he South Indian Ocean and the South Atlantic Ocean. For most sailors and nonsailors, these two place names conjure nothing more than spots that can be pointed to on a globe. But one mention of the South Pacific, and even a farmer in Nebraska who’s spent his entire life in the American Midwest will conjure a ready knowledge of white-sand beaches, topless native women and cannibals. The farmer might even mention the Southern Cross, Tahiti and tattoos, or Polynesia, grass skirts and whale-bone carvings. South Pacific lore was born over a century ago, about the time that men began leaving ports by choice to sail very small boats across oceans. Upon returning, a few of them, with thick fingers calloused by salt and rope, began writing. For hundreds of pages, they shined a soft and enticing light on the most remote and inaccessible landscape on Earth. They wrote of being carried along by warm trade winds and of landing in exotic, tropical places. Their works inspired other writers (as well as artists and philosophers) to follow in their wakes — and more was written. Ultimately, a collection of writers and their stories offered Western culture the first romantic notions that still draw cruising sailors to the South Pacific today. Some of these writers you are likely familiar with; others I hope to introduce you to. Most interesting to me are the connections that existed between several of them. May learning about these authors fuel your own desire to set sail for the island places they loved and described.