were bull-kelp, the deceitful animal was the walrus [sic] or the sea-lion or the elephant seal, and by combining the frozen seawith rocks growing out of the sea, he created ice-bergs.

Finally, the authors consider whether Polynesian vessels of that era would even have survived such a voyage, and consider it very unlikely. They tender these conclusions at the end of their paper:


(1) Wehi et al. (2021a, 2021b), use unexamined traditional narratives, and stories based on those, to argue that there is a pre-European history of Antarctic exploration by Polynesians. Analysis of the origin and content of these sources does not support that conclusion. In particular uka-tairefers most probably to a foaming rather than frozen sea.

(2) It is implausible that pre-European Polynesian canoes and their crews could have survived passages through the circumpolar westerlies or a sojourn in Antarctic conditions. Insofar as there is material evidence of Polynesian voyaging, it did not go beyond the northern islands of the subantarctic zone.

(3) Overall, it is most unlikely that Antarctic history began with pre-European voyaging.

That last bit won’t make MM advocates happy! But I want to add a digression of sorts that Anderson et al. offer about using this voyage to contrast MM with modern science:

These [traditional] stories, presented without nuance, qualification or critique, make extraordinary claims without offering commensurable evidence. Here, it is contended that they must be evaluated critically. In doing so, they prove debatable on key points of interpretation and plausibility. As this approach bears on the question of how mātauranga Māori – ‘Māori knowledge and all that underpins it, as well as Māori ways of knowing(Broughton and McBreen 2015, p. 83) is handled in scholarly publication, a brief comment is pertinent.

. . .Although widely discussed in positive terms, notably in environmental sciences (e.g. Hikuroa 2017; McAllister et al. 2019), the collaborative enterprise of bringing together parallel or intersecting interests in mātauranga and westernscholarship involves epistemological differences. Mātauranga emphasises integration over separation of knowledge categories, received over hypothesised interpretations and experiential over experimental practice. Exposing traditional knowledge, as received, to scholarly critique thus confronts the intrinsic contradiction of regarding mātauranga with a sense of critical distance and objectivitywhile it is, simultaneously a way of Being and a way of Knowing(Smith et al. 2016, p. 152).

There is no simple solution to this dilemma. Aspects of mātauranga that are implausible or irrational to western scholarship cannot be simply ignored and dissecting them out risks discarding contexts that disclose original meanings. Historical scholarship, at least, has to contend with the whole story, but critically

. . .The contrasting approach of Wehi et al. (2021a, 2021b), places unexamined traditional accounts of early Polynesian voyaging, or stories based on them, alongside archival records of historical Antarctic voyaging as if the two sources have the same historiographical status, i.e. as if traditional stories can be regarded without qualification as historical records. This is the method, comprehensively criticised (e.g. Sorrenson 1979), of Percy Smith and Elsdon Best more than a century ago. An analytical approach (Tau 2003, pp. 1520), taken here, considers the same accounts in terms of their origins, content and interpretation.

And that, my best beloved, is why no MM should be taught as coequal to science unless the empirical claims of MM have been verified using the methods of science. Here a scholarly analysis of an unlikely claim shows that claim to be what it seemed to be from the outset: bogus.

And remember it was Māori scholars who were largely responsible for debunking the Māori myths.

Finally, for the short read, here’s the bit about the Māori discovery of Antarctica from the Wikipedia article on “History of Antarctica“:

According to Māori oral history in New Zealand, Hui Te Rangiora (also known as ‘Ui Te Rangiora) and his crew explored Antarctic waters in the early seventh century on the vessel Te Ivi o Atea. Accounts name the area Te tai-uka-a-pia, which describes a ‘frozen ocean’ and ‘arrowroot’, which resembles fresh snow when scraped. However, this interpretation of the original account is disputed by Te Rangi Hīroa (Sir Peter Henry Buck) who lists evidence for his belief that ‘later historians embellished the tales by adding details learned from European whalers and teachers’. This interpretation of oral history and the probability of such a voyage have likewise been dismissed more recently by Ngāi Tahu scholars, who agree that ‘it is very unlikely that Māori or other Polynesian voyaging reached the Antarctic’.

