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Easter Island ship logs: James Cook, 1774

James Cook was the third european to disembark at Rapa Nui.

James Cook's journal from his Easter Island visit in 1774

This text has been extracted from the book A Voyage Towards the South Pole and Round the World, Volume 1 from the year 1777 by James Cook, in which he publishes his own journal that he kept during his second voyage around the world in the years 1772 - 1775 with the ships Resolution and Adventure.

Author: James Cook
Comments: Marcus Edensky


Sequel of the Passage from New Zealand to Easter Island, and Transactions there, with an Account of an Expedition to discover the Inland Part of the Country, and a Description of some of the surprising gigantic Statues found in the Island.

1774 March

At eight o'clock in the morning, on the 11th, land was seen, from the masthead, bearing west, and at noon from the deck, extending from W. 3/4 N. to W. by S., about twelve leagues distant. I made no doubt that this was Davis's Land, or Easter Island; as its appearance from this situation, corresponded very well with Wafer's account; and we expected to have seen the low sandy isle that Davis fell in with, which would have been a confirmation; but in this we were disappointed. At seven o'clock in the evening, the island bore from north 62 W., to north 87 W., about five leagues distant; in which situation, we sounded without finding ground with a line of an hundred and forty fathoms. Here we spent the night, having alternately light airs and calms, till ten o'clock the next morning, when a breeze sprung up at W.S.W. With this we stretched in for the land; and by the help of our glass, discovered people, and some of those colossean statues or idols mentioned in the account of Roggewein's voyage. At four o'clock p.m. we were half a league S.S.E. and N.N.W. of the N.E. point of the island; and, on sounding, found thirty-five fathoms, a dark sandy bottom. I now tacked, and endeavoured to get into what appeared to be a bay, on the west side of the point or S.E. side of the island; but before this could be accomplished, night came upon us, and we stood on and off, under the land, till the next morning; having sounding from seventy-five to an hundred and ten fathoms, the same bottom as before.

On the 13th, about eight o'clock in the morning, the wind, which had been variable most part of the night, fixed at S.E., and blew in squalls, accompanied with rain; but it was not long before the weather became fair. As the wind now blew right to the S.E. shore, which does not afford that shelter I at first thought, I resolved to look for anchorage on the west and N.W. sides of the island. With this view I bore up round the south point, off which lie two small islets, the one nearest the point high and peaked, and the other low and flattish. After getting round the point, and coming before a sandy beach1, we found soundings thirty and forty fathoms, sandy ground, and about one mile from the shore. Here a canoe, conducted by two men, came off to us. They brought with them a bunch of plantains, which they sent into the ship by a rope, and then they returned ashore. This gave us a good opinion of the islanders, and inspired us with hopes of getting some refreshments, which we were in great want of.

1) Anakena.

I continued to range along the coast, till we opened the northern point of the isle, without seeing a better anchoring-place than the one we had passed. We therefore tacked, and plied back to it; and, in the mean time, sent away the master in a boat to sound the coast. He returned about five o'clock in the evening; and soon after we came to an anchor in thirty-six fathoms water, before the sandy beach above mentioned. As the master drew near the shore with the boat, one of the natives swam off to her, and insisted on coming a-board the ship, where he remained two nights and a day. The first thing he did after coming a-board, was to measure the length of the ship, by fathoming her from the tafferel to the stern, and as he counted the fathoms, we observed that he called the numbers by the same names that they do at Otaheite; nevertheless his language was in a manner wholly unintelligible to all of us.

Having anchored too near the edge of a bank, a fresh breeze from the land, about three o'clock the next morning, drove us off it; on which the anchor was heaved up, and sail made to regain the bank again. While the ship was plying in, I went ashore, accompanied by some of the gentlemen, to see what the island was likely to afford us. We landed at the sandy beach, where some hundreds of the natives were assembled, and who were so impatient to see us, that many of them swam off to meet the boats. Not one of them had so much as a stick or weapon of any sort in their hands. After distributing a few trinkets amongst them, we made signs for something to eat, on which they brought down a few potatoes, plantains, and sugar canes, and exchanged them for nails, looking-glasses, and pieces of cloth.

We presently discovered that they were as expert thieves and as tricking in their exchanges, as any people we had yet met with. It was with some difficulty we could keep the hats on our heads; but hardly possible to keep any thing in our pockets, not even what themselves had sold us; for they would watch every opportunity to snatch it from us, so that we sometimes bought the same thing two or three times over, and after all did not get it.

