Jacob Roggeveen was the first European to set foot on Rapa Nui and did so in 1722.
Transcribed, translated, and edited by Bolton Glanvill Corney. Published in 1908.
Translated from the German of CARL FRIEDERICH BEHRENS: Der wohlversiichte Süd-Länder y das ist: ausführliche Reise-Beschreibung um die Welt.
Source file (.pdf): The voyage of Captain Don Felipe González to Easter Island 1770-1 p. 93 - 115
5. Our lat. by reckoning was 27 degrees 4 minutes South and the long. 266 degrees 31 minutes, course West ½ South, distance 7 miles, the wind Nor'-Nor'-West to Sou'- West, breeze unsteady, with calms, also thick weather and showers. Saw a turtle, floating weed, and birds. About the 10th glass in the afternoon watch The African Galley, which was sailing ahead of us, lay to to wait for us, making the signal of land in sight; when we came up with her, after four glasses had run out, for the breeze was light, we asked what they had seen. On this we were answered that they had all very distinctly seen a low and flattish island lying away to starboard, about 5 ½ miles off, to the nor'ard and west-'ard. Hereupon it was deemed well to stand on under easy sail to the end of the first watch, and then to lie to and await the dawn. This being decided, the necessary information was given to Captain BOUMAN, who was astern; and to the land the name of Paásch Eyland, because it was discovered by us on Easter Day. There was great rejoicing among the people and every one hoped that this low land might prove to be a foretoken of the coastline of the unknown Southern continent.
6. Had a light breeze out of the South-East, and East-South-East, Padsch Eyland lying West by North 8 to 9 miles from us. Laid our course between West by South and North- West, in order to run under the lee of the Island, and so avoid the dangers of a lee shore. At noon the corrected course was West, distance 10 miles, lat. by reckoning 27 degrees 4 minutes South, and long. 265 degrees 42 minutes. In the ninth glass of the afternoon we saw smoke rising in several places from which we concluded that there were people dwelling on the same. We therefore thought it would be well to consider with the Captains of the other ships whether it were not needful to undertake an expedition ashore, to the end that we might gain a fitting knowledge of the interior of the country. On this, it was decided that both the shallops of the Ships A rend and Thienhoven, well manned and armed, should proceed inshore, and find out a convenient place for landing a party from the boats, and also to take soundings. This decision being come to, we stood off and on for the night with our Ships. Which Resolution is as follows: —
COUNCIL of the Commanders of the three Ships sailing in company held on board the AREND, in the presence of the undersigned.
Monday the 6th of April, 1722.
The President submitting that we had now arrived within a distance of some two miles of the Sandy Island, the which lies in an Easterly direction from the stretch of coast (as yet out of sight) which it is one of the objects of this Expedition to discover, and as we have seen smoke ascending in several places, from which it may reasonably be concluded that the aforementioned Island, although it may be shown to be sandy and barren, has nevertheless human inhabitants; now, therefore the President moves that it would be culpable to proceed in a careless and negligent manner, and that we should stand off and on for to-night with our ships, and that on the arrival of daylight we send close in to the land two well manned shallops, properly armed (that we may be in a state of defence in case of any hostile meeting), and show all friendliness towards the inhabitants, endeavouring to see and inquire what they wear or make use of either as ornaments or for other purposes, also whether any refreshments in the way of green stuff, fruit, or beasts can be procured by barter. Which motion having been discussed, the same is by common assent approved and adopted: and it is farther decided that both the shallops of the Ships A REND and Thienhoven, shall proceed at daybreak, and that The African Galley should follow as close to the land as possible and prudent, covering and defending the said shallops (should need arise). Resolved and attested in the said Ship and on the day above mentioned. (Signed): Jacob Roggeveen, Jan Koster, Cornelis Bouman, Roelof Rosendaal.
7. The weather was very variable, with thunder, sheet lightning and showers. The wind unsteady from the North West, and occasional calms* so that our shore expedition could not be undertaken with any prospect of success. During the forenoon Captain BOUMAN brought an Easter Islander on board, together with his craft, in which he had come off close to the Ship from the land; he was quite nude, without the slightest covering for that which modesty shrinks from revealing. This hapless creature seemed to be very glad to behold us, and showed the greatest wonder at the build of our Ship. He took special notice of the tautness of our spars, the stoutness of our rigging and running gear, the sails, the guns — which he felt all over with minute attention — and with everything else that he saw; especially when the image of his own features was displayed before him in a mirror, seeing the which, he started suddenly back and then looked towards the back of the glass, apparently in the expectation of discovering there the cause of the apparition.
After we had sufficiently beguiled ourselves with him, and he with us, we started him off again in his canoe towards the shore, having presented him with two strings of blue beads1 round his neck, a small mirror, a pair of scissors, and other like trifles, which seemed to have a special attraction for him.
1) The original has coraelen, meaning beads.
But when we had approached within a short distance of the land we saw distinctly that the account of the Sandy and Low Island (so described by Captain William Dampier, in accordance with the statement and testimony of Captain Davis, and of the narrator Lionel Wafer, whose log of this and other discoveries the aforesaid Dampier has made known through the press, and inserted as a prominent feature in his book, which comprises all his own travels and voyages) was not in the least in conformity with our find; and that neither could it be the land which the aforementioned discoverers declare to be visible 14 to 16 miles beyond it and stretching away out of sight, being a range of high land, which the said Dampier conjectured might be the extremity of the unknown Southland. That this Easter Island can not be the Sandy Island is clear, from the fact that the sandy one is small, and low; whereas Easter Island, on the contrary, extends some 15 or 16 miles in circuit, and has at its Eastern and Western points — which lie about five miles from each other — two high hills sloping gradually down, with three or four other smaller hills about their bases which rise above the plain, so that this land is of moderate elevation, and raised above the force of the sea.