I fear that it’s too late for New Zealand to get back on the rails and teach science as science in school, because Wokeness, once it gets started, is very hard to stop. And that’s what the coequality of MM with science is about: an attempt to valorize an oppressed minority by arguing that their very myths are the same thing as modern science. There are better ways to emphasize the Māori contributions to New Zealand without destroying science education in that country.



Wehi PM, Scott NJ, Beckwith J, Rodgers RP, Gillies T, van Uitregt W., and Watene K. 2021. A short scan of Māori journey to Antarctica. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand. doi:10.1080/ 03036758.2021.1917633.

Anderson, A., T O’Regan, P. Parata-Goodall, M. Stevens, and T. M. Tau. 2021.  On the improbability of pre-European Polynesian voyages to Antarctica: a response to Priscilla Wehi and colleagues Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, in press.

51 thoughts on “Examining one bit of Maori “knowledge”: Did the Maori or other Polynesians discover Antarctica?

  1. The NZ Herald is traditionally Auckland’s big newspaper, but it is also the self-styled ‘NZ newspaper of record’. Though Auckland’s population according to the 2018 census is 28% Asian, 16% Pacific Island ethnicities, 11% Maori ( where artist Peter ‘I am 3.125% Maori’ Robinson is counted as a Maori by the census and by Auckland Art gallery ), these proportions have never been heeded in its journalism.

    It prints numerous ‘Maori-esteem’ and ‘Maori-pride’ articles, such as this one. The NZ Herald declined to print my letter to the editor that I wrote the day this article was printed, proposing the same point : ‘If Maori only became Maori after first settlement in 1280 AD, and Maori ‘discovered’ Antarctica circa 800 AD, then the NZH should print my assertion that New Zealanders included the first named White person to sail to the Americas, since Columbus was basically a NZ European’. ( ‘Named’ to exclude the unknown Scandinavians who settled Newfoundland. But as Canada is cold and icy, I presume the Royal ‘Lysenkoist’ Society of NZ is working on a press release that Maori settled Canada.)

    I also forwarded my NZH letter to the editor to the Royal ‘Lysenkoist’ Society of NZ, asking for a clarification on what their ‘Proceedings’ published, but Drs Brent Clothier, Charlotte MacDonald, and Atkins never responded.

    1. The problem is not so much the NZ Herald, which presumably uses interns who scored in the bottom half of PISA & TIMSS in school to trawl everywhere for ‘Maori-esteem’ articles. This debacle lies squarely with the ‘Journal of the Royal Society of NZ’ for its acceptance of such industrial-strength mendacities masquerading as ‘science’. The PNAS or ‘Nature’, it is not. I wish there could be a test for journals to test them in science the way that school kids are tested in PISA and TIMSS.

    2. I should clarify my first post. The original NZ Herald article in the website claimed Maori discovered Antarctica first, not Polynesians! I also recall my print copy of the NZH stated the same, that ‘Maori’ discovered Antarctica first — but I didn’t save the clipping.
      It seems at some stage the NZH has retracted these headlines, and substituted ‘Polynesians’ for Maori.

      1. Ramesh 2.125% Denisovan/Neanderthal. My Chinese ancestors discovered NZ first ( oral tradition).

        Yes, ‘Journal of the Royal Society of NZ’ : 6/6/21 : ‘A Short Scan of Maori Journeys to Antarctica.’ by Priscilla Wehi.

        And these journeys went back to about AD 800, ie before Maori became Maori. The NZ Herald quoted this article both in print and online.

        1. Re :


          At the time this was published, I wrote to the Guardian ( UK and Aus bureaus ) about this article asking for a clarification. It seems pretty simple to note that with the earliest archaeological evidence dating to about 1280 AD for Maori in NZ, the sentence ‘Maori and Polynesian journeys to the deep south have been occurring for a long time, perhaps as far back as the 7th century’, is mendacious, at least with respect to Maori. I’ve been a paid subscriber to the Guardian for many years, so its accuracy matters to me.

