- Featured EIF Publication
By Rhys Richards
Easter Island 1793–1861: Observations by Early Visitors Before the Slave Raids is an exhaustive collection of reports, letters, and accounts — some never before published - from the first ships to visit Easter Island. While other publications have focused on the more well-known visits to Easter Island such as those of Cook, La Perouse, Kotzebue, Roggeveen and Lisiansky, this book includes lesser-known descriptions of other visitors who came to the island during the pre-missionary period. Some visitors left detailed accounts and others did not; some landed while others only made contact with the islanders from their ships; some accounts were published in different languages, and some can only be accessed from the archives of various libraries, museums, and historical societies, which makes study and analysis of these visits challenging. In this small but detailed book, Richards brings together accounts of 30 voyages to Easter Island. Richards visited 30 museums and libraries on the eastern seaboard of the United States over a 10-week period to research accounts and collect information for the book, as well as study artifacts collected during various voyages to verify provenance and determine the manner in which they were collected. During the Conference on Easter Island and the Pacific in Viña del Mar in 2004, the idea of expanding this collection of information into a book came to fruition.
The book begins with the earliest accounts of explorers Roggeveen (1722), Gonzáles y Haedo (1770), Cook (1774), and La Pérouse (1786) who visited Easter Island, and continues on up to the time of the slave raids. Some less well-known and hard to find accounts are published here, making it a very useful from a research perspective. The visits of both British and American fur traders is covered, including the ship Nancy, whose crew was looking for slaves to help capture seals on the island of Mas Afuera. This visit was one of the first hostile encounters, with a number of islanders being killed in a bloody battle and others being taken away as slaves. It set the stage for future visitors, making the islanders wary of outsiders. Two later visits in which islanders were massacred in 1822 and 1838 are described in the book. The visits of Russian explorers Lisiansky and Kotzebue are included, and the many British and American whaleships that came to the island are noted, along with one visit by a French whaleship. In a chapter on whaling in the southeast Pacific, Richards notes that additional information on other whaling visits was discovered later (after the indexing of the Pacific Manuscript Bureau microfilms was completed) and not included in the book (see Richards, this issue of Rapa Nui Journal). Also included are scientific voyages, such as that of Hugh Cummings, and the first visit by a President of Chile in 1837. The book concludes with a chapter about the first slave raids in 1862 and describes the devastation wreaked on the population of the island as a consequence of these raids.
The book includes historic illustrations of islanders and scenery from some of the early voyages, as well as images of some of the woodcarvings collected during this period (and items collected later). Useful appendices are included at the end of the book.Appendix A, introduced by Steven Roger Fischer, includes the detailed account about Hugh Cummings’ visit aboard Discoverer (1827). Comments, discussion and notes by Fischer follow the verbatim account. Appendix B, also introduced by Fischer (originally published in Rapa Nui Journal 8:63–66) is an account of Ship’s Surgeon Guthrie aboard HMS Seringapatam (1830) with detailed notes and references by Fischer. Appendix C lists a few of the Rapanui people taken away from the island on visiting foreign ships and notes that others were undoubtedly taken, although no records exist. Also included is a list of Logbooks and Journals of Whaleships at Easter Island, which contains the name and home port of the ship, year(s) of the voyage and the location of the original logbook.
Easter Island 1793–1861: Observations by Early Visitors Before the...