Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Circling Antarctica and getting into America

New Zealand to Tierra del Fuego
Route from New Zealand to Tierra del Fuego. Copyright © 2012 by Austin Whittall

Yesterday's post mentioned the possibility that archaic humans may have crossed the Southern South Pacific Ocean from New Zealand or Australia to Southern South America or Tierra del Fuego. Lets take a critical look at this idea.

Why would a group of humans get into a boat and row 1,400 km (870 mi) south towards the South Pole (which they ignored was there in the first place) and then circle the continent eastwards until after another 7,100 km (4,412 mi) they reached the southernmost tip of South America?

The most obvious explanation is: Chance. They were cast adrift and the oceanic currents pushed them away all the way to America. But, is this possible?

Yes: a paper by Gastineau [2] "A northward displacement of the ACC and a relatively higher flux of lithogenic particles from Australian or New Zealand were found for the LGM." (the ACC is the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, an oceanic current that encircles the southern continent in a west to east direction. This AAC however is a deep ocean current, the surface ones also flowed from Australia an New Zealand towards South America. Below is Fig. 12 of Gastineau's paper:

towards America
LGM currents South Pacific. From [2]

The image shows the surface and deep oceanic current, Iceberg trajectories in the Pacific sector of the southern ocean as well as the ACC during LGM. Notice the green arrows (surface currents) going towards America (the red arrow which was added by me, shows the general direction of these currents).

Could H. erectus, Denisovans or Neanderthals get to America following this route? Perhaps they took other currents further north, but note that the circulation in the South Pacific is counter clockwise that is, in the Equatorial part it flows west, then turns south next to Melanesia and returns east above Antarctica.

Referring to modern humans, Wyatt (2004) [1] suggests, regarding the peopling of America:
... a transpacific route from the Old World to the New World via the islands of Oceania has been essentially ignored. Of the many factors involved in completing such a voyage, besides an adequate watercraft, landfall frequency and prevailing winds and currents were most important. A chain of islands in the landless eastern South Pacific, with its consequent and possibly favorable modifications of regional sea surface currents, would have been particularly beneficial to eastbound mariners. Comparing present-day bathymetry with estimated late Pleistocene glacially induced sea level fluctuations suggests that latent islands may actually exist, especially when the effects of other geological phenomena are also considered. If exposed during the last glacial maximum (LGM), such a chain of islands could have provided facilitating layover points for ancient eastbound seafaring explorers, thus making a transpacific journey more plausible.

And may I add, during any previus Glacial Maximum and not only H. Sapiens, but any of our ancestors who managed to master the art of building water crafts.

Just as a point to ponder upon regarding primitive water craft, taken from a very interesting book that I recently translated for Carlos Pedro Vairo:

According to the historian Samuel Bennett, the Australian bark canoes were the most primitive appliances ever used by mankind for the purpose of navigation. [3]

They were named Bark canoes because they were made from bark stripped off gum trees in one piece and sewn together. Furthermore:

A canoe found in Arnhem Land by the anthropologist Sir Baldwin Spencer, during his 1901-1902 expedition to northern Australia, is kept at Victoria’s National Museum of. It is 5 m long [16.4 ft.]. It was brought there by eight Aboriginals the Pellew Islands, who went up the Macarthur River about 8 km [5 mi.]. This trip is interesting because it shows that they had to navigate about 16 kilometers [10 mi.] across the sea.
There are differences in the life spans of these canoes. Those for a single passenger which in case of an emergency were put together quickly, lasted a few days; however, large canoes built by several men and used to carry cargo apart from being used for fishing, could last a couple of years.

These canoes are found in different parts of the world, and yes, you guessed correctly: the Fuegian natives made bark canoes too!:

After discovering islands such as Navarino and Lennox, the expedition under Admiral Jacques L’Hermite (1624) came into contact with the Yamanas on the southern shores of Navarino. Aboard the Amsterdam, flagship of the Nassau fleet, was the Dutch Vice Admiral Geen Huygen Schapenham, to whom we owe the first description of the Yamana bark canoe. In his journal, translated by historian Pablo Gallez, he wrote: “...their canoes are worth admiring. In order to make them, they take the whole bark of a thick tree; they shape it and cut off certain parts and later sew them so that it acquires the shape of a Venetian gondola.” [3]

The Yamana canoes were made from the bark stripped off southern Beech or Nothofagus trees.