Before I sailed from England, I was informed that a Spanish ship had visited this isle in 17691. Some signs of it were seen among the people now about us; one man had a pretty good broad-brimmed European hat on, another had a grego jacket, and another a red silk handkerchief. They also seemed to know the use of a musquet, and to stand in much awe of it; but this they probably learnt from Roggewein, who, if we are to believe the authors of that voyage, left them sufficient tokens.

1) Don Felipe González in 1770.

Near the place where we landed, were some of those statues before mentioned, which I shall describe in another place. The country appeared barren and without wood; there were, nevertheless, several plantations of potatoes, plantains, and sugar-canes; we also saw some fowls, and found a well of brackish water. As these were articles we were in want of, and as the natives seemed not unwilling to part with them, I resolved to stay a day or two. With this view I repaired on board, and brought the ship to an anchor in thirty-two fathoms water; the bottom a fine dark sand. Our station was about a mile from the nearest shore, the south point of a small bay, in the bottom of which is the sandy beach before mentioned, being E.S.E., distant one mile and a-half. The two rocky islets lying off the south point of the island, were just shut behind a point to the north of them; they bore south 3/4 west, four miles distant; and the other extreme of the island bore north 25 E., distant about six miles. But the best mark for this anchoring-place is the beach, because it is the only one on this side of the island. In the afternoon, we got on board a few casks of water, and opened a trade with the natives for such things as they had to dispose of. Some of the gentlemen also made an excursion into the country to see what it produced; and returned again in the evening, with the loss only of a hat, which one of the natives snatched off the head of one of the party.

Early next morning, I sent Lieutenants Pickersgill and Edgecumbe with a party of men, accompanied by several of the gentlemen, to examine the country. As I was not sufficiently recovered from my late illness to make one of the party, I was obliged to content myself with remaining at the landing-place among the natives. We had, at one time, a pretty brisk trade with them for potatoes, which we observed they dug up out of an adjoining plantation; but this traffic, which was very advantageous to us, was soon put a stop to by the owner (as we supposed) of the plantation coming down, and driving all the people out of it. By this we concluded, that he had been robbed of his property, and that they were not less scrupulous of stealing from one another, than from us, on whom they practised every little fraud they could think of, and generally with success; for we no sooner detected them in one, than they found out another. About seven o'clock in the evening, the party I had sent into the country returned, after having been over the greatest part of the island.

They left the beach about nine o'clock in the morning, and took a path which led across to the S.E. side of the island, followed by a great crowd of the natives, who pressed much upon them. But they had not proceeded far, before a middle-aged man, punctured from head to foot, and his face painted with a sort of white pigment, appeared with a spear in his hand, and walked along-side of them, making signs to his countrymen to keep at a distance, and not to molest our people. When he had pretty well effected this, he hoisted a piece of white cloth on his spear, placed himself in the front, and led the way, with his ensign of peace, as they understood it to be. For the greatest part of the distance across, the ground had but a barren appearance, being a dry hard clay, and every where covered with stones; but notwithstanding this, there were several large tracts planted with potatoes; and some plantain walks, but they saw no fruit on any of the trees. Towards the highest part of the south end of the island, the soil, which was a fine red earth, seemed much better, bore a longer grass, and was not covered with stones as in the other parts; but here they saw neither house nor plantation.

On the east side, near the sea, they met with three platforms of stone-work, or rather the ruins of them. On each had stood four of those large statues, but they were all fallen down from two of them, and also one from the third; all except one were broken by the fall, or in some measure defaced. Mr Wales measured this one, and found it to be fifteen feet in length, and six feet broad over the shoulders, Each statue had on its head a large cylindric stone of a red colour, wrought perfectly round. The one they measured, which was not by far the largest, was fifty-two inches high, and sixty-six in diameter. In some, the upper corner of the cylinder was taken off in a sort of concave quarter-round, but in others the cylinder was entire.