The reason why, at first, when at a farther distance off, we had regarded the said Easter Island as being of a sandy nature is that we mistook the parched-up grass, and hay or other scorched and charred brushwood for a soil of that arid nature, because from its outward appearance it suggested no other idea than that of an extraordinarily sparse and meagre vegetation; and the discoverers had consequently bestowed upon it the term sandy.
It may therefore be concluded, in the light of the foregoing explanation, that this Easter Island now discovered will turn out to be some other land lying further to the Eastward than that which is one of the objectives of our Expedition: or else, the discoverers must stand convicted of a whole bundle of lies in their reports, told by word of mouth as well as in writing.
8. We had the wind South, South by East, and Sou'-Sou'-West, with a reefed topsail breeze, unsteady. After breakfast had been served, our shallop was well manned and armed, and likewise the shallop of the Ship THIENHOVEN, now close in with the land; and having received their orders, they reported that the inhabitants there were very finely clad in some stuffs of all kinds of colours, and that they made many signs that we should come on shore, but as our orders were not to do so, if the Indians should be present in large numbers, that was not permitted. Furthermore, some thought they had seen the natives to have plates of silver in their ears, and mother-of-pearl shells as ornaments about their necks. By sundown, having come into the roadstead, between the Ships Thienhoven and The African Galley, which had already brought to in readiness for us, we let go our anchor in 22 fathoms, coral bottom, at the distance of a quarter of a mile1 from the beach; the Eastern point of the Island bearing East by South, and the West point West-Nor'-West from us.
1) About six furlongs.
9. A great many canoes came off to the ships: these people showed us at that time their great cupidity for every thing they saw; and were so daring that they took the seamen's hats and caps from off their heads, and sprang overboard with the spoil1; for they are surpassingly good swimmers, as would seem from the great numbers of them who came swimming off from the shore to the ships. There was also an Easter Islander who climbed in through the cabin window of The African Galley, from his canoe, and seeing on the table, a cloth with which it was covered, and deeming it to be a good prize, he made his escape with it there and then; so that one must take special heed to keep close watch over everything. Furthermore, a shore party of 134 men was organised to make investigations for the purpose of reporting upon our mission.
1) The edited Journal here has a footnote to the effect that
the posterity of this generation were not less thievishly disposed than their fathers, and refers to Cook's, De la Pérouse's, and Kotzebue's accounts of their respective experiences with them in this respect.
10. In the morning we proceeded with three boats and two shallops, manned by 134 persons, all armed with musket, pistols, and cutlass; on reaching the shore the boats and shallops kept close together in order to lay down their grapnels, leaving twenty men in them, armed as above, to take care of them; The African Galley's boat, was mounted besides with two carronades in the bows. Having seen to all these arrangements, we proceeded in open order, but keeping well together, and clambered over the rocks, which are very numerous on the sea margin, as far as the level land or flat, making signs with the hand that the natives, who pressed round us in great numbers, should stand out of our way and make room for us. Having got so far, a corps de bataille was formed up of all the seamen of the three ships, the Commodore, Captains KOSTER, Bouman and Rosendaal leading, each at the head of his own crew. This column, three ranks in width, occupying a position to the rear of the others, was covered by one half the soldiers under the command of Lieutenant NiCOLAAS Thonnar, constituting the right wing; and the left, made up of the other half of the military, was led by Mr MARTINUS KEERENS, Ensign. After thus disposing our forces we marched forward a little, to make room for some of our people who were behind, that they might fall in with the ranks, who were accordingly halted to allow the hindmost to come up, when, quite unexpectedly and to our great astonishment, four or five shots were heard in our rear, together with a vigorous shout of
't is tyd, 't is tyd, geeft vuur! [
It's time, it's time, fire!]. On this, as in a moment, more than thirty shots were fired, and the Indians, being thereby amazed and scared, took to flight, leaving 10 or 12 dead, besides the wounded. The leaders of the party, standing in front, prevented those in advance from firing on the fugitives; demanding, moreover, who had given the order to shoot, and what had induced him to do so? After a little while the assistant pilot of the ship Thienhoven came up to me saying, that he, with six other men, was the hindmost of the party; that, on one of the natives laying hold of the muzzle of his piece to snatch it from him, he struck him a blow; and, further, that another Indian had attempted to strip the jacket off one of the seamen, and that some of the natives seeing our men resist, picked up stones, using threatening gestures as if to pelt us with them, whereby, from all appearance, the firing on the part of my small troop was brought about, although he declared that until then he had given no orders of the least kind. This was, however, no time for hearing other versions of the affair, and that much had to be deferred till a better opportunity. After the astonishment and terror of the natives were somewhat allayed, on their seeing that our hostilities were not persisted in, they were given to know by signs that the victims had threatened to make an assault upon us by stone-throwing, and the inhabitants, who had been just in front of us all the time, approached our leaders again; in particular one who seemed to be in authority over the other headmen, for, giving a general direction that everything they had should be fetched and laid before us, including fruit, root crops, and poultry, the order was promptly obeyed with reverence and bowing by those round about, as the event proved; for in a little, while they brought a great abundance of sugar-cane, fowls, yams1, and bananas; but we gave them to understand through signs that we desired nothing, excepting