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THE MYSTERY OF EASTER ISLAND

THE STORY OF AN EXPEDITION

 
BY
MRS. SCORESBY ROUTLEDGE
HONOURS MOD. HIST. OXFORD; M.A. DUBLIN
 
JOINT AUTHOR OF “WITH A PREHISTORIC PEOPLE: THE AKIKUYU OF BRITISH EAST AFRICA”
   
PRINTED FOR THE AUTHOR BY HAZELL, WATSON AND VINEY, LD.
LONDON AND AYLESBURY
AND SOLD BY
SIFTON, PRAED & CO. LTD., 67 ST. JAMES'S ST.
LONDON, S.W.I  


 TO THE MEMORY OF
MY MOTHER

TO WHOM THE LETTERS WERE WRITTEN WHICH
HAVE FORMED A LARGE PORTION OF THE
MATERIAL FOR THIS BOOK, BUT WHO
WAS NO LONGER HERE TO
WELCOME OUR RETURN   
 

AN EASTER ISLAND IMAGE

   
PREFACE

As I sit down to write this preface there rises before me, not the other side of this London street, but the beautiful view over the harbour of St. Vincent, Cape Verde Islands, as seen from the British Consulate. It was a hot afternoon, but in that shady room I had found a fellow-woman and sympathetic listener. To her I had been recounting, rather mercilessly as it seemed, the story of our experiences in the yacht, including the drowning of the tea in Las Palmas Harbour. When I had finished, she said quietly, "You are going to publish all this I suppose?" I hesitated, for the idea was new. "No," I replied, "we had not thought of doing so; of course, if we have any success at Easter Island we shall make it known, but this is all in the day's work." "I think," she said, "that there are many who lead quiet stay-at-home lives who would be interested." Times have changed since 1913, there are now few who have not had adventures, either in their own persons, or through those dear to them, compared with which ours were but pleasant play; but I still find that many of those who are good enough to care to hear what we did in those three years ask for personal details. After a lecture given to a learned society, which it had been an honour to be asked to address, I was accosted by a lady, invited for the occasion, with the remark, "I was disappointed in what you told us. You never said what you had to eat." This, and many similar experiences, are the apology for the trivialities of this work.

No attempt has been made to write any sort of a guide book to the varied places touched at by the yacht, neither space nor knowledge permitted; all that has been done either by pen or pencil is to try to give the main impression left on the mind of a passing dweller in their harbours and anchorages. It has, however, been found by experience that, in accounts of travel, the general reader loses much of the pleasure which has been experienced by the writer, through knowledge being assumed of the history of the places visited; a knowledge which the traveller himself has absorbed almost unconsciously. Without some acquaintance with past events the present cannot be understood; at the risk, therefore, of interrupting the narrative, a few notes of such history have been included.

In dealing with the main topic of the work, an endeavour has been made to give some idea of the problem of Easter Island as the Expedition found it, and also of its work there. With regard to this part, some appeal is necessary to the understanding kindness of the reader, for it has not been an easy tale to tell, nor one which could be straightforwardly recounted. The story of Easter is as yet a tangled skein. The dim past, to which the megalithic works bear witness — the island as the early voyagers found it — its more recent history and present state, all of these are intermingled threads, none of which can be followed without reference to the remaining clues.

For those who would have preferred more scientific and fewer personal details, I can only humbly say wait, there is another volume in prospect with descriptions and dimensions of some two hundred and sixty burial-places on the island, thousands of measurements of statues, and other really absorbing matter. The numerical statements in the present book, dealing with archaeological remains, must be considered approximate till it has been possible to go again through the large collection of notes.

It is fairly obvious why the writing of this story has fallen to the share of the sole feminine member of the Expedition. I had also, what was, in spite of all things, the good fortune to be fourteen weeks longer on the island than my husband. They were fat weeks too, when the first lean ones, with their inevitable difficulties, were past; and the unsettlement towards the end had not arrived. He has, I need hardly say, given me every assistance with this work. Generally speaking, all things which it is possible to touch and handle, buildings, weapons, and ornaments, were in his department; while things of a less tangible description, such as religion, history, and folk-lore fell to my lot. Those who know him will recognise his touches throughout, and the account of the last part of the voyage, after my return to England, has been written by him. The photographs, when not otherwise stated, are by members of the Expedition. The drawings are from sketches made by the Author; those of the burial-places are from notebook outlines made in the course of work. The diagrams of the houses and burial-places are by my husband.