From this place they followed the direction of the coast to the N.E., the man with the flag still leading the way. For about three miles they found the country very barren, and in some places stript of the soil to the bare rock, which seemed to be a poor sort of iron ore. Beyond this, they came to the most fertile part of the island they saw, it being interspersed with plantations of potatoes, sugar-canes, and plantain trees, and these not so much encumbered with stones as those which they had seen before; but they could find no water except what the natives twice or thrice brought them, which, though brackish and stinking, was rendered acceptable, by the extremity of their thirst. They also passed some huts, the owners of which met them with roasted potatoes and sugar-canes, and, placing themselves ahead of the foremost party (for they marched in a line in order to have the benefit of the path), gave one to each man as he passed by. They observed the same method in distributing the water which they brought; and were particularly careful that the foremost did not drink too much, lest none should be left for the hindmost. But at the very time these were relieving the thirsty and hungry, there were not wanting others who endeavoured to steal from them the very things which had been given them. At last, to prevent worse consequences, they were obliged to fire a load of small shot at one who was so audacious as to snatch from one of the men the bag which contained every thing they carried with them. The shot hit him on the back, on which he dropped the bag, ran a little way, and then fell; but he afterwards got up and walked, and what became of him they knew not, nor whether he was much wounded. As this affair occasioned some delay, and drew the natives together, they presently saw the man who had hitherto led the way and one or two more, coming running towards them; but instead of stopping when they came up, they continued to run round them, repeating, in a kind manner, a few words, until our people set forwards again. Then their old guide hoisted his flag, leading the way as before, and none ever attempted to steal from them the whole day afterwards. As they passed along, they observed on a hill a number of people collected together, some of whom had spears in their hands; but on their being called to by their countrymen, they dispersed, except a few, amongst whom was one seemingly of some note. He was a stout well-made man, with a fine open countenance, his face was painted, his body punctured, and he wore a better _Ha hou_, or cloth, than the rest. He saluted them as he came up, by stretching out his arms, with both hands clenched, lifting them over his head, opening them wide, and then letting them fall gradually down to his sides. To this man, whom they understood to be chief of the island, their other friend gave his white flag, and he gave him another, who carried it before them the remainder of the day.

Towards the eastern end of the island, they met with a well whose water was perfectly fresh, being considerably above the level of the sea; but it was dirty, owing to the filthiness or cleanliness (call it which you will) of the natives, who never go to drink without washing themselves all over as soon as they have done; and if ever so many of them are together, the first leaps right into the middle of the hole, drinks, and washes himself without the least ceremony; after which another takes his place and does the same. They observed that this side of the island was full of those gigantic statues so often mentioned; some placed in groupes on platforms of masonry, others single, fixed only in the earth, and that not deep; and these latter are, in general, much larger than the others. Having measured one, which had fallen down, they found it very near twenty-seven feet long, and upwards of eight feet over the breast or shoulders; and yet this appeared considerably short of the size of one they saw standing; its shade, a little past two o'clock, being sufficient to shelter all the party, consisting of near thirty persons, from the rays of the sun. Here they stopped to dine; after which they repaired to a hill, from whence they saw all the east and north shores of the isle, on which they could not see either bay or creek fit even for a boat to land in; nor the least signs of fresh water. What the natives brought them here was real salt water; but they observed that some of them drank pretty plentifully of it, so far will necessity and custom get the better of nature! On this account they were obliged to return to the last-mentioned well, where, after having quenched their thirst, they directed their route across the island towards the ship, as it was now four o'clock.

In a small hollow, on the highest part of the island, they met with several such cylinders as are placed on the heads of the statues. Some of these appeared larger than any they had seen before; but it was now too late to stop to measure any of them. Mr Wales, from whom I had this information, is of opinion that there had been a quarry here, whence these stones had formerly been dug; and that it would have been no difficult matter to roll them down the hill after they were formed. I think this a very reasonable conjecture, and have no doubt that it has been so.

On the declivity of the mountain towards the west, they met with another well, but the water was a very strong mineral, had a thick green scum on the top, and stunk intolerably. Necessity, however, obliged some to drink of it; but it soon made them so sick, that they threw it up the same way that it went down.

In all this excursion, as well as the one made the preceding day, only two or three shrubs were seen. The leaf and seed of one (called by the natives Torromedo1) were not much unlike those of the common vetch; but the pod was more like that of a tamarind in its size and shape. The seeds have a disagreeable bitter taste; and the natives, when they saw our people chew them, made signs to spit them out; from whence it was concluded that they think them poisonous. The wood is of a reddish colour, and pretty hard and heavy, but very crooked, small, and short, not exceeding six or seven feet in height. At the S.W. corner of the island, they found another small shrub, whose wood was white and brittle, and in some measure, as also its leaf, resembling the ash. They also saw in several places the Otaheitean cloth plant2, but it was poor and weak, and not above two and a half feet high at most.

1) Toromiro, lat. Sophora toromiro, locally known as Toromiro.

