Easter Island: A Stone-Age Civilization of the Pacific

Easter Island: A Stone-Age Civilization of the Pacific

Easter Island: A Stone-Age Civilization of the Pacific

Easter Island: A Stone-Age Civilization of the Pacific

Excerpt

Easter island appeared to us one rainy day during the southern winter, at the end of July 1934. I can still see the tall cliffs of Poike peninsula looming through the mist, the rounded mass of the volcanoes, and the black, twisted reef bristling with sharp ridges and needles on which the waves are torn to pieces. There is something profoundly peaceful and rural about the meadows that stretch far back into the interior, and the regular and gentle contours of the hills. In places, their soft pastel green recalls the coast of Scania. The resemblance to Sweden would be complete, if it were not for the strange, forbidding, diabolical rocks in the foreground.

The commander of the despatch-vessel had called us together on the poop-deck and given us a piece of bad news: there was a high sea running on the side of the island where Hanga-roa lay, and he could not guarantee to get our ninety packing-cases, which were cluttering up his hold, safely ashore there. As his instructions did not specify the part of the island on which he was to land us, he had decided to set us down, together with our supplies, at any convenient spot he could find.

Meanwhile, the 'Rigault-de-Genouilly' anchored outside the bay of Hanga-roa, the only village on the island still inhabited by the surviving Easter Islanders. A few moments earlier, looking at the rugged coastline of the northern shore, I had been reminded of faraway Sweden. Now this first impression was intensified by the native dwellings we could distinguish through our binoculars, dotted about close to the shore and imperfectly concealed behind fig-trees. If we had cherished the dream of seeing the classical silhouette of the Polynesian beach rise before us here, we should have been sadly disillusioned. The capital of the legendary Easter Island looked for all the world like a humble European hamlet on a rainy autumn day.

That first day on Easter Island will remain forever engraved in our memories. The wind, which was blowing in gusts, was driving great rollers towards the land, and as we drew nearer the reef the surf assumed increasingly alarming proportions. The natives massed on the sea-front did not, at first, seem inclined to come out and meet us. News of our arrival had spread through the village . . .

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