only the fowls, which were about sixty in number, and thirty bunches of bananas, for which we paid them ample value in striped linen, with which they appeared to be well pleased and satisfied. By the time we had fully investigated things, and especially their cloth stuffs and the dyes of them, and also the supposed silver plates and mother-of-pearl, it was found that they were made up of pieces patched together; that is, that the wraps worn on their bodies were composed of some field-product, sewn three or four ply in thickness, yet neat and trim, which material (as called in the West Indies) is a sort of Pieti further, that the soil of the country (as we saw in several places) was red, and yellowish, into the which when mixed with water they dip their garments and afterwards let them dry, which shows that their dye is not fast, for when felt about and handled one finds the colour come off on one's fingers, not only after touching new articles but also from old and worn ones. The plates imagined to be of silver were made out of the root of some vegetable, — as one might say in Holland, of good stout parsnips or carrots. This ear-ornament is roundish, or oval, having a diameter of about two inches2 measured through the widest section, and one and a half inches across the lesser; being three inches, at a guess, in length. To understand how these supposed silver plates are fixed in the ears as ornaments one must know that the lobes of these people's ears are stretched, from their youth up; and their centre is slit open, in such wise that the lesser rim of the plug, being stuck through the opening in the lobe, is then pushed on towards the thicker end, which accordingly faces towards the front, and completely stuffs the opening3. Furthermore, the mother-of-pearl which was seen as a neck pendant is a flat shell of the same tint as the inner lip of our oysters. When these Indians go about any job which might set their ear-plugs waggling, and bid fair to do them any hurt, they take them out and hitch the rim of the lobe up over the top of the ear, which gives them a quaint and laughable appearance4.
1) Ubasworteln, a coined hybrid word; from the Malay ubi, a yam, and the Dutch wortel, a root.
2) The term used by Roggeveen is duymen; literally thumbs or thumb's breadths, but the common Dutch expression when inches are meant, of which eleven go to the foot.
3) For Behrens' account, see Appendix I. He states
Their ears were so long that they hung down as far as to the shoulders. Some wore white ornaments in the lobes as a special embellishment.
In M. de la Pérouse's narrative there is no mention of the ear slits, nor of the ear ornaments; nor even any general description of the natives. But his visit, which took place in 1786, only extended over a few hours; and his vessels were at anchor there only one night. His portrayal of the Easter Islanders is usually accounted the best; but the travelled and intelligent reader will find it difficult to concede this compliment, especially if he have read the younger Forster's description, and will incline to consider La Pérouse's account as much overrated in worth as it is charming in expression. Cook's and Forster's remarks on the ear ornaments are here given: —
Both men and women have very large holes, or rather slits, in their ears, extending to near three inches in length. They sometimes turn this slit over the upper part, and then the ear looks as if the flap was cut off. The chief ear ornaments are the white down of feathers, and rings, which they wear in the inside of the hole, made of some elastic substance, rolled up like a watch-spring. I judged this was to keep the ear at its utmost extension. I do not remember seeing them wear any other ornaments, excepting amulets made of bone or shells. Cook, Bibl. no. 16.
Their ears were remarkable for the great length of the lap, which frequently hung on the shoulder, and was pierced with so large a hole, that the extremity could be tucked up through it. In order to bring it to this size they wore a leaf of a sugar cane, which is very elastic, rolled up in it like a scroll; by which means it was always on the stretch. Forster, George, Bibl. no. 21.
4) This habit is mentioned by Cook, and by Forster: see the last preceding footnote.
These people have well proportioned limbs, with large and strong muscles; they are big in stature, and their natural hue is not black, but pale yellow or sallowish, as we saw in the case of many of the lads, either because they had not painted1 their bodies with dark blue, or because they were of superior rank and had consequently no need to labour in the field. These people have also snow-white teeth, with which they are exceptionally well provided, even the old and hoary, as was evidenced by the cracking of a large and hard nut, whose shell was thicker and more resisting than our peach stones. The hair of their heads, and the beards of most of them, were short, although others wore it long, and hanging down the back, or plaited and coiled on the top of the head in a tress, like the Chinese at Batavia, which is there termed condt.
1) Meaning tattooed, doubtless.
What the form of worship of these people comprises we were not able to gather any full knowledge of, owing to the shortness of our stay among them; we noticed only that they kindle fire in front of certain remarkably tall stone figures they set up; and, thereafter squatting on their heels with heads bowed down, they bring the palms of their hands together and alternately raise and lower them. At first, these stone figures caused us to be filled with wonder, for we could not understand how it was possible that people who are destitute of heavy or thick timber, and also of stout cordage, out of which to construct gear, had been able to erect them; nevertheless some of these statues were a good 30 feet in height and broad in proportion. This perplexity ceased, however, with the discovery, on removing a piece of the stone, that they were formed out of clay or some kind of rich earth, and that small smooth flints had been stuck over afterwards, which are fitted very closely and neatly to each other, so as to make up the semblance of a human figure1. Moreover, one saw reaching downwards from the shoulders a slight elevation or prominence which represented the arms, for all the statues seem to convey the idea that they were hung about with a long robe from the neck right down to the soles of the feet. They have on the head a basket heaped up with flints painted white deposited in it2.