2) Paper mulberry, lat. Broussonetia papyrifera, locally known as Mahute.

They saw not an animal of any sort, and but very few birds; nor indeed any thing which can induce ships that are not in the utmost distress, to touch at this island.

This account of the excursion I had from Mr Pickersgill and Mr Wales, men on whose veracity I could depend; and therefore I determined to leave the island the next morning, since nothing was to be obtained that could make it worth my while to stay longer; for the water which we had sent on board, was not much better than if it had been taken up out of the sea.

We had a calm till ten o'clock in the morning of the 16th, when a breeze sprung up at west, accompanied with heavy showers of rain, which lasted about an hour. The weather then clearing up, we got under sail, stood to sea, and kept plying to and fro, while an officer was sent on shore with two boats, to purchase such refreshments as the natives might have brought down; for I judged this would be the case, as they knew nothing of our sailing. The event proved that I was not mistaken; for the boats made two trips before night, when we hoisted them in, and made sail to the N.W., with a light breeze at N.N.E.


A Description of the Island, and its Produce, Situation, and Inhabitants; their Manners and Customs; Conjectures concerning their Government, Religion, and other Subjects; with a more particular Account of the gigantic Statues.

1774 March

I shall now give some farther account of this island, which is undoubtedly the same that Admiral Roggewein touched at in April 1722; although the description given of it by the authors of that voyage does by no means agree with it now. It may also be the same that was seen by Captain Davis in 1686; for, when seen from the east, it answers very well to Wafer's description, as I have before observed. In short, if this is not the land, his discovery cannot lie far from the coast of America, as this latitude has been well explored from the meridian of 80 to 110. Captain Carteret? ? carried it much farther; but his track seems to have been a little too far south. Had I found fresh water, I intended spending some days in looking for the low sandy isle Davis fell in with, which would have determined the point. But as I did not find water, and had a long run to make before I was assured of getting any, and being in want of refreshments, I declined the search; as a small delay might have been attended with bad consequences to the crew, many of them beginning to be more or less affected with the scurvy.

No nation need contend for the honour of the discovery of this island, as there can be few places which afford less convenience for shipping than it does. Here is no safe anchorage, no wood for fuel, nor any fresh water worth taking on board. Nature has been exceedingly sparing of her favours to this spot. As every thing must be raised by dint of labour, it cannot be supposed that the inhabitants plant much more than is sufficient for themselves; and as they are but few in number, they cannot have much to spare to supply the wants of visitant strangers. The produce is sweet potatoes, yams, tara or eddy root, plantains, and sugar-canes, all pretty good, the potatoes especially, which are the best of the kind I ever tasted. Gourds they have also, but so very few, that a cocoa-nut shell was the most valuable thing we could give them. They have a few tame fowls, such as cocks and hens, small but well tasted. They have also rats, which it seems they eat; for I saw a man with some dead ones in his hand, and he seemed unwilling to part with them, giving me to understand they were for food. Of land-birds there were hardly any, and sea-birds but few; these were men-of-war, tropic, and egg-birds, noddies, tern, &c. The coast seemed not to abound with fish, at least we could catch none with hook and line, and it was but very little we saw among the natives.

Such is the produce of Easter Island, or Davis's Land, which is situated in latitude 27° 5' 30" S., longitude 109° 46' 20" W. It is about ten or twelve leagues in circuit, hath a hilly and stony surface, and an iron-bound shore. The hills are of such a height as to be seen fifteen or sixteen leagues. Off the south end, are two rocky islets, lying near the shore. The north and east points of the island rise directly from the sea to a considerable height; between them and the S.E. side, the shore forms an open bay, in which I believe the Dutch anchored. We anchored, as hath been already mentioned, on the west side of the island, three miles to the north of the south point, with the sandy beach bearing E.S.S. This is a very good road with easterly winds, but a dangerous one with westerly; as the other on the S.E. side must be with easterly winds.

For this, and other bad accommodations already mentioned, nothing but necessity will induce any one to touch at this isle, unless it can be done without going much out of the way; in which case, touching here may be advantageous, as the people willingly and readily part with such refreshments as they have, and at an easy rate. We certainly received great benefit from the little we got; but few ships can come here without being in want of water, and this want cannot be here supplied. The little we took on board, could not be made use of, it being only salt water which had filtered through a stony beach into a stone well; this the natives had made for the purpose, a little to the southward of the sandy beach so often mentioned, and the water ebbed and flowed into it with the tide.