          NOBODY at the Guardian bothered to reply to my note about the questionability of the facts.
          Readers should note the author of this article, Tess McClure, is the actual NZ bureau chief. So I was notifying the Guardian NZ head about her own article. Incidentally, the Guardian NZ under Tess McClure publishes integer multiples more articles about the NZ kakapo parrot [ population 200 ] and kea parrot [ population ca 5000 ] than NZ Asian humans [ population 750000 ]
          The author can be contacted at :

          1. Isn’t the scarcity of kakapos one of the key attributes that makes them of interest as a subject for articles? I am slightly at a loss as to how one is supposed to calculate the appropriate frequency for articles on NZ Asians from the ratio of their population size to that of parrots.

            1. Ramesh 2.125% Denisovan/Neanderthal

              Good point, Jonathan. It so happens I was reading the latest Guardian NZ article as the email alert popped up : ‘NZ man has live cockroach extracted from ear after doctors finally believe him after 3 days’. Glass half full says, ‘Guardian has more articles about NZ Asians than about cockroaches!’ Hurrah!

              The NZ Asian population is just under the NZ Maori population [ where Auckland artist Peter ‘I am 3.125% maori’ Robinson is counted as Maori.]
              But the number of articles about NZ Maori and NZ Maori culture, under the helm of Tess McClure, is many many times greater than the articles about NZ Asians. The big exception was when 50 Muslims [ of whom over half had associations with Asia ] were shot in mosques — then after a month the Guardian resumed ‘normal Asian benign neglect’. Now, if two ethnic groups are about equal in a nation, and one receives, say, 30 times more citations than the other in a ‘global serious newspaper of record’, what’s the R word I was reaching for, um… ‘realistic’, ‘riveting’, ‘rare’, … need some help here.

              1. But if NZ Asians are just ordinary people going about their lives why do you want more stories about them? If an NZ Asian does something newsworthy do you want that to be reported as an example of newsworthy Asians or just a New Zealander doing something newsworthy? Unless there is something specifically about their Asianess in the story (as in the mosque shooting story, say) isn’t it preferable that stories about NZ Asians in the news should not focus on their racial background?

                If you are aware of lots of stories with an important NZ Asian angle getting swept under the carpet then that is a problem but is it the case? The problem if there is one is the large number of stories about Maori culture rather than the paucity of articles about NZ Asians isn’t it? But there IS an ongoing story about Maori assertion of identity and rights so it is not necessarily racist (if that was the word you were groping for) to print a higher proportion of stories about this than the strict proportion of Maoris in the population would dictate (I am NOT commenting about how these stories are presented and whether or not they are critically accurate, balanced or fair). If newspapers only printed stories in strict proportion to demographics we would never hear about many of the stories we consider most newsworthy as most people, most of the time are not doing anything particularly interesting.

              2. Thanks for your insights, Jonathan. The ‘ongoing assertion of Maori identity and rights’ is obviously newsworthy for its highly contestable factual assertions ( viz, this article ). If there were fewer mendacities, obviously there would be no need for Dr Coyne to post multiple articles on his American blog over the past few weeks.

                The assertion of NZ Asian rights and multiple identities is obviously of little or no interest to many people. To give you just one example ( for brevity ), Auckland Chinese Tianyi Lu is the first NZer to EVER win a classical conducting competition in NZ history. In fact, she won two first places in Europe, where the standard is cutthroat. In NZ I have seen mediocre Maori string quartet players, classical composers etc have articles and photographs of themselves in the NZH and Dom Post, as well as exposure on TV1 and Newshub. Despite Tianyi Lu’s unprecedented feat, she gained no exposure on TV1, Newshub, Guardian NZ ( where Maori ‘Teeks’ and ‘Alien Weaponry’ featured heavily ), NZH, Dom Post. On the other hand, the world’s most visited English language classical website, in London, gave NZer Tianyi Lu headline attention — but this website also completely ignored the Maori composers, string quartet players etc fawned over by the NZ media because they were not up to international standard. What I am saying is that an Auckland Chinese reached top-place European standard and was ignored by the two big newspapers and TV channels, but internationally-terrible Maori classical musicians received fawning uncritical attention in the NZ media– just like these Maori Antarctic assertions.
                The website I refer to is here :

