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Ulimaroa unveiled?

Before the name 'Australia' had been adopted for the southern continent, several names had been applied to it. The most curious of these was Ulimaroa. This appellation was first used by the Swedish geographer and cartographer Daniel Djurberg. He used the name in most of his subsequent publications and maps. Djurberg (1776, 22-23) writes:
   The world is divided into 5 main parts: 1. Europe, 2. Asia, 3.
   Africa, which makes up one large island, 4. America, which makes up
   the other island, 5. Polynesia, which includes all the large and
   small islands which cannot be joined to any of the previous four
   continents and includes, among others, the large island Ulimaroa,
   which in old geographies is known as New Holland.

He first used Ulimaroa on a map in 1780 (Fig. 1.) (Du Rietz 1961, 84; Tooley 1985, 58). Subsequently, other cartographers and publishers used it on various European maps until 1819 and possibly as late as 1840 (Figs. 2 & 3.) (Tooley 1985, 147 & 151). Later, Djurberg (1801, 718) provided a justification for bestowing the name Ulimaroa on Australia:
   On page 436 [of Hawkesworth's rendition of Cook's first voyage],
   Ulimaroa is mentioned as the biggest island in the world. I should
   give a reason for this name. This land is called New Holland in a
   lot of maps, but for what reason I do not know; there is no
   similarity between Holland in Europe and this land, neither in size
   nor in the area's character. You find in the account of the famous
   English sailor Cook's journeys that when he was on the northern
   coast of New Zealand, he asked the inhabitants there if they knew
   any other country, to which they replied that to the north-west of
   their home, a quite large land was located, which they called
   Ulimaroa. I have decided to maintain this name as given to this
   land by its neighbours; besides it is better than New Holland.

Djurberg is wide of the mark in his reading of Hawkesworth (see below). Nowhere in Hawkesworth is Ulimaroa described as "the biggest island in the world"--it is merely described as "a country of great extent"--nor is its direction given as north-west of New Zealand (the direction of Australia from New Zealand). His argument that New Holland is an inappropriate name because there is "no similarity between Holland in Europe and this land, neither in size nor in the area's character" is strange because he has no objection to using the names New Zealand and New Caledonia on his maps. These certainly have no similarity to either the province of Zeeland in the Netherlands nor to Scotland.


As Djurberg correctly observes, the name Ulimaroa first appeared in print in John Hawkesworth's 1773 rendition of Captain James Cook's first voyage (1768 to 1771), the official compilation of the journals of Cook and Joseph Banks. The extracts below are from the official publication and journal entries made during the Endeavour's visits in New Zealand to Doubtless Bay and Queen Charlotte Sound.

Hawkesworth (1773, II:367): 9 December 1769, Doubtless Bay
   [...] finding these people so intelligent, we inquired farther, if
   they knew of any country besides their own: they answered, that
   they never had visited any other, but that their ancestors had told
   them, that to the N.W. by N. or N.N.W. there was a country of great
   extent, called ULIMAROA, to which some people had sailed in a very
   large canoe; that only part of them returned, and reported, that
   after a passage of a month they had seen a country where the people
   eat hogs. Tupia then enquired whether these adventurers brought any
   hogs with them when they returned; they said No: then, replied
   Tupia, your story is certainly false, for it cannot be believed
   that men who came back from an expedition without hogs, had ever
   visited a country where hogs were to be procured. It is however
   remarkable, notwithstanding the shrewdness of Tupia's objection,
   that when they mentioned hogs it was not by description but by
   name, calling them Booah, the name which is given them in the
   South-sea islands; but if the animal had been wholly unknown to
   them, and they had had no communication with people to whom it was
   known, they could not possibly have been acquainted with the name.

Joseph Banks' [Beaglehole 1962, I:446-447] version of the incident is as follows: 9 December 1769, Doubtless Bay
   [...] finding these people so intelligent desird him [Tupa'ia] to
   enquire if they knew of any Countries besides this or ever went to
   any. They said no but that their ancestors had told them to the NW
   by N or NNW was a large countrey to which some people had saild in
   a very large canoe, which passage took them up a month: from this
   expedition a part only returnd who told their countreymen that they
   had seen a countrey where the people eat hogs, for which animal
   they usd the same name (Booah) as is usd in the Islands. And have
   you no hoggs among you? said Tupia.-No.-And did your ancestors
   bring none back with them?-No.-You must be a parcel of Liars then,
   said he, and your story a great lye for your ancestors would never
   have been such fools as to come back without them.

