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Palaeoclimate

Winds favoured Pacific exploration

Polynesians took advantage of an unusual shift in climate and tradewind direction about a 1,000 years ago to sail downwind towards New Zealand and other islands.

Ian Goodwin at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and his colleagues reconstructed Pacific sea-level pressure and wind patterns during a period 700–1,200 years ago when certain Polynesian islands and New Zealand were colonized, and when the global climate shifted. They found that these climate changes resulted in altered wind patterns that allowed Polynesians to easily sail to the East Polynesian islands, New Zealand and Easter Island without having to travel against the wind.

The finding contradicts earlier assumptions that these voyagers needed to sail upwind to reach their destinations.

Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 10.1073/pnas.1408918111 (2014)

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Winds favoured Pacific exploration. Nature 514, 9 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/514009b

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