The inhabitants of this island do not seem to exceed six or seven hundred souls, and above two-thirds of those we saw were males. They either have but few females amongst them, or else many were restrained from making their appearance during our stay, 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.

In colour, features, and language, they bear such an affinity to the people of the more western isles, that no one will doubt they have had the same origin. It is extraordinary that the same nation should have spread themselves over all the isles in this vast ocean, from New Zealand to this island, which is almost one-fourth part of the circumference of the globe.

Many of them have now no other knowledge of each other, than what is preserved by antiquated tradition; and they have, by length of time, become, as it were, different nations, each having adopted some peculiar custom or habit, &c. Nevertheless, a careful observer will soon see the affinity each has to the other. In general, the people of this isle are a slender race. I did not see a man that would measure six feet; so far are they from being giants, as one of the authors of Roggewein's voyage asserts. They are brisk and active, have good features, and not disagreeable countenances; are friendly and hospitable to strangers, but as much addicted to pilfering as any of their neighbours.

Tattowing, or puncturing the skin, is much used here. The men are marked from head to foot, with figures all nearly alike; only some give them one direction, and some another, as fancy leads. The women are but little punctured; red and white paint is an ornament with them, as also with the men; the former is made of turmeric, but what composes the latter I know not.

Their clothing is a piece or two of quilted cloth, about six feet by four, or a mat. One piece wrapped round their loins, and another over their shoulders, make a complete dress. But the men, for the most part, are in a manner naked, wearing nothing but a slip of cloth betwixt their legs, each end of which is fastened to a cord or belt they wear round the waist. Their cloth is made of the same materials as at Otaheite, viz. of the bark of the cloth-plant; but, as they have but little of it, our Otaheitean cloth, or indeed any sort of it, came here to a good market.

Their hair in general is black; the women wear it long, and sometimes tied up on the crown of the head; but the men wear it, and their beards, cropped short. Their headdress is a round fillet adorned with feathers, and a straw bonnet something like a Scotch one; the former, I believe, being chiefly worn by the men, and the latter by the women. 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 hole at its utmost extension. I do not remember seeing them wear any other ornaments, excepting amulets made of bone or shells. As harmless and friendly as these people seemed to be, they are not without offensive weapons, such as short wooden clubs and spears; the latter of which are crooked sticks about six feet long, armed at one end with pieces of flint. They have also a weapon made of wood1, like the patoo patoo of New Zealand.

1) Cook is referring to the paoa; a short club with two faces carved at both sides by the handle.

Their houses are low miserable huts, constructed by setting sticks upright in the ground, at six or eight feet distance, then bending them towards each other, and tying them together at the top, forming thereby a kind of Gothic arch. The longest sticks are placed in the middle, and shorter ones each way, and a less distance asunder, by which means the building is highest and broadest in the middle, and lower and narrower towards each end. To these are tied others horizontally, and the whole is thatched over with leaves of sugar-cane. 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. 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. Some have a kind of vaulted houses built with stone, and partly under ground; but I never was in one of these.

I saw no household utensils among them, except gourds, and of these but very few. They were extravagantly fond of cocoa-nut shells, more so than of any thing we could give them. They dress their victuals in the same manner as at Otaheite; that is, with hot stones in an oven or hole in the ground. The straw or tops of sugar-cane, plantain heads, &c. serve them for fuel to heat the stones. Plantains, which require but little dressing, they roast under fires of straw, dried grass, &c. and whole races of them are ripened or roasted in this manner. We frequently saw ten or a dozen, or more, such fires in one place, and most commonly in the mornings and evenings.

Not more than three or four canoes were seen on the whole island, and these very mean, and built of many pieces sewed together with small line. They are about eighteen or twenty feet long, head and stem carved or raised a little, are very narrow, and fitted with out-riggers. They do not seem capable of carrying above four persons, and are by no means fit for any distant navigation. As small and mean as these canoes were, it was a matter of wonder to us, where they got the wood to build them with; for in one of them was a board six or eight feet long, fourteen inches broad at one end, and eight at the other; whereas we did not see a stick on the island that would have made a board half this size, nor, indeed, was there another piece in the whole canoe half so big.