Notice how Banks does not refer to this land by name. Cook's journal does not mention this incident at all, however, he does allude to it in his journal entry of 6 February 1770 (see below).

Hawkesworth (1773, II:403): 5 February 1770, Queen Charlotte Sound
   [...] our old man Topaa came on board to take his leave of us, and
   as we were still desirous of making farther enquiries whether any
   memory of Tasman had been preserved among these people, Tupia was
   directed to ask him whether he had ever heard that such a vessel as
   ours had before visited the country. To this he replied in the
   negative, but said, that his ancestors had told him there had once
   come to this place a small vessel, from a distant country, called
   ULIMAROA, in which were four men, who, upon their coming on shore,
   were all killed: upon being asked where this distant land lay, he
   pointed to the northward. Of Ulimaroa we had heard something
   before, from the people about the Bay of Islands, who said that
   their ancestors had visited it; and Tupia had also talked to us of
   Ulimaroa, concerning which he had some confused traditionary
   notions, not very different from those of our old man, so that we
   could draw no certain conclusion from the accounts of either.




Joseph Banks' [Beaglehole 1962, I:463] account of the incident reads: 5 February 1770, Queen Charlotte Sound
   [...] [they] have a tradition of 2 large vessels, much larger than
   theirs, which some time or other came here and were totaly destroyd
   by the inhabitants and all the people belonging to them killd'.
   This Tupia says is a very old tradition, much older than his great
   grandfather, and relates to two large canoes which came from
   Olimaroa, one of the Islands he has mentiond to us. Whether he is
   right, or whether this is a tradition of Tasmans ships whose size
   in comparison to their own they could not from relation conceive a
   sufficient Idea of, and whoom their Warlike ancestors had told them
   they had destroyd, is dificult to say. Tupia all along warnd us not
   to beleive too much any thing these people told us; For says he
   they are given to lying, they told you that one of their people was
   killd by a musquet and buried Which was absolutely false.

The first sentence in Banks' account referring to "2 large vessels" may be a recollection of Tasman's visit in 1642.

James Cook's [Beaglehole 1968, 245] account reads: 6 February 1770, Queen Charlotte Sound
   [...] The old man seeing us under sail came on board to take his
   leave of us, amongest other conversation which pass'd betwixt him
   a[nd] Tupia he was ask'd if ether he or any of his ancestors had
   ever seen or heard of any Ship like this being in these parts, to
   which question he answer'd in the negative, but said that his
   Ancestors had told him that there came once to this place a small
   Vessel from a distant land call'd Olhemaroa wherein were four men
   that were all kill'd upon their landing and being asked where this
   distant land lay he pointed to the North, intimated that it would
   take up a great many days to go thether. Something of this land was
   mentioned by the people of the Bay of Islands who said that some of
   their Ancestors had been there. But it is very clear to us that
   their knowlidge of this land is only traditionary.

In sum, the above accounts indicate that Maori in two different places had knowledge of a distant land to the north or north-north-west, heard in Queen Charlotte Sound as "Olimaroa" by the visitors, and that Tupa'ia (Cook's Tahitian interpreter) had also mentioned the same island; the sailing distance from New Zealand was about one month, Ulimaroa was a relatively large land, and its people ate pigs.


Few scholarly attempts have been made to explain the origin and meaning of Ulimaroa (see Plant 1793-99; Tooley 1985; Langenfelt 1954). With the exception of Tooley and Plant, all acknowledge Hawkesworth's account as the source of the form Ulimaroa. Tooley and Plant also claim it to be an Australian Aboriginal name; although neither supply any evidence for this claim.

Djurberg (1818, 414), claims that Ulimaroa was the Maori name for Australia, and meant 'big red land'. This cannot be so because the words for 'red' and 'land' in Maori are kura and whenua respectively. There are several other problems with Djurberg's thesis. The first is its relative position to Doubtless Bay and Queen Charlotte Sound--Australia is due west to north-west, not north-northwest. Secondly, with the exception of perhaps the northern segment of Cape York Peninsula (see Baldwin 1983), there were no pigs in Australia prior to European settlement. Finally, there is no evidence to suggest that the Maori ever ventured to Australia, even though they may have had the craft to do so, and the Australian Aborigines certainly did not have the craft to cross the Tasman Sea.

