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Cook Islands

Cook Islands, New Zealand. 1920 map

Cook Islanders were voyagers on frail canoes who felt at home on the ocean and who travelled across its huge wastes in search of new lands. The journeys undertaken by these stone-age people in their fragile craft dwarf the voyages of exploration by the Portuguese, Spanish, British, Dutch, and French. (Map: New Zealand and Cook Islands, South Pacific. 1920.)

Over-population on many of the tiny islands of Polynesia led to these oceanic migrations. Tradition has it that this was the reason for the expedition of Ru, from Tupua'i in French Polynesia, who landed on Aitutaki and Tangiia, also from French Polynesia, who are believed to have arrived on Rarotonga around 800 AD.

Stone Carving. Rarotonga. Some evidence for this is that the old road of Toi, the Ara metua which runs round most of Rarotonga, is believed to be at least 1200 years old. Similarly, the northern islands were probably settled by expeditions from Samoa and Tonga.

As was common with most patterns of Polynesian migration, expanding population and pressure on resources resulted in the ocean-going canoes being stocked with food and the most venturesome souls being encouraged to set off to look for more living space. This pattern continues today across most Pacific islands except that entry restrictions to other lands are nowadays much more stringent. Cook Islanders are convinced that the great Maori migrations to New Zealand began from Rarotonga possibly as early as the fifth century AD. The most favored location for the starting point was Ngatangiia on the eastern side of Rarotonga where there is a gap in the fringing reef at the widest part of the island's lagoon.

Sunrise. Aitutaki.

The first official European sighting of Rarotonga was from the Endeavour in September/October 1813. The first known landing was by the crew of the Cumberland in 1814. This was a commercial expedition from Australia and New Zealand and its objective was to find sandalwood. There was none on Rarotonga. Instead, trouble broke out between the sailors and the islanders and many were killed on both sides including the captain's girlfriend, Ann Butchers. She was eaten and her bones are buried in Muri.

Colonies and India, December 21, 1895, London, United Kingdom

The Cook Islands.

Cook Islander. 1920s.

According to Te Torea, the fifth annual meeting of the Federal Parliament of the Cook Islands closed the other day. Mr. Moss, the president, said with reference to the school question, which has been agitated in the protectorate recently, that in every school the English language must be taught, and if any Government subsidy is received the books used and the subjects taught shall be those of the New Zealand schools. The Council passed a Public Schools Act on September 4. As to the hospital, Mr. Moss asked the advice of the Parliament, and it was the general opinion that establishment of this institution ought to be gradual, so as to win the confidence of the natives in it. It was said that few natives would at present go to a hospital, except in surgical cases. The majority resort to the missionaries or to the native doctors.

Aitutaki. One Foot Island. Cook Islands.

A report from the Government of Rarotonga states that the census had shown the population to be larger than it had been estimated. There is a suggestion of the Roman city government in this paragraph from Te Torea of September 7:

"The institution of Makea Ariki, of having an annual inspection of the domestic arrangements of every household, took place during the present month." And:--"The present rage amongst the natives, especially at Arorangi, appears to be the purchase of carriages and buggies. The coffee crop has enabled the people to collect money enough to purchase these expensive luxuries. We must not forget to congratulate the British Resident and the local Government on having so much improved the roads that it is quite a pleasure now to take a drive right round the island. We have also noticed lately a number of bicycles spinning along the roads. The natives, however, do not appear to take to cycling. It will no doubt come in time."

By 1900, administrative control was transferred to New Zealand; in 1965, residents chose self-government in free association with New Zealand. The emigration of skilled workers to New Zealand and government deficits are continuing problems.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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