 

We are deeply grateful, both personally and on behalf of the Expedition, for all the aid, both public and private, extended to our work in the interests of science. We hesitate to allude to it in detail in connection with what may, it is to be feared, seem an unworthy book, but we cannot refrain from taking this, the earliest, opportunity of acknowledging our obligations. The Admiralty lent the Expedition a Lieutenant on full pay for navigation and survey. The Royal Society honoured it by bestowing a grant of 100, and the British Association by appointing a committee to further its interests accompanied by a small gift. Valuable scientific instruments were lent by both the Admiralty and Royal Geographical Society.

We are indebted to Sir Hercules Read and Captain T. A. Joyce, of the Ethnological Department of the British Museum, for the initial suggestion and much personal help. In our own University of Oxford the practical sympathy of Dr. Marett has been fully given from the time the project was first mooted till he read the proofs of the scientific part of this work; we owe more to such encouragement for any success attained than perhaps he himself realises. Mr. Henry Balfour has placed us, and all who are interested in the subject, under the greatest obligation for his work on our results which has thrown a flood of light on the culture of Easter Island, and has, in perhaps greater degree than anything else, made the Expedition seem "worth while." Dr. Rivers, of Cambridge, kindly undertook the position of Correspondent in connection with the committee of the British Association, and has put at our disposal his great knowledge of the Pacific. Dr. Haddon has also been good enough to allow us to avail ourselves of his intimate acquaintance with its problems. Dr. Corney has rendered constant and unique assistance with regard to the accounts of Easter Island as given by the early voyagers, a line of research most important in its bearings. Our thanks are due to Dr. Seligman for kind interest, to Professor Keith for his report on the two Pitcairn Islanders who returned with the yacht, and his examination of our osteological collection; to Dr. Thomas of the Geological Survey for his report of the rocks brought back; and not least to Mr. Sydney Ray, who has given most valuable time to our vocabularies of the language.

With regard to our journeyings and labours in the field, we are under great obligation to Mr. Edwards, the Chilean Minister in London, through whose representations his Government were good enough to grant us special facilities in their ports. The Expedition owes much to Messrs. Balfour & Williamson of London, and the firms connected with them in Chile, California, and New York; most especially to Messrs. Williamson & Balfour of Valparaiso for their permission to visit Easter Island and help throughout. We are also very grateful to the manager of the ranch, Mr. Percy Edmunds, for his practical aid on the island; since we left he has obtained for us a skin of the sacred bird which we had been unable to procure, and forwarded with it the negative of fig. 65, taken at our request.

It has been impossible in the compass of this book to express our gratitude to all those who gave help and hospitality on both the outward and homeward voyage. We can only ask them to believe that we do not forget, and that the friendship of many is, we trust, a permanent possession.

For professional help in the production of this book it is a pleasure to acknowledge the skill and patience of Miss A. Hunter, who has assisted in preparing the sketches, and of Mr. Gear, President of the Royal Photographic Society, who has worked up the negatives; also of Mr. F. Batchelor, of the Royal Geographical Society, who has drawn all the maps.

It has not, as will be readily understood, been always an easy matter to write of such different interests amidst the urgent claims and stupendous events since the time of our return; but if any soul rendered sad by the war, or anxiously facing the problems of a new world, finds a few hours' rest surrounded by the blue of the sea or face to face with the everlasting calm of the great statues, then it will give very real happiness to

The Stewardess of the MANA,

February 1919.

 


 
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION

The second edition of a book affords opportunity to tender grateful thanks for the interest which has made it necessary. It is also one of the occasions when fate allows, in some measure at any rate, a chance to repair shortcomings.

It was felt in writing this volume that it was best to leave the work of the Expedition to tell as far as possible its own tale. Life, however, is short and books are many. Outside the circle of those with special scientific knowledge, this method seems, in spite of Chapter XIX, to have led too often, with even the kindest of readers and reviewers, to a certain vagueness as to what has, after all, really been accomplished. Some express disappointment that the problem is "unsolved if not insoluble"; others state, not without lingering regret, that "there is no longer any mystery." Neither view is, of course, correct. It is, therefore, perhaps worth while, even at the cost of repeating what may be implicit elsewhere, to add a few more definite words.