Some of the gentlemen who travelled over the island, and examined many of them, were of opinion, that the stone of which they were made was different to any other they saw on the island, and had much the appearance of being factitious. Cook, Bibl. no. 16.
2) Roggeveen's description of the statues seems to show that he never got close to one of them, but saw them only from a distance of some hundreds of yards. His 'basket' was doubtless one of the coronoid cylinders of tufaceous rock by which most of the figures were surmounted.
It was incomprehensible to us how these people cook their food, for no one was able to perceive or find that they had any earthen pots, pans, or vessels. The only thing which appeared to us was that they scrape holes in the ground with their hands, and lay large and small flint pebbles in them (for we saw no other kinds of stone): then, having got dried litter from the fields and laid over the pebbles, they set fire to it and in a little time brought us a boiled fowl to eat very neatly wrapped round in a kind of rush, clean and hot. Though they were thanked by means of signs, we had quite enough business in hand to look after our people so as to keep order among them, and prevent any affront being offered; and also that in the event of any struggle occurring they should not allow themselves to be taken by surprise, for although these people showed us every sign of friendship, yet the experience of others has taught us that one may not put too much trust in any Indians, as recounted in the Journal of the Nassau Fleet, which lost seventeen men on one occasion through the willingness of the natives of Terra de Feu to help being mistaken for a proof that they were well disposed.
We then, being baulked from making any sufficiently detailed inquiry, concluded that they must have large hollow flint-stones under the soil, which hold water when they set about boiling anything, and that afterwards they arch it over with stones on which to light the fire, and thus boil their food by means of the heat thrown downwards, until tender. It is also very remarkable that we saw no more than two or three old women, those were wearing a garment reaching from the waist down to below their knees, and another slung on the shoulders: yet so that the skin covering their pendant breasts was bare. But young women and lasses did not come forward amongst the crowd, so that one must believe the jealousy of the men had moved them to hide them away in some distant place in the island1. Their houses or huts are without any ornamentation, and have a length of fifty feet and a width of fifteen; the height being nine feet, as it appeared by guess2. The construction of their walls, as we saw in the framework of a new building, is begun with stakes which are stuck into the ground and secured straight upright, across which other long strips of wood which I may call laths are lashed, to the height of four or five, thus completing the framework of the building. Then the interstices, which are all of oblong shape, are closed up and covered over with a sort of rush or long grass, which they put on very thickly, layer upon layer, and fasten on the inner side with lashings (the which they know how to make from a certain field product called Piet very neatly and skilfully, and is in no way inferior to our own thin cord); so that they are always as well shut in against wind and rain as those who live beneath thatched roofs in Holland.
They either have but few females among them, or many were restrained from making their appearance, during our stay," says Cook, u for though we saw nothing to induce us to believe the men were of a jealous disposition, or the women afraid to appear in public, something of this kind was probably the case. Cook, Bibl. no. 16.
The largest house I saw was about sixty feet long, eight or nine feet high in the middle, and three or four at each end, its breadth at these parts was nearly equal to its height. Cook, Bibl. no. 16.
These dwellings have no more than one entrance way, which is so low that they pass in creeping on their knees, being round above, as a vault or archway1; the roof is also of the same form. All the chattels we saw before us (for these long huts admit no daylight except through the one entrance-way, and are destitute of windows and closely shut in all round) were mats spread on the floor, and a large flint stone which many of them use for a pillow. Furthermore they had round about their dwellings certain big blocks of hewn stone, three or four feet in breadth, and fitted together in a singularly neat and even manner2; and, according to our judgment, these serve them for a stoop3 on which to sit and chat during the cool of the evening.
The door-way is in the middle of one side, formed like a porch and so low and narrow. as just to admit a man to enter upon all fours. Cook, Bibl. no. 16.
They are built, or ratherfaced, with hewn stones of a very large size; and the workmanship is not inferior to the best plain piece of masonry we have in England. They use no sort of cement; yet the joints are exceedingly close and the stones morticed and tenanted one into another, in a very artful manner. Cook, Bibl. no. 16.
A remarkable circumstance was the junction of these stones, which were laid after the most excellent rules of art, fitting in such a manner as to make a durable piece of architecture. Forster, G., Bibl. no. 21.
3) The word in the original is stoep. There is no synonymous expression in English, though 'porch', 'threshold', or 'piazza' each corresponds in a way. In the United States of America, and in the South African colonies, the Dutch term has been adopted; and is now written 'stoop'. It means the paved space adjoining the front door of a house, where on fine evenings the inmates are wont to sit in chairs or on benches.
It only remains to say, in concluding the subject of these dwelling-huts, that we did not see more than six or seven of them at the place where we landed, from which it may clearly be inferred that all the Indians make use of their possessions in common, for the large size and small number of their dwellings give one to know that many live together and sleep in a single building; but if one should therefore conclude that the women are held in common among them, one must naturally expect depravity and bickering to ensue.
Finally, as to their seagoing craft, they are of poor and flimsy construction; for their canoes are fitted together of a number of small boards and light frames, which they skilfully lace together with very fine laid twine made from the above-mentioned vegetable product Piet. But as they lack the knowledge, and especially the material, for caulking the great number of seams of their canoes, and making them tight, they consequently leak a great deal; on account of which they are necessitated to spend half their time in baling. Their canoes are about ten feet long, not counting the high and pointed stem and stern pieces. Their width is such that, with their legs packed close together, they can just sit in them so as to paddle ahead.
