It is always a pleasure to discover some new piece of work or article by someone you write about. So it was when I recently came across a pamphlet on the history of the exploration of the Pacific Ocean. Although there is no name on the cover, the pamphlet, Early Voyagers of the Pacific Ocean, as published by the Hawaiian Historical Society in 1893, is actually written by Alatau Tamchiboulac Atkinson – and catalogued as such by the University of Hawaii.
This little pamphlet, only 16 pages in length, is written in a lively and entertaining style in the first person. It tells the remarkable story Alvaro Mendana de Neira (1542-1595), one of the earliest Pacific explorers, whose two voyages led to the discovery of the Solomon Islands, the Cook Islands and the Marquesas amongst other places. He sailed from Peru westwards, which gave the Spanish valuable information about traversing the huge Pacific Ocean. de Neira’s final expedition to the Solomon Islands, where he died of fever after trying to establish a colony, is the subject of the Robert Graves novel, The Islands of Unwisdom.
Alatau’s bright and breezy style makes it clear that he was a natural storyteller. It is wonderful to be able to add this little jewel to his other writings.