Plischke (1960) also discusses Plant's work, and likewise dismisses Plant's notion that it is the indigenous name for the Australian continent. Plischke presents a brief account of Tasman's and Cook's visits to New Zealand followed by quite a detailed account of Hawkesworth's narrative of Cook's visit. The origin of the different spellings (Olhemaroa/Olimaroa) as well as the Oremaroa depicted on Tupa'ia's map are also briefly discussed, but not analysed or explained in any way. Oddly enough, Plischke then suggests Ulimaroa is a German transliteration of Olhemaroa. This is completely untenable, because Hawkesworth used the spelling Ulimaroa in 1773, well before any German translation was possible.

The most lengthy publication addressing the enigma of Ulimaroa is Du Rietz's 19-page article entitled Daniel Djurbergs namn pa Australien ['Daniel Djurberg's name for Australia'] (1961). He discusses Djurberg's use and source of the name, and the entries in the journals of Cook and Banks. His paper is largely descriptive and offers no new or useful analysis or interpretations of the name. He does, however, offer one rather curious explanation for the demise of the name (Du Rietz 1961, 95-6):
   It is actually quite strange that the name did not become more
   widespread than was the case. [...] The name Ulimaroa for Australia
   would not have been more unreasonable than the name America for the
   New World. Luck (or bad luck) as far as Ulimaroa is concerned is
   that Djurberg did not write his books in a world language and the
   name Ulimaroa on maps of Polynesia does not seem to have made much
   of an impression abroad, even though his maps, as Djurberg in 1795
   very modestly claimed, had the honour of being the "best and only"
   ones of their kind at that time.

Beaglehole briefly discusses the issue in two footnotes in his edition of Banks' journal (Banks [Beaglehole] 1962, I:447 & 463). The first points out that the north-north-west direction from Doubtless Bay suggests New Caledonia as the location of Ulimaroa. The second relates to the incident at Queen Charlotte Sound, where Beaglehole connects Olimaroa to Oremaroa on Tupa'ia's map. It is worth quoting him in full:

This story has caused a great deal of difficulty, and what the old man meant is far from clear. Two large canoes might quite well have come from one of the Polynesian islands some time after the principal Maori migration in the Fleet, and their crews being taken for enemies, have met disaster. According to Cook's version (p. 245) a small vessel came, and four men were killed, which would tally, up to a point, with Tasman's visit--if the small vessel was Tasman's cockboat. But according to Cook again, the old man's information was that this small vessel came from the north, and Tasman did not arrive at New Zealand from the north. To the old man, certainly, one direction might have been as good as another. We do not get much help from the name 'Olimaroa'; it is not on the map now, and it is not in the list of names of islands which Cook got from Tupaia (pp. 291-3). But the map which Tupaia drew has the names 'Oremaroa', roughly north-east of Tahiti, and 'Olemateroa', north-west of Tahiti. Oremaroa has no island attached to it. J. R. Forster picked up the name 'O-Rima-Roa' somehow on the second voyage (Observations, p. 519) and says it 'coincides nearly with the situation of the Isles of Disappointment, seen by Admiral Byron in 1765'. These, Napuka and Tepoto, form part of the north-eastern fringe of the Tuamotus. The name seems otherwise unknown. [...]

Vrbicky and Kabat (1964) is, to date, the most thorough and scholarly work on Ulimaroa. They begin by providing a detailed discussion and analysis of the journal entries of Cook and Banks, as well as Hawkesworth's rendition of their journals. They complete their paper by reviewing Djurberg's use of the name. The one noteworthy contribution they make to the Ulimaroa debate, however, is a brief discussion on the spelling and pronunciation of the name, in which they suggest (incorrectly) that 'Ulimaroa' is composed of uri 'offspring, descendant, race', ma 'white', and roa 'long'. However, they do recognise that /l/ is not a sound occurring in Maori, which uses /r/ instead (Vrbicky & Kabat 1964, 466).

