Prof. Friedrich Ratzel

The Races of Oceania

General Survey of the Group

The vacant space between Easter Island and Peru

The relations of America with Polynesia

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The vacant space between Easter Island and Peru


The Pacific islands are in the tropical zone separated from the American shore by a space of forty to sixty degrees of longitude in which there are neither islands nor inhabitants. The single group of any size, namely the Galapagos, which can be reached in three days from the South American coast, seems never to have been seen by any man before the first visit of Europeans. If we consider that this empty space is only one-third as broad as that between Easter Island and the most easterly islands of the Malay Archipelago, and that the Easter Islanders, in order to reach their island from the Samoa group - generally considered the common centre of dispersion for the Polynesians, - had to traverse a much longer road than that space would involve, the gap will appear to us of much less importance. In proportion to the inhabited part of the Pacific with its many islands, this rift is not wide enough to prevent us from regarding the Pacific like the Indian Ocean, and in contrast to the Atlantic, as an inhabited sea.

Man of New South Wales

Man of New South Wales. (From a photograph.)
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We have no historical record of voyages, voluntary or involuntary, in the region east from Easter Island. Peruvian annals mention coasting voyages and more distant naval expeditions for conquest or discovery. Pizarro met with trading ships, and the Chinchas as well as the Chimus had traditions of a distant home across the sea. But there is no historical indication of any immediate traffic between Polynesia and South America. It is far more probable that the agreements and resemblances are all contained within the four corners of a common inclusion of both parts in the great Pacific group of races. The Chinese imagination again of a great land in the east can only be interpreted as meaning North-west America, and the gold-bearing islands which the Japanese placed in the east - Tasman was sent to discover them and found the Bonin Islands, - belonged to legend. As to the derivation of the old American civilizations from Asia, we shall have to speak of it in the American division of our work.

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