  2. As a biblical researcher, I am bombarded constantly by people who claim to be colleagues but who promote uncritical study of the Bible under the guise of academic research. They make claims similar to the ones you see here. Oral tradition, they assert, was solid and reliable. Transmission of traditional knowledge was carefully guarded against corruption. The knowledge contained in the tradition is an integrated whole, and one must trust the whole and not dissect its parts. And so forth. All this is expressed in the rhetorical style of academic research, and all of it is in service of a religious truth-claim. It is a Trojan Horse approach to promotion of a religion. Infiltrate the academy and undermine it from within.

    1. What would be interesting, then is if those sorts of Biblical proponents were to have debates with similar proponents for the inerancy of the Koran, or for other “inerrant” religions.

    2. Another similarity to biblical fanatics is: by insisting on some literal one-to-one correlation between myth and reality, they lose the meaning and feeling of the myth.

      No doubt the Maori story has lots of interesting things to teach about how Maori thought, what they valued, what lessons they felt were important to pass down in stories, etc. But if these literalists insist the maiden is a seal and the rock is Antarctica, they miss it all. Much like biblical literalists who insist the Noah’s ark story is about a boat and a flood, miss the whole discussion about God’s relationship with his people.

    1. Well, yes, because it actually happened. By luck or by skill, they got there without the ocean swallowing them up.

      1. And what surprises me about it is how late it came, relative to the other bits of rock in Pacific, which were settled by Polynesians centuries earlier and were further from the (presumed) point of origin of their Pacific voyages (e.g. Easter Island, Henderson Island, etc.).

        Based on relicts found, the Polynesians touched on (and often tried to colonize) just about every decent sized rock in the southern Pacific.

        1. Maybe the tidal swells and other practical navigation knowledge didn’t “point” to New Zealand as readily. Maybe someone blown off course and with no clue as to where the hell he was — “Where the Fukawi?” — thanked his lucky stars when, nearly out of water and with his oarsmen about ready to eat him, he spotted the long white cloud indicating land.

  3. That low rumbling noise you hear is Thor Heyerdal spinning in his grave. Is there a museum in Antarctica (or NZ) displaying all the physical evidence of Maori Antarctic expeditions? I’d love to visit New Zealand someday. If I ever do make it there, I’ll be sure to clean my footwear thoroughly before heading back, lest I bring any mātauranga with me inadvertently.

    1. There is an “Antarctic Experience” visitor attraction at Christchurch Airport, which is kind of weird because Toronto is as close to the North Pole as Christchurch is to the South. But the Antarctic Expeditions do leave from Christchurch and it’s a long stretch of empty ocean. We didn’t visit — it’s expensive and kind of hokey: a big room kept at -60C or something that you can experience dressed up in heavy parkas. I don’t know if they have any scientifically valuable exhibits there. They do have penguins.

      1. I seem to recall from a visit a few years ago that it was quite OK as such places go – that being said my grandson’s highlight of the trip to Christchurch was feeding the hens at my sister’s place rather than the visit to the Antarctic Centre. There was also quite a good Antarctic display at the local museum.
        Christchurch has been the jumping off point for Antarctic exhibitions since the time of Scott and remains so for several countries including the US.
        Recently the local nutcases circulated a story that the deep state/world government or the like had infiltrated Italian military into New Zealand as part of an upcoming takeover – the more prosaic explanation that they were Italian airforce personal providing logistical support for the Italian Antarctic programme was generally accepted as more plausible.