[1] Steve Wyatt, (2004) Ancient transpacific voyaging to the new world via Pleistocene South Pacific Islands. DOI: 10.1002/gea.20008. Geoarchaeology. Volume 19, Issue 6, pages 511–529, August 2004.
[2] G. Gastineau Provenance of the terrigenous sediments of the pacific sector of the southern ocean and variation during the LGM
[3] Carlos Pedro Vairo, (2001). The Yamana Canoe. Zagier & Urruty Publications. My translation for Vairo's next edition of this book (2011).

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Getting to America (Neanderthals)

Sea Ice
LGM sea ice and possible routes of entry from
the Old World into the New World
. Ice thickness in meters.
Adapted from [1]

A reader of this blog, Pablo Infantino and I exchanged several e-mails regarding possible entry routes into America for the Neanderthals.

Pablo suggests that they did not arrive via Beringia, they came across the North Atlantic, coasting the ice pack that covered that part of the world during the Ice Ages. This route, put forth by Stanford y Bradley to support their Solutrean migration into North America. Which, Pablo says could have been possible during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) some 20 kya or even before about 130 kya. He correctly asserts that the had the ability to build boats for coastal navigation, they were well adapted to the harsh cold conditions (clothes and physiology) and they also could have used the existing marine resources during the crossing (he cites Stringer and Finlayson to support the latter).

The North Atlantic route would have meant that they did not come across Denisovans or other pre-existing hominids in their coastal navigation.

It also explains why there are no traces of Neanderthal genes in Asia (they did not trek across Asia).

He points out two stumbling blocks:

1. The lack of evidence of Mousterian boats
2. The incorrect gradient of B006 haplotype and O blood group in Europe and America. Which should be higher in the Eastern seaboard and lowest in the West.
He -in my opinion- correctly states that later migrations pushed the Neanderthals towards the Western seabord. Pablo adds that: Otherwise the Neander may have diverged from the Denisovans in Ameria and moved across the Atlantic on a West to East course into Europe...).

I suggested that perhaps they had not "navigated" along the edge of the sea ice, but trekked across it. Believing that the ice extended from the British Isles all the way to America. Along the way they could have hunted seals, bears and the now extinct "aulk" or northern penguin. This would avoid the "boat" problem.

I also noted that the B006 gradient is similar to the situation found in Britain where the original Celtic genes were pushed into Ireland, Scotland and Wales when faced with the onslaught of Anglosaxons who displaced them from the best land.

Now, I have found an interesting map, shown above which shows that the sea ice did not extend from the UK to the US.

It changed between Summer and Winter. It actually had a deep indentation between Scandinavia and Iceland, so if the Neanderthals trekked across it, they walked a long way from C to D (note the word "ice" in blue shows the glacier cover in northern Europe). By boat the route would have been the same, unless they dared to go west and cross a large extent of open sea (southern red arrow) and then navigate along the ice pack.

It seems to me that the sea ice coverage in the North Atlantic is not suitable for the Neanderthal's Europe to America crossing.

By the way, I also looked at the South Atlantic recalling that in my book I had mentioned the following:

Portuguese anthropologist Mendes Correia (1888-1960) proposed a migration route via Tasmania, the Antarctic and Drake Passage, instead of trans-Pacific route, entering South America at Tierra del Fuego some 8,000 years BP, before the Antarctic ice cap formed. But this is conception is highly disputed and lacks archaeological proof.

So I took a look at the Southern Hemisphere's ice pack around Antarctica and traced the possible route as A to B. This could be the route taken by the modern Homo sapiens ancestors of Fuegian people from Australia to America. But also, the one taken by H. erectus long before modern men appeared.

[1] Bette L. Otto, et al. (2005). Last Glacial Maximum and Holocene Climate in CCSM3. Journal of Climate. vol. 19 pp. 2526- 44.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
 Copyright 2009-2011 by Austin Whittall © 
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