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October 20, 2000.
What if Europeans had learned from Polynesian principals of boat design?
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Think of what might have happened in the great naval battles that took place during the era of sailing warships if some European nation had possessed sailing vessels as superior in speed to those of its adversaries as the Polynesians' canoes were to the warship of Captain James Cooke when he 'discovered' their islands. Yet when Cooke, and, in fact, all other English, French, Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese explorers first encountered Polynesian peoples, the Europeans' were apparently so blinded by their imagined superiority to these "savages" that they seemed hardly to notice that the outrigger canoes whizzing around them were going far faster than any vessel they had ever seen, or owned, or which had ever been designed and built in Europe. One might think that the fact such boats could be built would have been of such immense practical interest to the Europeans who first saw them that their experience would have launched a major effort on the part of their nations to use the principle of outriggers and catamarans in designing a whole new breed of much faster sailing warships. But no, even though the European nations that funded many voyages of exploration were bitter Naval rivals, everyone persisted in designing and building the same old standard, much slower, monohull warships.

The inventor of the Polaroid camera, Edmund Land, once remarked that many discoveries are often simply cessations of some stupidity. The failure of my European relatives to embrace catamarans and outriggers seems a particularly clear example of a stupidity that still hasn't ceased.

2000 - Roger Payne

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