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  • Report:Retracing Routledge–following the path of the Mana Expedition and Katherine Routledge–on foot and by bike from Darlington to Rapa Nui in 2014
  • Susie Stephen

Retracing Routledge is a project that in 2014 set out from Darlington, England to follow the path of Katherine Routledge and the 1914 Mana Expedition to Rapa Nui. It was undertaken in part as a fundraising mission and in part as a small, personal tribute to one of the most inspiring characters in the history of Rapa Nui research: Katherine Routledge.

Katherine Routledge and I share the same birthplace, Darlington in northeast England. But this was not a fact I learned at school in England, curriculum demands being what they are–it took a visit to Rapa Nui for me to discover that Darlington had a link to an island in the Pacific. During that trip to Rapa Nui in 2005, my eyes were opened to the unique nature of the far eastern corner of the Polynesian triangle, but it left me with many questions, including the following question: wouldn't more people in Darlington be interested to know about Katherine Routledge and the Mana Expedition?

Fast-forward to 2014: to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Mana Expedition, explore global change, and spread the word about the link between Darlington and Rapa Nui, Retracing Routledge was launched. As a life-long runner, and part-time cyclist, I chose to connect on land with the sections of the Mana's route that were most accessible within my allotted timeframe and budget. I also aimed to try to find a number of places that Katherine and her husband William Scoresby Routledge visited whenever they made overland excursions. Darlington was chosen as the starting place, and the final destination, Rapa Nui.

This report focuses mainly on the part of the physical, 'fundraising endurance challenge' part of the project. The route was split into three stages, and in total I covered 1,350 miles over the course of five months, running and cycling across England, Argentina, and Chile, ending with a final marathon run on Rapa Nui. The project raised enough funds to create a new scholarship within the existing Easter Island Foundation Scholarship Program for a Rapanui student, and Retracing Routledge will culminate in an exhibition about the entire undertaking in Darlington at the end of 2015.

Stage 1: Darlington to Southampton: A 300+ mile ultra run in 13 days

It felt only natural that any journey to follow in the footsteps of Katherine Routledge should begin in Darlington. Deciding exactly where to start running from was a slightly harder choice to make, but after a few discussions with my former high school, Hummersknott Academy, they happily agreed to act as the official departure point. We chose a date that fit with the school calendar and the project's timeline, and February 14, 2014 was set as the official start date for Retracing Routledge.

For those unfamiliar with Darlington, it is large town in the north of England situated on the major train line that runs from London to Edinburgh. However, it rose to a certain level of fame during the Industrial Revolution as the home of the modern railway, when the first steam locomotive ran from Stockton to Darlington in 1825. Edward Pease, Katherine's great grandfather, played a major role in establishing the train line. The Pease family, notable members of the Quaker community, were instrumental in the development of Darlington in the late nineteenth century, and the wealth they accumulated eventually reached Katherine (who was born Katherine Maria Pease), and funded the Mana Expedition. In the weeks leading up to February 14, I gave talks at Hummersknott Academy to students and staff to introduce the project, and also to a number of local organizations. As the morning of February 14 approached, gear was finalized, accommodation along the route confirmed, and support team primed. It was a typically grey and overcast English February morning, but friendly members of the Darlington running community (Figure 1) and the Academy's cross-country running team thankfully came out to join me. When everyone was ready, after photographs and interviews with local press, all runners lined up...


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pp. 49-57
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