It was now deemed advisable to go to the other side of the Island, whereto the King or Head Chief invited us, as being the principal place of their plantations and fruit-trees, for all the things they brought to us of that kind were fetched from that quarter, — inasmuch as the Northerly wind which began to blow made our anchorage a leeshore: the more so because we had not many people on board the Ships, who could get help from us if necessary in the event of the wind waxing strong; moreover, the boats and shallops being filled to the utmost with men, these would in such a case not have been able to get back on board, either by reason of the heavy sea on the beach or of its becoming impossible for them to row. Therefore it was deemed well to pull off at once in good order, the which was presently put into practice. Having arrived on board we resolved to sail another hundred miles farther to the Westward so that by thus doing we should punctually follow our Instructions and the Resolution adopted in reference to them, in all details; although, before doing so, we should make a short Cruise away down Eastwards, to* see whether we could discover the Low and Sandy Island; for, in the event of our finding it, the first portion of our cruise in the South Sea would necessarily terminate, as having accomplished its purpose: the contents of which Resolution are: —
COUNCIL of the Commanders of the three Ships sailing in company, held on board the Ship Arend, when the Shore Expedition had been despatched and accomplished with three boats and two shallops, well armed and manned.
Friday the 10th of April1, 1722.
The President having called together the Commanders of this Expedition, to the end that each one should submit his ideas and opinions concerning the newly found Island, namely, whether in view of this discovery the Resolution considered and adopted by this Council on the 2nd inst. should be punctually observed and fulfilled: or whether, on the contrary, we should proceed on our course another hundred miles Westwards, inasmuch as this land discovered2 (being called by us Padsch Eyland, because it was sighted and discovered on Easter Day) can not be said to be a small, low, and sandy Island, covering as it does an extent of sixteen Dutch miles in circuit and being fairly high land3, the which was lying 8 or 9 miles away from us when The African Galley made the signal of land in sight. As this distance may with safety be deemed correct, seeing that it took us the whole of the following day, with a fresh breeze blowing, to get within a couple of miles or so by eventide. Nor can the aforementioned land be termed sandy, because we found it not only not sandy but on the contrary exceedingly fruitful, producing bananas, potatoes, sugar-cane of remarkable thickness, and many other kinds of the fruits of the earth; although destitute of large trees and domestic animals, except poultry. This place, as far as its rich soil and good climate are concerned, is such that it might be made into an earthly Paradise, if it were properly worked and cultivated; which is now only done in so far as the Inhabitants are obliged to for the maintenance of life. And furthermore, it is quite improper to give this discovery the name of a range of high land; if one supposes that by ill luck we sailed by the Low and Sandy Island without seeing it, the which is not probable, as our course was directed in such wise that we should inevitably have sighted it if so be that this Easter Island is the land which is described as being a range of high land. Therefore one may conclude with good reason that this Easter Island is some other land than any we are seeking, and that one part of our voyage is made good; since it fails to present those characteristics which belong to the land we hope to meet with. The President submits all the above remarks to this Council for consideration, in order to avail himself of its opinions as may be proper.
1) By a curious coincidence, La Pérouse's visit was also made on the 10th of April: sixty-four years later.
2) The parenthesis is misplaced in the Dutch Journal, as edited, where it occurs before the word omdat, 'inasmuch.' It should obviously be after the word 'discovered' as now translated.
3) The highest peak of Easter Island attains 1767 feet. Two others are 1327 and 1323 feet, respectively, above the sea. Cook says, "The hills are of such an height as to be seen fifteen or sixteen leagues."
Whereupon, all these points being attentively noted and maturely weighed, it is unanimously resolved that, indisputably, the above-mentioned Easter Island does not in the least conform to the description of a range of high land, being of only moderate elevation; that, also, it is absolutely impossible that the finer metals should occur here, as we learned by experience from ocular inspection, that the Inhabitants are without any such, and employ as coverings and ornaments only certain produce of vegetable origin; and that they understand sewing these handsomely and neatly together three or four ply in thickness "for the sake of warmth and strength. Furthermore that they plait together as ornaments some feathers of the domestic fowl (of which last very few were seen, however) so as to form a circlet worn on the head, and the painting of their faces, and other parts of the body as well, with regular and well proportioned designs after such a manner that one side of the body is in conformity with the other, also some flat shells worn as neck ornaments, and the slit in the ear-lobes plugged with some kind of root (shaped like our parsnips) for adorning the ears. Further, that we have not seen the small, low, and sandy Island which must be the outlier and true sign of that land we are in search of; therefore it is by unanimous assent agreed upon and declared that we continue the course West along the parallel of 27 degrees of South latitude until we shall have sailed another hundred miles, and on arrival there, we are to be guided by circumstances and to take such action as may then be deemed proper.
So resolved in the Ship and on the day above stated. (Signed) Jacob Roggeveen, Jan Koster, Cornelis Bouman, Roelof Rosendaal.