Aurousseau (1973) briefly traces the origin of Ulimaroa and discusses some of the studies mentioned above. He declares the name is not of Maori origin, and that there is no evidence that the Maori had a name for Australia, or even knew of its existence. He doesn't offer a reason for it not being Maori, nor a possible source for the name. Based on the directions given in Hawkesworth, he suggests Ulimaroa may refer to New Caledonia, admitting however that there were no pigs there until Cook introduced them on his second Pacific voyage in 1774. Aurousseau also briefly deals with the various spellings of the name with either l or r.

More recently, Anne Salmond (2004, 138) speculates that the island visited by the ancestors of the people of Doubtless Bay might have been "one of the high islands of West Polynesia." This reference, brief though it is, is the most recent we know of.

None of the above authors has really addressed, in detail, all or any of the issues that need to be considered in solving the enigma of Ulimaroa. These issues include: the name's morphology (meanings of its structural elements); Tupa'ia's rendering of the name, and Cook's, Banks' and Hawkesworth's transcriptions of it; the reported size of Ulimaroa; its location, direction and distance from New Zealand; and the existence of pigs in Ulimaroa. We attempt to do so below.

However, before we do so we must briefly present some background pertaining to Tupa'ia, for he plays a not insignificant role in the story. Tupa'ia who is mentioned in Cook's and Banks' accounts, was a priest, chief and navigator of Ra'iatea. He was living on Tahiti when he met Cook, and was invited to accompany the Endeavour back to England and act as pilot, interpreter, guide and informant on the voyage through the Pacific. Tupa'ia also drew a map of his ocean world for Cook, covering some 7,000 km of the central Pacific, from Fiji to the Marquesas, and depicting 70 islands. When the Endeavour arrived in New Zealand, it was discovered that Tupa'ia could converse with the Maori "with great facility" (see Banks [Beaglehole], 1962, v.2, 35). Every encounter Cook had with the indigenous peoples of the central Pacific and New Zealand was mediated by Tupa'ia, who continued serving as pilot and intermediary until his death in Batavia about 18 months later.


It is not an unusual practice for languages when borrowing toponyms, or other nouns, to include the article of the donor language. Examples include:

* Portuguese o Porto 'the port' is borrowed in English as Oporto.

* Arabic al 'the' has become prefixed to many toponyms of Arabic origin in Spain and Portugal, e.g. Algarve 'the west', Almeria 'the watch tower', Algeciras 'the green isle'. The nouns algebra and alcohol are also examples of this phenomenon.

* French l'auto 'the car' is borrowed in Bislama (the pidgin of Vanuatu) as loto 'car'.

* Fijian na qio 'the shark' is borrowed in Fiji Hindi as nagio 'shark'.

* Tahitian 'o Tahiti 'Tahiti' is borrowed in 18th century English as Otaheite (the orthographic symbol ' represents a glottal stop in many Polynesian languages).

* Tahitian 'oRa'iatea 'Ra'iatea' is borrowed in 18th century English as Ulietea.

We believe that this affixation of the article to the toponym also occurs in Cook's Olhemaroa and Banks' Olimaroa, and that this represents the Tahitian article 'o plus the toponym Rimaroa, in the same way that 18th century English Otaheite represented the Tahitian article 'o plus the toponym Tahiti. After the Endeavour left New Zealand, Banks wrote some general remarks on the Maori language, and indicated his awareness that he and his fellow travellers had often mistakenly understood articles (and other words) to be part of placenames and other nouns, giving the example of the island of Motuaro which came to be referred to in the log book as Cumattiwarroweia--literally 'Truly, it is Motu-aro' (Banks [Beaglehole], 1962, v.2, 37).

It may, therefore, be argued that if Rimaroa were a Maori toponym, one would expect the prefixed article to be the Maori ko rather than the Tahitian 'o (perceived by English-speakers as simply o-). The answer to this objection is that the article is Tahitian rather than New Zealand Maori because this information, as with other information provided by the Maori, was conveyed to the Englishmen via the Tahitian-speaking Tupa'ia. Tupa'ia's influence is also apparent in some of the Maori words collected by Cook and his men, where the t for expected k could well be due to Tupa'ia's 'hypercorrecting'--extending to Maori his habit of 'correcting' his native Ra'iatean /k/ to /t/ when speaking Tahitian (Banks [Beaglehole], 1962, v.2, 35-36).