It was never anticipated that any Expedition could settle once and for all the past history of Easter Island. In dealing with any scientific problem, the first step naturally is to find out all that can be discovered about the material in question; while the second is to co-ordinate that material with similar examples elsewhere, so that knowledge which may fail from one source, can be supplied from another.

The Expedition, therefore, as one of its primary undertakings, made an archaeological survey of the island. It was a lengthy work, for not only are the figures and ruins very numerous, but it was found that not till after some six months' study could they even be seen with intelligent eyes. We believe the survey to be, however, as far as possible accurate and complete. It is illustrated by some hundreds of sketches and negatives.

The only account of this kind which has so far been available is the rough, and naturally often erroneous, description given by the United States ship Mohican after a thirteen days' examination in 1886. Speaking of this part of our labours, a high authority has been good enough to say, "We now know for the first time in what the remains on the island really consist; its photographs alone would justify the Expedition." This record will, we venture to think, hold increased value in the future, as there is a constant tendency for the remains to suffer deterioration at the hands of nature and man.

The Expedition, however, found other and unexpected matter to secure from oblivion — work which was of even greater, because of more pressing, importance. We had been informed that not only had all knowledge of the origin of the great works disappeared from the island, but that all memory of the early native culture before the advent of Christianity, which might possibly have thrown light upon them, was also gone. Happily this proved to be not altogether the case. When we arrived, such knowledge and tradition were expiring, but they were not altogether dead. It was our good fortune, in spite of language and other difficulties, to be able with patience to rescue at the eleventh hour much of high value, more especially that which points to a connection between the only recently expired bird cult and that of the images.

The facts now before us make clear that the present inhabitants of the island are derived from a union of the two great stocks of the Pacific, the Melanesian and Polynesian races, and that the Melanesian element has played a large part in its development. All the evidence gathered, whether derived from the stone remains, through the surviving natives, or in other ways, points to the conclusion that these people are connected by blood with the makers of the statues; this is, of course, the crucial point.

Now that this stage is reached, the problem at once falls into its right category, and we enter on the second phase of scientific quest. Easter Island is no longer an isolated mystery, there is no need to indulge in surmises as to sunken continents, it becomes part of the whole question of the culture of the Pacific and of the successive waves of migration which have passed through it.

On this large and difficult subject many able minds are at work, and some striking results, already drawn from the labours of the Expedition, are included in this volume. When we have more definite knowledge as to the nature and date of these migrations which have come from the west by such stepping-stones as Pitcairn Island, or by the Marquesas and Paumotu groups, then we shall be able to deduce still further information about Easter Island. When more is ascertained of the stone works scattered throughout other islands, we shall speak with greater certainty as to whether a first or second wave of immigrants, or both combined, are responsible for its monoliths. We have a very fair idea now, when, and perhaps why, the cult of the statues ended; even if there are no further discoveries on the island, we hope in these ways to learn when and how it began.

There is much we shall never know — the thoughts which passed through the minds of those old image makers as they worked at their craft, the scenes enacted as their humbler neighbours toilsomely moved the great figures to their place, the weird ceremonies which doubtless marked their erection, not least the story of the persistence which erected and re-erected the burying-places after again and yet again they had been destroyed — such things are gone for ever. But the broad outlines and events of the story, with their approximate dates, to these there is every prospect we shall attain with reasonable certainty, and that before very many years have elapsed.

K. R.

April 1920.



FIG. 1. — MANA.
Charua Bay, Patagonian Channels

CONTENTS
 
PART I
THE VOYAGE TO EASTER ISLAND
 
CHAPTER I
THE START
Why we went to Easter Island — The Building and Equipping of the Yacht — The Start from Southampton — Dartmouth — Falmouth.
 
CHAPTER II
THE VOYAGE TO SOUTH AMERICA

A Gale at Sea — Madeira — Canary Islands — Cape Verde Islands — Across the Atlantic.
 
CHAPTER III
BRAZIL

Pernambuco — Bahia — Cabral Bay — Cape Frio — Rio de Janeiro — Porto Bello — A Pampero.
 
CHAPTER IV
ARGENTINA

The River Plate — Buenos Aires, its Trade and People.
 
