First contact with Easter Island

First contact with Rapa Nui/Easter Island

With his three ships, "Eagles", "Thienhoven" and the "African Galley", the Dutch Admiral, Jacob Roggeveen (1659 - 1729), went in search of the "Southern Continent" in August 1721. Until his southerly travels were prevented by ice floes, he managed to make the latitude of 60o.

With this, he turned his ships west towards the Juan Fernandez Islands thinking that there might be an opportunity to found a settlement. On April 6th, 1722, his course brought him to a lonely island. As it was Easter, he baptized the island "Easter Island".

Another account suggests that Roggeveen was in search of Davis or David's Island. Reported in latitude 27o by an English buccaneer named Davis, in 1687. He claimed that it was five hundred miles from the coast of Chile, low and sandy and some 12 leagues to the west of it was seen "a long tract of pretty high land". This description in no way applies to Easter Island, as sometimes suggested, but is possibly a description of Crescent Island. The latitude of Easter Island is 27o 8'S, Crescent Island is 23o 20'S. Roggeveen concluded this was not the island he was looking for2.

Due to strong surf and no readily suitable anchorage, he lay off the north coast for a week and was only able to make landfall once. The landing party gave descriptions of an island with no large trees, a rich soil, sugar-cane, bananas and figs. Current scientific thought suggests that these descriptions may have been somewhat inaccurate. Roggeveen made contact with the indigenous population and later wrote that; "when these (page 201) and admired the large stone statues that dotted the landscape.

After departing Easter Island, Roggeveen was to discover some islands of the Tuamotu group. He visited Takapoto, Makatea and Samoa, where his fleet were to rest for sometime before continuing on to Batavia in September 1722.

More information on Jacob Roggeveen

Before he 'discovered' Easter Island, Jacob Roggeveen had already lived a busy life. He became notary of Middelburg on 30 March 1683. On 12 August 1690 he graduated as a doctor of the law at University of Harderwijk, and worked between 1707 and 1714 as a Raadsheer van Justitie ("Council Lord of Justice") at Batavia, Dutch East Indies (now Jakarta). In 1715, he returned to Middelburg.

There he got into trouble because he supported the liberal preacher Pontiaan van Hattem by publishing his leaflet De val van 's werelds afgod. The first part appeared in 1718, in Middelburg, and was subsequently confiscated by the city council and burned. Roggeveen fled Middelburg, and later Vlissingen. Thereafter he established himself in Arnemuiden, and published part 2 and 3 of the series, again raising a controversy.

Whilst in Samoa after departing Easter Island, he was arrested because he had violated the monopoly of the Dutch East India Company, but the Company was later forced to release him, to compensate him for the trouble, and to pay his crew. In 1723, Roggeveen returned to the Netherlands.

After his return Roggeveen published part 4 of De val van 's werelds afgod.

H.M.S Topaz

In April of 1856, the British ship Denmark was abandoned in a sinking condition after a long battle against severe storms off the Falkland Islands. Her crew of 17 were picked up by H.M.S. Topaz and carried into Port Stanley.

Race Rock Lighthouse in British Colombia, Canada, was built by the crew of HMS Topaz and outside laborers under a contract awarded to John Morris.

Three days prior to the official operating date for the lighthouse (December 25, 1860) the Nanette, a British vessel carrying sawmill machinery and Hudson's Bay Company merchandise, ran into thick fog by early evening and was swept up by the swift tide along the shoals. Early the next morning the Nanette was thrown against the rock by a seven-knot tide and the vessel began to sink. The salvage operation became difficult when news of the cargo's value (estimated $200,000) spread, attracting many looters, and requiring officers and sailors to police the area. Further salvage of the vessel came to a stop in 1861 when the Nanette was swept to the depth of 15 fathoms in foul weather.

In 1868, the British Mar of War H.M.S. Topaz visited Easter Island and removed two moai with are currently held by the British Museum in London.

There was also something about her crew piping the opening of a Masonic Lodge in Canada.

HMS Topaz has a link with another Chilean island for it left the plaque on Robinson Crusoe island in remembrance of xxx who was the inspiration for the story of Robinson Crusoe.

The stolen Moai

There hare many statues around the world that were taken from Easter Island. The most well known is Hoa Hakanani'a, originally translated as Braking Waves, but a more accurate later translation is Stolen or Hidden Friend.

In 1868, the British Man of War H.M.S. Topaz visited Easter Island and removed two moai. Two hundred people were needed to remove Moai Hoa Hakanani'a from the ceremonial village of Orongo, atop the volcano Rano Kao, to the ship. Moai Hava was removed from the general environs of the village of Hanga Roa10.

During the voyage to England, the red and white paint adorning the intricate carving of Hoa Hakanani'a was leeched away by water. Nether the less it was presented to Queen Victoria, and the Moai Hava was presented directly to the British Museum. Queen Victoria later gave Hoa Hakanani'a to the British Museum, where it now stands in the magnificent Queen Elizabeth II Great Court.

Hoa Hakanani'a was made about AD 1000 and is an exceptionally well-preserved example of the stone masonry and artistic capabilities of the indigenous population. It is likely that this moai was created during the crossover period between the statue building era and the Birdman-cult. It is commonly stated that all the moai were carved from the volcanic tuft of Rano Raraku, however, Hoa Hakanani'a and its partner at the British Museum were carved from a quarry local to Hanga Roa.

It is suggested that Hoa Hakanani'a, quite a small stature at only 1.5 tons, was taken from an ahu and moved to the ceremonial village of Orongo where the back was later painted and intricately carved with symbols of the birdman-cult. It is likely that the colours used would resemble the pictoglyphs found in the cave Ana Kai Tangata.

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