Why Hawkesworth changed the initial O to U is unknown. Perhaps he was influenced by the initial 'U in Ulietea. Beaglehole (Cook 1968, 141, fn.2) suggests that what Cook and his men heard was the old name of the island, given by Ellis (1829, v.2, 6) as Ioretea, and that they perceived the 'rapidly-sounded Io-' as 'u'. We find this argument unconvincing, and suggest that the perception of 'u' may have resulted from a raised or centralised allophone of /o/, perhaps before /r/, in Tahitian.

Vrbicky and Kabat (1964, 465-66) speculate that it may have been due to "Hawkesworth's own carelessness [in] a badly formed 'O' in his manuscript, a printer's error and inadequate proof-correction or a wish to improve on his original [...]." They conclude, "Why he spelt it with a 'U' is anybody's guess".

The 'o Ra'iatea to Ulietea example also highlights another common 'error' Europeans made when transcribing Polynesian words. As has been noted, by ourselves and others, Ulimaroa cannot be phonemically correct, since no Polynesian language (with the exception of a handful of outliers in Melanesia whose phonology has been enriched by borrowing) has more than one liquid (i.e. /l/ or /r/ or a similar sound). A corollary of this, however, is that there is more 'phonetic space' for the single liquid phoneme. In other words, if the single liquid is /l/ it may be pronounced more like /r/ in certain environments, and vice versa. Tongan /l/, for example, is often pronounced and sounds more like /r/ (between certain vowels) (Churchward 1953, 1; Shumway 1971, xv). Similarly, the single liquid phoneme of Hawai'ian, now always spelt l, often sounds more like /r/, and was often so written by early visitors, before the spelling system was codified by the missionaries. This is why Cook and his men, while usually transcribing the single Tahitian and New Zealand Maori liquid as r, sometimes used l, as in the place names Ulietea, Bolabola, and Tolaga, and the word kumala 'sweet potato' (see Banks [Beaglehole], 1962, Vol. 2, 36). So the presence of both l and r in the name Ulimaroa does not mean that the word is not Polynesian, but that the same liquid phoneme was pronounced and perceived differently in different phonetic environments within the word. We will henceforth follow the correct Maori spelling conventions and write the toponym as Rimaroa.


Now that we have determined that the name of the place the Maori were referring to was most likely Rimaroa, we examine all the relevant facts to determine which place the name referred to. What we know is as follows:

1. The name of the island is Rimaroa.

We know of only one island named Rimaroa/Remaroa, and its exact location is uncertain. Tupa'ia drew a chart of islands that he knew, and the name Oremaroa appears on this chart, apparently somewhere in the Tuamotus. It is also mentioned by Johann Reinhold Forster (1778) as being in the Tuamotu group, but has never been positively identified. As noted above, Beaglehole has suggested, on the basis of its alleged location, that it refers to one of the islands now known as Napuka and Tepoto. More recently Di Piazza and Pearthree (2007) have proposed that, given its bearing on the chart from Mehetia, Oremaroa may have referred to Hiva Oa in the Marquesas. Whatever the case, it is not a large island, and it is on the far side of Tahiti, north-east of New Zealand, not north-north-west. It is also much further distant than one month's sailing. The name Rimaroa also mitigates against the referent being Fiji, because Fiji was known to the New Zealand Maori, at least in oral tradition, as Whiti (Smith 1894), and the Fijians themselves used the name Viti, so it is unlikely that Fiji, or any part thereof, would have acquired a name such as Rimaroa. The Grande Terre of New Caledonia, on the other hand, never had a single indigenous name for the whole island, so visitors seeking a name for the island would need to invent one.

2. The possible meaning of Rimaroa is 'long arm' (rima 'arm/hand', roa 'long').

In all languages that have a reflex of Proto Polynesian *lima it means 'hand, arm' (and 'five'), while reflexes of *loa all mean 'long, tall', and are commonly used as modifying elements in Polynesian toponyms, such as Fagaloa in Samoa, Hanaloa in Hawai'i, and Whangaroa in New Zealand, all meaning 'long bay' or 'long harbour'. Thus the name Rimaroa therefore suggests a long narrow island, such as Grande Terre in New Caledonia. A slightly different interpretation of the suffix -roa is offered by Henry, who believes that the Tuamotu islands Takapoto and Takaroa mean, respectively, 'short separation' and 'long separation'--presumably referring to distance from Tahiti (Teuria & Babadzan 1993, 114 & 117). There is, however, as far as we know, no island by the name of Rimapoto. (The southernmost of the small islands that constitute Caroline Island in the Line Islands of Kiribati does bear the name Rimapoto, but this appears to be very recently bestowed.)

