Tupaia (also known as Tupaea) (c. 1725 – December 1770) was a Polynesian navigator and arioi (a kind of priest), originally from the island of Ra'iatea in the Pacific Islands group known to Europeans as the Society Islands. His remarkable navigational skills and Pacific geographical knowledge were to be utilised by Lt. James Cook, R.N. when he took him aboard HMS Endeavour as guide on its famous voyage of exploration. He joined the vessel near Tahiti, and was welcomed aboard on insistence of Sir Joseph Banks, a member of Cook's expedition.
Tupaia drew a chart of all the islands within 2,000 miles (3,200 km) radius (to the north and west) of his home island of Ra'iatea. Tupaia had knowledge of 130 islands and named 74 on his chart. Tupaia had navigated from Ra'iatea in short voyages to 13 islands. He had not visited western Polynesia, as since his grandfather’s time the extent of voyaging by Raiateans has diminished to the islands of eastern Polynesia. His grandfather and father had passed to Tupaia the knowledge as to the location of the major islands of western Polynesia and the navigation information necessary to voyage to Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. As the Admiralty orders directed Cook to search for the “Great Southern Continent”, Cook ignored Tupaia’s chart and his skills as a navigator.
Many Maori people have tales including Tupaea and his lineage that remains in New Zealand today.
- Druett, Joan (1987). Tupaia – The Remarkable Story of Captain Cook’s Polynesian Navigator. Random House, New Zealand. pp. 226–227.
- Druett, Joan (1987). Tupaia – The Remarkable Story of Captain Cook’s Polynesian Navigator. Random House, New Zealand. pp. 218–233. ISBN 978-0313387487.
- King, Michael (2003). History of New Zealand ISBN 0-14-301867-1, Penguin Books. Pages 103 & 106
- Hough, Richard (1994). Captain James Cook. Hodder and Stoughton. p. 201. ISBN 0-340-82556-1.
- Druett, Joan (2011). Tupaia, Random House, New Zealand; ISBN 978-0313387487
- King, Michael (2003). History of New Zealand, Penguin, ISBN 0-14-301867-1
- Tupaia at the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre
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