  4. Im your previous piece from a few days ago titled “What’s going on in New Zealand? Three easy pieces” I hunted down at #18 where the idea of “knowledge system” perhaps comes from. The author, distinguished professor emeritus Mason Durie, says in his paper that …

    Science is one body of knowledge and indigenous knowledge is another. It is important that the tools of one are not used to analyse and understand the foundations of another, or to conclude that a system of knowledge that cannot withstand scientific scrutiny, or alternately a body of knowledge that is incapable of locating people within the natural world, lacks credibility (Waldram, 1995, 214–218)

    Therefore we are forced answer the question of who discovered Antarctica first, Russians in 1820 or Māori a thousand years ago, with a firm “yes”. Both were first in each knowledge system.

    Durie, M. Indigenous Knowledge Within a Global Knowledge System. High Educ Policy 18, 301–312 (2005). doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.hep.8300092

      1. To think we were all sitting smug in the knowledge that “ it could never happen in NZ” was it just four years ago?
        Oh the embarrassment at trying to explain to international colleagues exactly what was happening when those 7 brave professors wrote their letter in defence of science.

    1. That’s b*llocks. Science isn’t (or isn’t just) a body of knowledge. It is a methodology for solving problems, and like everything else invented by humans it can be wrongly applied and be subject to error; but it works more often than not, and where it doesn’t, it is self-correcting.

      What methodology does MM have? None, as far as I can see. And everything that Durie says about ‘other systems of knowledge’ seems to me to be b*llocks as well. His whole position (I would not use the word ‘argument’) is exactly like that of the religious apologists who cannot contemplate allowing reason and evidence to impinge on their delusions.

      1. I don’t endorse such views, of course. I find it rather hilarious. I would be keen to learn how advocates would go about questions like these in earnest.
        On the contrary, it is customary of postmodern activists to espouse prima facie most eccentric views, but in a manner that is as cocksure as asserting water really is wet, and often with snark or hostility. I find this as impeccably uniform as a Nazi in attire.

  5. The authors of

    “On the improbability of pre-European Polynesian voyages to Antarctica: a response to Priscilla Wehi and colleagues Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand”

    for sure will be declared to be “MINOs” (Maoris in name only)

    1. It might be hard to do that with Sir Tipene O’Regan who is a major figure and leader in the Māori world and who is a Companion of the Royal Society of NZ. Given his background, putting his name to this article might be construed as a political statement. His main roles have been as a Treaty negotiator and company director especially of the Ngāi Tahu Māori Trust Board. He has written a short book on the Treaty negotiation process, one review of which states:

      “In lieu of alluring mysticism, Tipene argues convincingly for the necessity and possibility of ‘solid evidence about our [Māori] past’. His view is that this is achieved by ‘the mundane business of applying scholarly standards to Māori tradition and history’, in tandem with a functional knowledge of whakapapa, which he endearingly describes as simply ‘a task of intellectual management’ … Tipene’s defence of empirical truth is refreshing as is the role he envisions for academic disciplines in pursuing it.”

      1. The book by Sir Tipene O’Regan to which Gordon refers is “New Myths and Old Politics: The Waitangi Tribunal and the Challenge of Tradition” from Bridget Williams Books. It is well worth a read if you can get a copy – it is available free online for members of Auckland Public Library. I hope I can be excused a couple of longish quotes from the final chapter, “The Issue of Scholarly Standards” gives the flavour.

        “I return to the mundane business of applying scholarly standards to Māori tradition and history. I do so because it is, at root, the only weapon we have with which to defend the integrity of the Māori memory. And I do so specifically to challenge those who believe they can safely wallow in mysticism because ancient tradition is so far removed in the past that it is not, as a consequence, susceptible to rigorous and proper scholarly examination. I have spent quite a proportion of my professional life working with traditional evidence and I have pondered it a lot. I have come to some views of Māori, and Polynesian, evidence that are by no means unique – I owe a debt to the scholarly generation in which I find myself.”

        “If a stupid public wants to insist that it be duped into the misuse of its funds to sustain and promulgate fantasy and misconstruction, then we must have defences. By defences I mean mechanisms that prevent them from destroying our culture by the public adoption of Māori content that cannot be sustained, or is not able to be exposed to the ordinary standards of scholarly rigour. I have no objection to someone talking to the stones, and I have no objection to the stones talking back – what I do object to is that public funds should ever be brought to the support of taking the respective messages to our children.”