3. Rimaroa's direction from New Zealand is N.N.W. or N.

The Grande Terre of New Caledonia is north-north-west of New Zealand.

4. Rimaroa is a large island.

The Grande Terre of New Caledonia is a relatively large island.

5. Rimaroa's distance from the northern extremes of both the North and South Islands of New Zealand is about a month's sail (or "a great many days").

The Grande Terre of New Caledonia is approximately one month's sail from New Zealand.

6. Rimaroa had pigs.

It is generally believed that there were no pigs on New Caledonia before Cook introduced them on his second voyage in 1774.

To summarise, the Grande Terre of New Caledonia appears to be the strongest candidate for the referent Rimaroa, in terms of its direction, shape, and size (Fig. 4.). The problem with this interpretation is that there were no pigs there when it was first visited by Europeans in 1774; moreover, the word for 'pig' throughout New Caledonia is clearly borrowed, probably from a Polynesian language or languages, suggesting there was no indigenous name for 'pig'. We believe these difficulties are surmountable, and in the following section we present evidence that the pig may have been present on the Grande Terre of New Caledonia before Cook.



This question is answered with a resounding "no" by Hollyman, who writes:
   Aucun temoignage ne permet de valider la croyance locale assez
   repandue selon laquelle la presence des cochons est pre-europeenne:
   c'est Cook qui a ete le premier a les introduire ['There are no
   accounts that enable us to validate the fairly widespread local
   belief that pigs pre-date the European presence. It was Cook who
   was the first to introduce them.']

He goes on to list various words for 'pig' in New Caledonia and the Loyalties, stating that the source of some is Polynesian puaka, while for others it is English porker (Hollyman 1986).

Indeed, there is no evidence, either from oral traditions or archaeology, for pigs existing on New Caledonia prior to their being introduced in 1774 (Christophe Sand2, pers.comm.). Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine that pigs never existed there, given its proximity to southern Vanuatu, and the strong likelihood that Western Polynesian migrants, some of whom were there before Cook, would have brought pigs with them. Guiart (1963) presents evidence for Tongans, Walliseans, and Samoans having migrated to different parts of New Caledonia. A close reading of Cook's account of his introduction of two pigs to New Caledonia on Monday 12 September 1774 is instructive (Cook [Beaglehole] 1968, 537-8):
   [...] I took a young Boar and a Sow with me in the boat and went up
   the Mangrove creek to look for my friend [blank in original] but
   when we came there we were told he lived at some distance off [...
   ] Our guide we had to the hills happened to be here, I made him
   understand I wanted to leave the two pigs a Shore, which I had now
   ordered out of the boat; several people present made signs to me to
   take them away one of which was a grave elderly man, him I made
   understand that it was my intention they should remain there, at
   which he shook his head and repeated his signs to take them away;
   but when they saw I did not do it they seemed to consult what was
   to be done, and at last our guide told me to carry them to the
   Alekee (Chief), accordingly I ordered them to be taken up by my
   people, for none of the others would come near them [...]

The Swedish botanist Sparrman similarly reported that the men of the district "demurred" when offered a pair of hogs, even though the chief of the same district had been "beside himself with delight" four days earlier at the gift of a dog and a bitch (Sparrman 1953, 161-2.).

Clearly, the people of Balade did not want the pigs, and there was no sign of them or their progeny when the French Rear-Admiral d'Entrecasteaux visited the area twenty years later (Labillardiere 1800, 191 & 256-7). Likewise, some 80 years later Captain Erskine reported that 'the few domestic animals left at Balad by Captain Cook, seem to have been destroyed soon after his departure' (Erskine 1853, 356).