This resolution being carried and signed, Captain Jan Koster suggested, by way of discussion, that it should be a very easy and simple matter to ascertain whether the above-mentioned Easter Island is really the land we are aiming after and towards which we have directed our course, if we were now to make only a short Cruise by sailing 12 miles Eastwards, and that the ships should keep two miles apart from each other, but at the same time resume close company if it should happen that a low and sandy island should be sighted, which would establish the truth that the aforesaid Easter Island is the land we have been minded to discover. And in case we get no view of the said Sandy Island that then also the before-named Easter Island must of necessity be some other land (although lying right in our track) than that towards which our expedition is directed. Furthermore, that if the Sandy Island should be discovered, a Northerly course should be shaped in order to get into the steadier and stronger trade-wind, for the furthering of the second item in our Voyage: since the first would fulfil itself, and thereby terminate, on our meeting with the Sandy Island before mentioned. All the which being considered, was approved and adopted by common assent.
So resolved and determined in the Ship and on the day of the foregoing Resolution. (Signed) JACOB ROGGEVEEN, Jan Koster, Cornelis Bouman, Roelof Rosenpaal.
11. The wind this day was Nor'-Nor'-West and Nor'-West, with a topsail-breeze and rough sea. We laid out the best bower, and sent down the fore and main yards. About the fourth glass of the first watch the ship THIENHOVEN's working cable parted; and, being hailed to know if she wanted assistance, they answered 'No'.
12. The working cable of The African Galley carried away about dawn, through which misfortune both ships got so much nearer the beach before they were brought up by another anchor, that if they had then dragged, or the cable had parted a second time, they would inevitably have suffered shipwreck: for, as there was not time enough to sheet their sails home by the wind, the Ship or both Ships would have foundered against the rocks, by reason of the strength of the wind and the heavy rollers setting shorewards. The danger of the other ships caused us to decide to get a spring on our own cable, so as to be able to fill our sails in case of emergency, and be ready to claw off the lee shore and thus endeavour to save the ship and ourselves: to which end we swayed our yards aloft again so as to be all ready to put to sea whenever needs should demand. But the wind shifting with a rain squall from the Nor'- West to West, saved us from this extreme measure. We all weighed our anchors, therefore, and made sail together; with the setting of the sun, the East point of the Island bearing Sou'-West by South, and the West point Sou'-West by West, six miles distant.
13. We were in the latitude by observation 27 degrees 7 minutes South, and the longitude 265 degrees 56 minutes by reckoning; the corrected course was South-East, 4½ miles, the wind between Nor'-Nor'-West and South by East, with unsteady airs and rain squalls. After Easter Island bore West by North from us, we steered due East, the weather being very bright and clear all the while. When we had left the land so far behind that it could scarcely be made out from the mast-head, we sailed on another three miles farther notwithstanding, in order to be quite certain of covering the whole distance between the Sandy Island and Easter Island; but, not sighting the same, we decided to wear ship in order to proceed on our voyage to the Westward. We therefore signalled our consorts to alter their course, and to steer West, expressing our hope that a good discovery of a high and wide-stretching tract of land should result after a little while.
[End of the Extract from Roggeveen's Journal.]
NOTE by the editor: The explorers' wish was destined to be disappointed; and the subsequent pages of the Journal contain nothing pertinent to the present subject. No land was sighted on the course due West, along the parallel of Easter Island; and, on the 21st of April, Roggeveen called another meeting of his officers, including this time in their deliberations the Chief Pilots. He concluded that Easter Island must be identical with the so-called Southern Continent of Davis, Wafer, and Dampier, and that the
range of high land they were now in search of must be visionary. In finally reviewing the pros and cons of their statements the phlegmatic Dutchman slyly declares that
nothing more remains to be said than that these three (who were Englishmen) must have been rovers from truth, as well as rovers after the goods of the Spaniards.
Such is the official account written by Mr Jacob Roggeveen, the Commodore of his expedition — an account which, little known as it appears to be even at the present day, should long since have relegated the clap-trap story of the Tweejarige Reize to the realms of legend, and have eclipsed the claims of the more sober-minded but not wholly authentic narrative of Sergeant-Major Carl Friederich Behrens. We may now judge Roggeveen in a new and true light; and must commend his conduct of the expedition as careful and conscientious, instead of loading him, as has been done in the past, with charges of inhumanity and ruthlessness. Honour is due to him as the first European to visit and explore Easter Island; and as having succeeded in that object with fewer data available than had many of his successors, who nevertheless failed in the quest.
B. G. C.
Translated from the German of CARL FRIEDERICH BEHRENS: Der wohlversiichte Süd-Länder y das ist: ausführliche Reise-Beschreibung um die Welt.
Source file (.pdf): The voyage of Captain Don Felipe González to Easter Island 1770-1 p. 224 - 230
From here1 we set our course for David's Land, or a part of the South Land, W.N.W. This land seems to have been discovered in 1680 by Captain Davids, when in command of an English buccaneering ship2, as related by Mr Dampier and one Waffer3 in their narrative. Ten miles westward of Joan Ferdinando we saw the island Little Ferdinando. It was likewise uninhabited; but appeared to be less fertile than the other, and withal much smaller. There seem, however, to be a great quantity of wild goats [stein-böcke] on it, and I should say they must be more easy to shoot here than upon the other island, as it is not so mountainous. I did not examine whether there is any good harbour here in which one may anchor.
1) i.e. the larger or landward island of Juan Fernandez.
2) The Bachelor's Delight, 1687.