There are two ways by which it is possible they may have got this large wood; it might have been left here by the Spaniards, or it might have been driven on the shore of the island from some distant land. It is even possible that there may be some land in the neighbourhood, from whence they might have got it. We, however, saw no signs of any, nor could we get the least information on this head from the natives, although we tried every method we could think of to obtain it. We were almost as unfortunate in our enquiries for the proper or native name of the island; for, on comparing notes, I found we had got three different names for it, viz. Tamareki, Whyhu, and Teapy. Without pretending to say which, or whether any of them is right, I shall only observe, that the last was obtained by Oedidee, who understood their language much better than any of us, though even he understood it but very imperfectly.

It appears by the account of Roggewein's voyage, that these people had no better vessels than when he first visited them. The want of materials, and not of genius, seems to be the reason why they have made no improvement in this art. Some pieces of carving were found amongst them, both well designed and executed. Their plantations are prettily laid out by line, but not inclosed by any fence; indeed they have nothing for this purpose but stones.

I have no doubt that all these plantations are private property, and that there are here, as at Otaheite, chiefs (which they call Areekes1) to whom these plantations belong. But of the power or authority of these chiefs, or of the government of these people, I confess myself quite ignorant.

1) The correct term is 'ariki.

Nor are we better acquainted with their religion. The gigantic statues, so often mentioned, are not, in my opinion, looked upon as idols by the present inhabitants, whatever they might have been in the days of the Dutch; at least I saw nothing that could induce me to think so. On the contrary, I rather suppose that they are burying-places for certain tribes or families. I, as well as some others, saw a human skeleton lying in one of the platforms, just covered with stones. Some of these platforms of masonry are thirty or forty feet long, twelve or sixteen broad, and from three to twelve in height; which last in some measure depends on the nature of the ground; for they are generally at the brink of the bank facing the sea, so that this face may be ten or twelve feet or more high, and the other may not be above three or four. They are built, or rather faced, 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. The side-walls are not perpendicular, but inclining a little inwards, in the same manner that breast-works, &c. are built in Europe; yet had not all this care, pains, and sagacity, been able to preserve these curious structures from the ravages of all-devouring time.

The statues, or at least many of them, are erected on these platforms, which serve as foundations. They are, as near as we could judge, about half length, ending in a sort of stump at the bottom, on which they stand. The workmanship is rude, but not bad; nor are the features of the face ill-formed, the nose and chin in particular; but the ears are long beyond proportion; and, as to the bodies, there is hardly any thing like a human figure about them.

I had an opportunity of examining only two or three of these statues, which are near the landing-place; and they were of a grey stone, seemingly of the same sort as that with which the platforms were built. But 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 from any they saw on the island, and had much the appearance of being factitious. We could hardly conceive how these islanders, wholly unacquainted with any mechanical power, could raise such stupendous figures, and afterwards place the large cylindric stones before mentioned upon their heads. The only method I can conceive, is by raising the upper end by little and little, supporting it by stones as it is raised, and building about it till they got it erect; thus a sort of mount or scaffolding would be made, upon which they might roll the cylinder, and place it upon the head of the statue, and then the stones might be removed from about it. But if the stones are factitious, the statues might have been put together on the place, in their present position, and the cylinder put on by building a mount round them, as above mentioned. But, let them have been made and set up by this or any other method, they must have been a work of immense time, and sufficiently shew the ingenuity and perseverance of these islanders in the age in which they were built; for the present inhabitants have most certainly had no hand in them, as they do not even repair the foundations of those which are going to decay. They give different names to them, such as Gotomoara, Marapate, Kanaro, Goway-too-goo, Matta Matta, &c. &c. to which they sometimes prefix the word Moi1, and sometimes annex Areeke2. The latter signifies chief, and the former burying, or sleeping-place, as well as we could understand3.

1) Mōai.

2) 'Ariki.

3) mo - to or to be able to, ai - exist, which makes the real significance to be able to exist or so that he/she can exist. Though, since the moai statues are burial stones for the deceased chieftains, Cook's translation isn't very far from the truth.

Besides the monuments of antiquity, which were pretty numerous, and nowhere but on or near the sea-coast, there were many little heaps of stones, piled up in different places along the coast. Two or three of the uppermost stones in each pile were generally white, perhaps always so, when the pile is complete. It will hardly be doubted that these piles of stone had a meaning; probably they might mark the place where people had been buried, and serve instead of the large statues. The working-tools of these people are but very mean, and, like those of all the other islanders we have visited in this ocean, made of stone, bone, shells, &c. They set but little value on iron or iron tools, which is the more extraordinary, as they know their use; but the reason may be, their having but little occasion for them.