  6. The NZ Herald is basically a pretty crappy paper. I don’t think they’re particularly woke or have any consistent angle, just struggling to survive and printing anything that might help. They print this sort of stuff but also have several idiot right-wing talk show hosts as opinion columnists, the one most guaranteed to send my wife into a rage being Mike Hosking.

    This story was covered pretty widely overseas at the time:

    As Gordon says, Sir Tipene is an extremely well known figure here, and would be very hard to dismiss.

  7. What they need to do is to provide, in historical context, some Antarctic-sourced object in early NZ, or some early NZ relics in Antarctica, which can be shown with high confidence to have been placed there at the time in question.
    Oral accounts of ancient events are pretty sketchy. Even if someone wrote the narrative down before the speaker could have their account contaminated with outside knowledge, unless that narrative was very specific and unambiguous.
    This does not seem to be the case here.

    1. Given the ‘scholarly’ standards that currently prevail at the Journal of the Royal Society NZ, one awaits the article that proves Indians discovered NZ ages ago, as per the Tamil South Indian artefacts :

      And of course if Wiles, Hendy, and UoA Chancellor of Vice Freshwater are such staunch, nay, strident proponents of Matauranga Maori, surely by sheer logic to underscore their anti-racist credentials even further, why not advocate for ‘Matauranga Mahabharata’ as well? :

  8. Gordon is correct: Sir Tipene O’Regan is a rangatira (chief) who is highly respected both in Māoridom and the wider New Zealand community. However, Tina Ngata did try this trick with my Māori colleague Garth Cooper in relation to our letter to the NZ Listener. See:


    Having suggested “The first thing to note is that all of these authors are white”, Tina was obviously informed that Garth was tangata whenua (Māori). She added the following addendum:

    “I have heard it whispered that one of the authors (not Rata) “has Māori ancestry” and if that is true I certainly stand corrected that that person is most definitely an example of the impacts of
    intergenerational dispossession of Mātauranga Māori.”

    It is noteworthy that Tina says Garth is “of Māori ancestry” rather than simply acknowledging that he is Māori. Garth is also described as “most definitely an example of the impacts of intergenerational dispossession of Mātauranga Māori.” In other words, Garth is a MINO.

    This attitude by some proponents of the equivalence between MM and science should make it clear to all that there is no such thing as “a Māori viewpoint”.

      1. Siouxsie Wiles had this to say on Twitter at the time, “An excellent response to the utter racist garbage published by 7 Auckland Uni profs in the NZ Listener. The worst thing about this crap is that incredible people like Tina have to spend their valuable time responding.”

        1. Wiles advertises her intellectual limitations when she refers to the letter by the 7 Auckland profs as ‘racist garbage’. People whose only tool in the box is the word ‘racist’ have lost the argument.
          An intelligent, educated person would have explained why she considers it to be racist, giving evidence. But of course the ‘e’ word doesn’t seem to be part of her working vocabulary.
          Wiles is a product of what seems to be a wider phenomenon – the decline in academic calibre of university students as a result of governments trying to keep down unemployment by encouraging all and sundry to go to university. How else can one explain the high proportion of today’s university students who appear to be incapable of intelligent, rational, evidence-based thought.
          Result: ‘universities’, as places where one is free to think for oneself no longer exist in any meaningful sense of the word. One should, therefore, place the term ‘university’ in quotes.

          1. Ramesh 2.125% Denisovan/Neanderthal, currently colonised by a few kg of Gram positive and negative microbiota.

            Dr Wiles is perfectly competent in describing the interactions when several different species and strains of microbes colonise a petri dish, competing within the same space for finite resources. She has legitimate science degrees from well-ranked universities. Such is her domain ( in the singular ) of competence.