3) Lionel Wafer.We made good way day by day, as the S.E. trade-wind was very favourable to us, and attended us throughout most parts of the South Sea. At last we attained the latitude of 28°, and longitude 251°, in which position we expected to fall in with the land. We saw numerous land birds, among which were many tropic-birds [pfeil-sterten]4. And they also thought that we had really seen land. Moreover the wind began to falter [vagiren] and shifted round towards the W., which, on coasts where the trade-wind prevails, is always a sign that one is not far from land. Still, to the great surprise of our Admiral, we saw no Davids Land, so far; and it is my belief that either we overran it, or that there is no such land there. This at any rate is certain, that all the coast lines of the South Lands stretch for the most part East and West, or East, N. and West-South (sic); which may be a principal reason why this South Land has remained undiscovered by many [navigators] hitherto. One approaches the land on a W.N.W. course, and with a N.W. one leaves it behind altogether, which I ascertained by comparing the [positions of] all the Southern Lands already discovered and constructing a chart whereon it is clearly shown that navigators have passed in the near neighbourhood of land or, with a N.W. course have sailed right away from it.
4) Phaeton aether eus.
We continued on another 12° to the westward of the longitude above mentioned, and had land birds and sea-fowl about us every day, who kept company with us until we at last sighted an island, on the 6th of April, being our first Easter Day1 at which we were heartily pleased. And because it was on the day of the glorious resurrection of Our Lord that it appeared to us we at once named it Pasch Land, or 'Easter Land'. [It was] about eight miles in circumference2. Our African galley had got close in with the land and reported that the place appeared to be very fertile; moreover, that it must be inhabited, as smoke had been noticed rising in several places. Next day we stood in with our ships to look for a harbour, whereupon one of the natives came off in a small skiff [schiffgen] to meet us some two miles off the land. We took him aboard our vessel and gave him a piece of linen cloth to wrap about his body, for he was quite naked; and we offered him beads and other trinkets, all of which he hung round his neck together with a dried fish. He was very cleverly and regularly painted with all sorts of figures: he was of a brown tint, and had long ears which hung down as far as his shoulders as if they had been stretched to that length by being weighted, after the fashion of the Mongolian Moors. He was fairly tall in stature, strong in limb, of good appearance, and lively in mien, as well as pleasing in speech and gesture. We gave this South Lander or foreign visitor a glass of wine to drink; but he only took it and tossed it into his eyes, whereat we were surprised. I fancy he thought that we designed to poison him by its means, which is a common usage among Indians. Thereupon we dressed our new guest in garments and put him on a hat, but he was evidently very ill at ease in clothing. We also regaled him with food; but he was quite ignorant of the use of a spoon, knife, or fork. After he had taken his meal our musicians treated him to a specimen of each one of their instruments; and whenever any person took him by the hand he began at once to caper and dance about. We were much pleased to see his enjoyment; but we did not come to an anchor that day, and therefore let him go back to the shore with the aforesaid presents to acquaint his friends in what manner he had been entertained. But he parted from us unwillingly: and held up his hands, cast his glances towards the land, and began to cry out loudly in these words, O dorroga! O dorroga! He was not at all disposed to return to his skiff, but preferred to remain with us that we might convey him ashore in our ship. I make no doubt that, by means of the aforementioned exclamation he was appealing to his god, as we could see great numbers of heathen idols erected on shore.
1) They had sailed from Holland on Aug. 1st of the foregoing year, 1721.
2) German statute miles must here be meant.
We remained close under the land all night until towards morning, when we stood in in a S.E. direction towards a bay or indentation in the coast to anchor. The natives swam off in the water in thousands; some with small dinghies or skiffs brought us uncooked and baked hens, together with many roots; while on the beach they were running up and down like deer. Some were seated in groups of fifty1 or a hundred, and looked upon our ship with wonderment: some out of mere curiosity, but others were desirous of finding out what design had brought us there. They kindled many fires by their idols, either by way of offerings or for the purposes of prayer. In the early morning we looked out and could see from some distance that they had prostrated themselves towards the rising sun and had kindled some hundreds of fires, which probably betokened a morning oblation to their gods. We thereupon got ready to effect a landing, but just then our former visitor came on board together with many others of his people, bringing us a quantity of dressed fowls and roots. One amongst these was an entirely white man, who was wearing white chocks of wood in his ears as large as one's fist, and bore a very devout appearance, so that we took him to be an idol priest By some misadventure one of the natives who were on board the vessels got shot, and this must have caused a great consternation amongst them, for they all immediately sprang into the water and some swam away towards the shore, but others made off in their skiffs with all possible haste. We then with 150 men, soldiers as well as seamen, proceeded in the name of God ashore: and among them there was present our Admiral himself, by whom I was given command of a section of the party. I was the first who, at the disembarkation, set foot on the island. The inhabitants pressed round us in such crowds that we could scarcely pass along, so that we had to force a way through them; and, because some of them went so far as to lay hold of our arms (weapons), they were fired upon: by which they were direly alarmed, and dispersed, but collected again in swarms, though keeping some ten paces in front of us, believing that they were already out of range of our weapons at that distance.
1) This number is given in figures, but owing to a defect in the type only the o is printed. It means presumably 50.
