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Historian criticises NZ discovery claims as “shameful"

Media Release
10 January 2014

Historian criticises New Zealand discovery claims as “shameful”

Historian Professor Paul Moon has hit out at fresh claims of secret European efforts to colonise New Zealand prior to James Cook’s arrival in the country in 1769.   

Fragments from a ship buried in sand near Kaipara Head were recently carbon-dated to around 1705 AD, leading to Jonathan Palmer, a climate scientist at the University of New South Wales, suggesting that European powers were engaged in secret schemes to claim territories in the South Pacific seven decades before Cook’s arrival.

However, Professor Moon rejects these claims, criticising both the scientific as well as historical methods used.

“A few pieces of wood were tested, without any systematic attempt to get samples from all parts of the vessel”, Moon point out.  “As a result, the wood samples tested could easily have been pieces from the ship that were reclaimed from other, older vessels. This was a widespread method of ship-repair at the time.  This makes the dating exercise conducted on this vessel almost valueless”.

Professor Moon is even more critical of what he describes as “shameful” historical arguments used by the researchers: “essentially, they are saying that the absence of any documentary evidence at all is somehow ‘proof’ that there was a secret campaign by some European countries to explore and colonise territories in the South Pacific.” 

“Three centuries after the event, with all the archives open, we would expect to see solid evidence of such schemes.  The more sensible conclusion to reach from the lack of any paper-trail”, says Moon “is that there was no such secret scheme – it’s as simple as that. Instead, what we have been told is this ridiculous cloak-and-dagger story.”


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