When talking about the Pacific islands, it is hard to tell which ones Polo actually traveled to, as he always describes their distance from Chamba – the port in Southeast Asia – and discusses how one “would get there.” However this vague language can be seen in relation to many of the other locations that Polo travels to, and he often provides distances between lands and the time it would take to get there to aid in understanding the voyage, whether he personally visits the location or not. For the journey to Java, Polo writes that “from Chamba a traveller who sails south-south-east for 1,500 miles comes to a very large island” (Polo, 251). The specific measurements lead one to believe that Polo made this journey, since he would most likely be unable to ask the sailors for the distance in Chamba.
Polo is awed by the island and for the first time besides his description of Japan, the reader is presented with a kingdom that the tartars could not overpower: “And I assure you that the Great Khan has never been able to conquer it, because of the long and hazardous voyage that must be made in order to get there” (Polo, 251). After countless accounts of the tartar’s strength and the Great Khan’s influence, the mention of regions powerful enough to exist outside of the empire is shocking. However Polo’s association of merchants, spices, and other goods with that power is unsurprising. “It is a very rich island, producing pepper, nutmegs, spikenard, galingale, cubebs, and cloves, and all the precious spices that can be found in the world. It is visited by a great number of ships and merchants who buy a great range of merchandise” (Polo, 251). Merchants willingly traveling a far and dangerous route that the Great Khan himself is unwilling to travel creates a perspective of merchants as strong and courageous in a way that the greatest ruler in the world at the time was not.
In a more technical sense, when talking about Java, Polo demonstrates mathematical accomplishments of those who travel. Polo mentions that Java is the largest island in the world, “having a circumference of more than 3,000 miles” (Polo, 251). Assuming that the circumference is reference to the length of the shoreline, Java’s size is one-third of the actual largest island in the world, as Australia is about 9,000 miles of shoreline. In order to comment on the length of the shoreline, Polo would have had to have asked sailors or other experts. Knowledge of the length shows advancements in measurement and geography given that an individual measuring the exact length of the island along the beaches in unlikely.