Many of them were shot at this juncture; and among the slain lay the man who had been with us before, at which we were much grieved. In order to obtain possession of the bodies they congregated in great numbers, bringing with them presents of various kinds of fruits and vegetables, in order that we might the more readily surrender to them their slain. The consternation of these people was by no means abated: even their children's children in that place will in times to come be able to recount the story of it. They kept up an uncommon yelling: women as well as children brought palm branches, red and white streamers, and various kinds of fruits, Indian figs, large nuts, sugar-cane, roots, fowls, — alive, boiled, and roast. They even flung themselves at our feet, displayed the streamers in front of us, and prostrated themselves on their knees before us, presenting their palm branches as peace offerings. They also made tender of their womenkind, asking whether we would accompany them into their huts, or had rather take them off to the ships. However, we did them no ill, but made a present to them of a piece of gaily coloured linen print between fifty and sixty ells in length, which they measured fathomwise more than a hundred times over. We also distributed coral baubles, small mirrors, etc., by which they might be assured that we were their friends. After that they brought us more than 500 live fowls, which were like those of the Vierlanden, this time without any boiled or roast ones, together with many roots, some red, some white, a good lot of potatoes which tasted almost like bread, and which are used by these people in the same way; and some hundreds of sugar-canes, great quantities of pisang1, being Indian figs as large as a cucumber a span in length and of proportionate thickness, with a green rind. When one peels this off [the pulp] tastes like figs, or as sweet as honey: there are sometimes as many as a hundred on a single bunch. The leaf is from two to three feet broad and from six to eight feet in length, It is with these that our first parents should have covered themselves in Paradise after their unfortunate Fall, because it is almost the largest and strongest leaf which one meets with in Morning and Evening lands.
1) Pisang is the Malayan generic term for the banana.
No animals were met with, as far as we penetrated on this occasion, except sundry species of birds; but there may be many other animals farther in the interior of the country, as the natives seemed acquainted with pigs when they saw some on board our ships.
The natives prepare their meals in pots made of clay or earth. Each household appeared to us to have its own.
The houses were from forty to sixty feet [schuh] long, six to eight feet [schuh] in width, and of similar height, set up on wooden stakes, daubed over with luting and covered in with palm leaves. As regards their subsistence it appears that it must be procured by tillage of the soil, as we saw it everywhere planted and bearing crops. Moreover the fields or lands were all measured off with a cord, and very neatly cultivated. At the time of our visit all their crops were maturing: the fields and trees were in full bearing, and I feel sure that if we had explored this country right through many good things would have been met with, since we were there in just the best season of the year.
No remarkable furniture was found inside their houses, except some red and white coverlets [decken] which they often use as apparel, and also for sleeping under. These coverlets felt like silk, to the touch, so that one could almost conclude they had looms by means of which they made them themselves.
These natives were universally blithe and merry, well-built, strong in limb, not exactly slender, yet nimble on their feet; friendly and pleasant in manner, but submissive withal, and also very timid. Most of them, when bringing any object such as fowls, or other produce, would cast it all down before us and retire with all possible speed, and go their way without ceremony.
As for their complexion they are brownish, about the hue of a Spaniard, yet one finds some among them of a darker shade and others quite white, and no less also a few of a reddish tint as if somewhat severely tanned by the sun. Their ears were so long that they hung down as far as to the shoulders. Some wore white ornaments in the lobes as a special embellishment. They were painted on their bodies with wonderful birds and animals, although some were handsomer than others.
The women had their features streaked for the most part with a red pigment, which is of a much brighter shade than any we have anywhere else seen or found; but we do not know from what they make this beautiful colour. The women were all clothed with, red and white wraps [decken]; and each had a small hat made of straw or rushes. They sat down before us and disrobed, laughed, and were very friendly. Others called from a distance from their houses and beckoned us with the hand to come to them; and there was, in the place where we were standing, a village of about twenty houses.
The people had, to judge by appearances, no weapons; although, as I remarked, they relied in case of need on their gods or idols which stand erected all along the sea shore in great numbers, before which they fall down and invoke them. These idols were all hewn out of stone, and in the form of a man, with long ears, adorned on the head with a crown, yet all made with skill: whereat we wondered not a little. A clear space was reserved round these objects of worship by laying stones to a distance of twenty or thirty paces. I took some of the people to be priests, because they paid more reverence to the gods than did the rest; and showed themselves much more devout in their ministrations. One could also distinguish these from the other people quite well, not only by their wearing great white plugs in their ear lobes, but in having the head wholly shaven and hairless. One of them was with us on board the ship as above related. They wore a head-dress of white and black feathers which were just like storks' feathers: so that we thought it likely that some of the storks in migrating from Europe at their accustomed season must rest here1. As the evening was drawing near we returned all together on board our ships, intending to explore the country better on the next or third day. It was not possible to determine whether these people have a king, as there are no great distinctions between them; save that the eldest among them wore white feathers on their heads, like ostrich feathers in appearance, and carried a staff in their hands. But one could perceive that each household was independent, wherein the most elderly of its men took the lead.
1) Here intervenes a long, speculative, and uninstructive dissertation on the migration of storks, quite irrelevant to the narrative.
This island is a suitable and convenient place at which to obtain refreshment, as all the country is under cultivation and we saw in the distance whole tracts of woodland [ganze Wälder] It should be possible to grow corn all over it, and even to plant vineyards, which might be very serviceable in the event of a new discovery of the South Land. We got a gale from the West here, so that we lost two anchors and were forced to put to sea: and it might easily have happened that we had all been stranded with the three ships, and so have sojourned with the natives of the island. I have often felt thankful that if such had really come to pass the people of this island appeared of such a disposition as to be easily brought to the Christian Faith.
We cruised for some days yet round about here, and made courses on every point of the compass; but there was no David's Land to be seen. We therefore headed away towards Schouten's foul water [schlecht wasser] to the Westward in the intent to discover some land.