Tag Archives: Bougainville

The New Cythera and the Transit of Venus

I wonder, if Captain Cook had gone to Tahiti in 1769 to observe the Transit of Mars* instead of the Transit of Venus, he would have seen an island full of brave warriors rather than nubile maidens?

Tahitian canoes, Matavai Bay

William Hodges, Tahitian War Galleys in Matavai Bay, Tahiti

Probably not. Cook’s Tahitian visit was not the first instance of this association between the island and the goddess of love, though it is a strange coincidence that linked the planet Venus with Tahiti.

In her book, Aphrodite’s Island: The European Discovery of Tahiti (2009), the anthropologist and historian Anne Salmond looks closely at what happened when an earlier explorer, the Frenchman Louis Antoine de Bougainville, visited in April 1768.

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