Previous interpretations of this incident have focused on the strange and novel appearance of the pigs (Thomas & Berghof 2000, 586; Salmond 2004, 281; Lyons 1986, 3-4), but another possible reading is that the men of Balade were familiar with pigs, and with the destruction they could cause to plantations, and they or their ancestors had chosen to exterminate them and not allow them to be re-introduced. Were this the case, it would not be the first of its kind in the Pacific, since it is well documented, based on both oral tradition and archaeology, that there were pigs in Tikopia (the Polynesian outlier in the eastern Solomons) until they were exterminated by the Tikopians in the 18th century, principally because of the damage they were causing to gardens (Kirch & Yen 1982, 353-4). In the Cook Islands, pigs were found on neither Mangaia nor Aitutaki at the time of their discovery by Europeans, though placenames suggest that they had been there formerly (Wyatt-Gill 1876, 15), an inference supported by archaeological evidence of the presence of pigs on Mangaia from at least AD 1000 to the end of the 15th century (Kirch 2000, 432; Giovas 2006, 78-9), and this absence could similarly be due to their having been exterminated. To add to this list, Kirch has argued that the pig was also eliminated from the economic system of Mangareva, in what is now French Polynesia (Kirch 2000, 432).

That the New Caledonian word for 'pig' appears to be borrowed from a Polynesian language or languages simply reflects that they were introduced, no doubt repeatedly, by Polynesian speakers. Indeed even in much of Eastern Fiji, where pigs appear to have been present throughout prehistory, the word for them (vuaka or puaka) is also clearly a Polynesian borrowing (Geraghty 1983, 191).

Several other locations for Ulimaroa have been suggested to us. The first is Tanna, in Southern Vanuatu, which lies in the right direction and did have pigs before Europeans arrived. The problems with this proposal are that Tanna is relatively small and not long, and that the words for 'pig' do not include puaka (though one term, pwdkah, is quite similar) (see Tryon 1976, 249). The second is Australia itself. The difficulties with this contention are: the direction of north-north-west given by the Maori for Rimaroa does not correspond to Australia's position relative to New Zealand; the size and shape of Australia also do not correspond; and finally, there are no cognates of Booah /puaka in any Australian indigenous language. Even if we accept Baldwin's (1983) contention that there were pre-Cookian pigs in Cape York Peninsula, linguistic evidence does not support the case for Australia. The terms for 'pig' in the region's languages are clearly derived from English, e.g. Thaayorre pig, Thaypan, pigipigi, Kunjen bigibig, Yimidhirr bigibigi and Dyirbal bigi (Baldwin 1983, 23). Moreover, none of the terms for 'pig' in the languages of south-central New Guinea are remotely related to the Polynesian cognate.


We believe, therefore, that Rimaroa most probably referred to the Grande Terre of New Caledonia.

Like many of our investigations into the origin and meaning of placenames, this story does not yet have a totally satisfactory conclusion. We will need to conduct more research before we can write the final chapter in the history of Ulimaroa/Rimaroa. As Aurousseau (1973, 6) writes: "The file 'Ulimaroa' therefore remains open in the records of Polynesian scholarship."


AUROUSSEAU, M., 1973, 'The name "Ulimaroa"', Newsletter of the Royal Australian Historical Society, 126:5-6.

BALDWIN, James A., 1983, 'Pre-Cookian pigs in Australia?' Journal of Cultural Geography, 4(1):17-27.

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(1) This is an abridged version of the paper 'Where in the world is Ulimaroa? Or how a Pacific island became the Australian continent', presented at ANZMapS Conference 2011. A complete version of this paper will be published in Journal of Pacific History 46(2), September, 2011. We would like to thank Brendan Whyte, Christophe Sand, Ray Harlow, Patrick Nunn, Andrew Crowe, Claire Moyse-Faurie for their help and suggestions.

(2) Dr Christophe Sand, Head of Department of Archaeology, New Caledonia.

Dr Jan Tent is a Senior Lecturer, Department of Linguistics, Macquarie University, where he teaches lexicography and research methods. In 2007 he became the Director of the Australian National Placenames Survey (ANPS). His research interests include: toponymy, lexicography, and varieties of English. He regularly works with his co-author, Paul Geraghty, on projects in lexicography, toponymy, and loanwords in Polynesian languages. E-mail:;

Dr Paul Geraghty is an Associate Professor in Linguistics at the University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji, where he teaches various course in linguistics and Fijian. Paul is a long-time resident of Fiji, and is an expert in the Fijian language, having compiled the first monolingual dictionary of Fijian. Most of Paul's publications are on Fijian and Polynesian languages. E-mail:
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Author:Tent, Jan; Geraghty, Paul
Publication:The Globe
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Nov 1, 2011
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