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Easter Island

A Special Territory of Chile

Southeast Asia and Pacific Islands. 1944.

Easter Island is off the western coast of Chile and is a special territory of Chile.

Its tiny land area (only 117 sq. km.), three extinct volcanoes, and remarkable isolation make its discovery and settlement an event that seems as unlikely as it was mysterious. The oldest known names of Easter island are Te Pito o Te Henua, meaning "The Center of the World" and Mata-Ki-Te-Rani, meaning "Eyes Looking at Heaven."

In the 1860 s Tahitian sailors gave the island the name Rapa Nui, meaning "Great Rapa," due to its resemblance to another island in Polynesia called Rapa Iti, meaning "Little Rapa."

Outward Bound Whaler
William Bradford

The original settlers seem to have been Polynesian, although there is substantial evidence that they were joined by a South American people early in the island's history.

Isolated for centuries from the outside world, the people of Rapa Nui developed their own distinctive culture, a culture perhaps best known by the moai, huge figures carved of volcanic rock. Hundreds of these sculpted monoliths dot the landscape, some in imposing rows, others toppled, broken, and scarred by violence.

Maritime Maps.

Scholars have been able to reconstruct some of the tragic history that lies behind the disintegration of Rapa Nui culture, but many important parts of the puzzle-including how and why the moai were built-remain uncertain.

The first Europeans to stumble upon the tiny island were the Dutch, under the command of Admiral Jacob Roggeveen. Roggeveen made landfall on Rapa Nui on Easter Day of 1722, thus providing Easter Island with its modern name. Easter Island remained only slightly less isolated over the ensuing centuries, although it did attract the malevolent interest of Peruvian slave ships during the 19th century.

The Mystery of Easter Island. Katherine Routledge, Author.

Despite these depredations, the majority of Easter Island's population is still composed of descendants of its original inhabitants Even today, their distinctive language and cultural traditions give visitors a glimpse of an ancient lifestyle. All of the residents of Easter Island live in the town of Hanga Roa, and it is an easy day's drive from town around the island in search of moai and ahu (the rectangular stone platforms which moai were mounted on).

One of the most famous sites on the island is Rano Raraku, where 70 moai seem to rise from the earth. The remains of over 150 other figures lie in a nearby volcanic crater, where the rock for the moai was extracted. It is still unclear how the moai were moved from these rock quarries to other parts of the island. The restored village of Orongo offers another Easter Island mystery. The village sits in a spectacular setting, between the volcano of Rano Kao and a sheer cliff drop-off. Rocks found at the village contain 150 carvings showing figures with a man's body and a bird's head. Anthropologists believe they were part of a religious cult, but the details on the "Bird Man" are still obscure.

February 28, 1873, Alton Telegraph, Alton, Illinois, U.S.A.

The Archipelagos of the Pacific

The Islands of the Pacific Oceans are divided into Archipelagoes; the principal are the Fiji Islands, a group comprising 154 islands some 64 of which are inhabited.

The natives are for the most part sunk in the lowest depths of cannibalism, although a small proportion have been christianized through the efforts of teh Wesleyan missionaries. The nativeds, however, suffer so many falls from gracethat it is doubtful whether any of them are really reclaimed.

The Life of Katherine Routledge and Her Expedition to Easter Island. Jo Anne Van Tilburg.

The productions of these islands are chiefly "Beche de Mer" and sandal wood, although cotton plantations have been started by capitalists from Australia and New Zealand.

Th Ellice and Gilbert Archipelagoes also lie south of the equator, and together, number some 200 islands and some 60,000 inhabitants, who are also cannibals for the most part.

North of the equator we find the Marshall gropu, adn the Sandwich Islands. Cannibalism in these islands is almost extinct, although there is great need of improvement in the morals of the inhabitants, as they are very licentious and are also addicted to stealing anything that they can lay their hands upon.

Tuvalu's waters were frequented by American whalers in the 1800's. Seamen occasionally deserted and settled ashore, while some of the more adventurous islanders became crewmen. Some Europeans beachcombers become traders and agents for firms in Australia, Germany and the US, and organised the export of coconut oil or copra.

During the 1860s slave traders, or "blackbirders", carried off about 400 islanders, mainly from Funafuti and Nukulaelae, to work in Peru. None of them ever returned. Others were later recruited for plantations in Fiji, Samoa and Hawai'i.

Christianity was introduced in 1861 when some adherents of the London Missionary Society from Manihiki in the Cook Islands accidently drift to Nukulaelae in a canoe. In May 1865 the Reverend A. W. Murray of the LMS visited Tuvalu from Samoa and installed Samoan pastors on the various islands.

The German Company of Godeffroy and Son of Hamburg were first island traders in Tuvalu. As the locals were not very enthusiastic about copra-making, they devised the system of establishing agents, many of whom were American and British beachcombers, at likely points in the islands to trade European goods supplied by Godeffroy to the natives for coconuts which they dried.


Jack O'Brien was of Australian-Irish descent and came to Funafuti in the 1850's. Jack O'Brien was the first white man in Funafuti and the Ellice Group, preceding the other white traders by some thirty odd years. He married Salai, the daughter of the then King of Funafuti and became the matriarch of an extensive Tuvaluan family. The O'Brien name is synonymous with Funafuti with the extended family evident in many countries throughout the world.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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