Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Tall Ships leave Hobart. Which tall ship first saw a French Polynesian island?

When you fly into any large city airport, and look back at where you came from, often you see a line of planes at set distances and at different heights on their approach to landing behind you. I saw a clear resemblance between that situation and with the line up of the tall ships today as they motored towards the Tasman Bridge; each craft keeping a distance in front of them to allow the ship ahead to elegantly approach the bridge and run up various sails, then turn in a leisurely arc amidst a flurry of water traffic out for sightseeing, before heading back past the regatta stand in all their glory. From time to time various marine horns sounded and their booms bounced around the air. The whistling steam boat added an extra dimension to the festival atmosphere. Many different craft from ferries to kayaks to motor boats to water skis and an assortment of yachts tacked and tacked and tacked again to follow the ships with their long white water streams along the Derwent Harbor. The Mercury newspaper snapped this great shot: My Sydney friend Liz tells me these tall ships are due to make a spectacle in the Sydney Harbour on October 2nd, and having watched the 'speed' of the departure of these tall ships I can understand the trip north won't break any Hobart-Sydney records. But what a wonderful adventure for those new passengers who are on board just for that trip. All of this made me wonder which tall ship first visited Tahiti. There is debate about which explorer and therefore which tall ships first reached some part of what is now French Polynesia. One theory is that navigator Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, serving the Spanish Crown in an expedition to Terra Australis, was perhaps the first European to set eyes on the island of Tahiti. His 3 ships were the San Pedro y San Pablo (150 tons), San Pedro (120 tons) and the tender (or launch) Los Tres Reyes. Apparently he sighted an inhabited island on 10 February 1606. However, whether the island that he saw was actually Tahiti or not has not been fully ascertained. According to other authors the real discoverer of Tahiti was Spanish explorer Juan Fernández in his expedition of 1576–1577. Apparently Juan Fernandez set sail from Valaparaiso (regrettably, I cannot find the name of his ship/s. After heading west for one month along the 40th parallel south, in the spring of 1576 they arrived in an island described as "mountainous, fertile, with strong-flowing rivers, inhabited by white peoples, and with all the fruits necessary to live". I think this may be some of the Marquesas Islands. Alternatively, explorer Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira took four ships, San Gerónimo (the Capitana), the Santa Ysabel (the Almiranta), the smaller frigate Santa Catalina and the galiot San Felipe and left Callao, South America on 9 April 1595. On 21 July 1595 the ships reached the Marquesas Islands. So many canvases may have been billowing off Tahiti and/or the Marquesas for over 400 years.

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