CHAPTER V
PATAGONIA
Port Desire — Eastern Magellan Straits — Punta Arenas — Western Magellan Straits — Patagonian Channels.
 
CHAPTER VI
CHILE
Refitting at Talcahuano — Trip to Santiago and across the Summit of the Andes — Valparaiso — To Juan Fernandez — Typhoid on Board — Back to Chile — Juan Fernandez again.
 
CHAPTER VII
JUAN FERNANDEZ
The Island — Selkirk — Anson — Fate of the Dresden.
 
CHAPTER VIII
LIFE ON BOARD
 
 
PART II
EASTER ISLAND
 
CHAPTER IX
ARRIVAL AT EASTER ISLAND
First Impressions — The Story of the El Dorado — Mana despatched.
 
CHAPTER X
CONDITIONS OF LIFE ON THE ISLAND
Description of the Island — Accommodation — Climate — Food — Labour.
 
CHAPTER XI
A NATIVE RISING
A Declaration of Independence — Cattle-raiding— A Mission which failed — Bad to Worse — Arrival of a Chilean Warship.
 
CHAPTER XII
A GERMAN BASE
A Visit from Von Spee — First news of the War — S. R. goes to Chile — The Prinz Eitel Friedrich — Return of Mana — Departure of the Expedition.
 
CHAPTER XIII
PREHISTORIC REMAINS
AHU OR BURIAL-PLACES

Form of the Easter Island Image — Position and Number of the Ahu — Design and Construction of the Image Ahu — Reconstruction and Transformation — The Semi-pyramid Ahu — The Overthrow of the Images and Destruction of the Ahu.
 
CHAPTER XIV
PREHISTORIC REMAINS (continued)
STATUES AND CROWNS
Rano Raraku, its Quarries and Standing Statues — The Southeast Face of the Mountain — Isolated Statues — Roads — Stone Crowns of the Images.
 
CHAPTER XV
NATIVE CULTURE IN PRE-CHRISTIAN TIMES
Sources of Information: History, Recent Remains, Living Memory — Mode of Life: Habitations, Food, Dress and Ornament — Social Life: Divisions, Wars, Marriages, Burial Customs, Social Functions.
 
CHAPTER XVI
NATIVE CULTURE IN PRE-CHRISTIAN TIMES (continued)
Religion — Position of the Miru Clan — The Script— The Bird Cult — Wooden Carvings.
 
CHAPTER XVII
CAVES AND CAVE-HUNTING
Residential Caves — Caves as Hiding-Places for Treasure — Burial Caves.
 
CHAPTER XVIII
LEGENDS
First Arrival on the Island — The Long Ears exterminated by the Short Ears — The Struggle between Kotuu and Hotu Iti.
 
CHAPTER XIX
THE PRESENT POSITION OF THE PROBLEM
 
 
PART III
THE HOMEWARD VOYAGE
EASTER ISLAND TO SAN FRANCISCO
 
CHAPTER XX
PITCAIRN ISLAND
A Kind Welcome — Religion — Administration — Economic Problems — Physique — Native Remains — A Glimpse of Rapa.
 
CHAPTER XXI
TAHITI, HAWAIIAN ISLANDS, SAN FRANCISCO
Tahiti — Voyage to Hawaiian Islands — Oahu, with its capital Honolulu — Visit to Island of Hawaii — San Francisco — The Author returns to England.
 
 
 
PART IV
THE HOMEWARD VOYAGE — Continued
SAN FRANCISCO TO SOUTHAMPTON
By S. R.
 
CHAPTER XXII
SAN FRANCISCO TO PANAMA
Catching Turtle — The Island of Socorro and what we found there — The tale of a Russian Finn — Quibo Island — Suffering of the Natives from Elephantiasis — A Haul with the Seine.
 
CHAPTER XXIII
PANAMA TO JAMAICA
Navigation of the Gulf of Panama — Balboa and the City of Panama — Through the Canal — Cristobal — An Incapable Pilot — The Education of a Cook — A Waterspout — A Further Exciting Experience.
 
CHAPTER XXIV
JAMAICA TO SOUTHAMPTON
Jamaica, and the Bahamas — Bermudas — Azores — Preparing for Submarines — Southampton once more,
 
EPILOGUE
 
ITINERARY OF THE EXPEDITION