            However, she has no professional competence in describing the interactions when several different ‘ethnicities’ of homo sapiens sapiens populate the same discrete landform, coexisting or competing within the same space for constrained resources.

            That means, while I have spent nearly a year at the Wellcome Institute London, studying under medical historian Dr Roy Porter the history and development of European ‘scientific’ racism in the 19th to early 20th centuries, and how it was applied to imperial colonies, Dr Wiles to my knowledge has written no dissertation, indeed passed no rigorous tertiary papers on the sociology or scientific bases of ‘scientific racism’.

            1. Her discipline is microbiology which I being a physician and her being touted as a prominent advisor to the government on the pandemic I rather assumed (from far away) was in medical microbiology, that of micro-organisms that cause human disease. This does require some additional post-graduate knowledge in epidemiology, public health, and sociology/political science, even if not necessarily a professional medical degree. I was quite surprised, considering how vocal she’s been, that her discipline is bioluminescent plankton. This is undoubtedly a passion-engendering field but it doesn’t give her content authority on anything but it,

    1. Sir Tipene O’Regan was originally known as Stephen O’Regan. It was a source of amusement to PM Muldoon.( of whom I was not a fan)
      Is this inter generational repossession?

      1. I’ve yet to meet a New Zealander who will admit to being a fan of Piggy Muldoon, although the hostility of one friend lessened a little after Piggy appeared as the narrator in a production of “The Rocky Horror Show”. It wasn’t just Sir Rob who did that – I once had a Maori colleague, with a somewhat higher percentage of Maori ancestry than Sir Tipene, who always referred to him as “Steve O’Regan”.

        1. I remember (NZ P.M.) “Piggy” from living in Auckland in the 1970s as a kid: funny bugger.

          NZ was a weird, remote place then (I’m Australian) and coming from Australia where “multiculturalism” was an all encompassing (welcoming and welcomed) term for everybody, and popular, NZ with its “bi-racialism” didn’t make much sense to me. I saw it as exclusive, as did my Chinese friends even though there weren’t many E. Asians in NZ at the time.

  9. As New Zealand is the only country in the world where Pastafarian marriages are legally recognized, I am surprised the Church of the FSM has not weighed in. Good natured and fun loving pirates searching for the elusive beer volcano and finding Antarctica instead seems like a story almost certainly passed on by his noodly appendage. FSM deserves equal time, especially since the declining number of pirates worldwide has an inverse relationship with increasing global temperatures.

  10. How is this any different to claiming that there was a worldwide flood a few thousand years ago because that is what your faith tradition teaches?

    Should that be in geology classes now?

    1. I’m looking forward to the establishment of Grendel Studies Departments now we can assume he was a real live creature (oops! Sorry – person!)

  11. Pride for discoveries is a strange human obsession. It keeps us going in many ways and surely is based in evolution (curiosity). But when something has been discovered hundreds of years ago, and pretty much everyone knows of said discovery in this year 2022, what is this obsession to reclaim said discovery? I have no way to confirm this, but when it comes to “discoveries”, whether it be geography, or any other scientific field, I probably “know” less than 1% of the discovers of any given island, element or microbe. Hurts my brain…woke makes me want to sleep.

  12. Just looking through the list of authors to the response by Anderson et al, it looks as if not only are all of the authors Maori, they are all associated with Ngāi Tahu. The principal author, Atholl Anderson, is a New Zealand archaeologist who according to Wikipedia ” made a major contribution to the evidence given by the iwi (tribe) Ngāi Tahu to the Waitangi Tribunal.” I almost wonder if there isn’t some kind of academic turf war going on.

  13. And that’s what the coequality of MM with science is about: an attempt to valorize an oppressed minority by arguing that their very myths are the same thing as modern science.

    That and, at least from certain academic quarters, an attempt to diminish or destroy science as well. Probably stemming originally from academic insecurity, certain disciplines are explicitly anti-science and want to see that old western colonial hegemony called the scientific method taken down several pegs.

  14. Other ways of making shit up.

    This is all part of the post-modernist project of denying objectivity and evidence so everyone can make up their own reality.

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