Feb 012018

Today is the birthday (1659) of Jacob Roggeveen, a Dutch explorer who set out to find Terra Australis, but instead came across Rapa Nui (which he called Easter Island because he landed there on Easter Day). He also encountered Bora Bora and Maupiti of the Society Islands and Samoa. He planned the expedition along with his brother Jan Roggeveen, who stayed in the Netherlands. It always amazes me that Roggeveen, who was a skilled navigator, could find Rapa Nui which is a tiny island in the middle of the South Pacific miles from anywhere, yet could fail to find Australia which you’d think explorers would just bump into if they kept sailing west. It seems hard to miss, but they did for centuries.

I have posted about Rapa Nui several times before: https://www.bookofdaystales.com/world-tourism-day/ and https://www.bookofdaystales.com/easter-island/ . It is, after all, a fascinating place, full of anthropological and archeological intrigue. My visit to the island in 2013 was very special. Today I will talk a little more about Rapa Nui, but my prime focus is Jacob Roggeveen, because he was the first European to encounter the island and its people. Regrettably he arrived after the classic cultures of Rapa Nui had already decayed due to overpopulation, overcropping, warfare, and famine. Even so, his journals provide insight into a previously unknown people.

Roggeveen was born in Middelburg, the capital of the province of Zeeland. Jacob’s father, Arend Roggeveen, was a mathematician with an interest in astronomy, geography, rhetoric, philosophy and the theory of navigation as well. He occupied himself with study of the legendary Terra Australis, and even got a patent for an exploratory excursion. But it was to be Jacob who, at the age of 62, eventually equipped three ships and made the expedition.

Roggeveen became notary of Middelburg, and on 12 August 1690 he obtained a doctor of the law at University of Harderwijk. He married Marija Margaerita Vincentius, but she died in October 1694. In 1706 he joined the Dutch East Indies Company (VOC), and between 1707 and 1714 was a Raadsheer van Justitie (“Council Lord of Justice”) at Batavia in the Dutch East Indies (now Jakarta). He married Anna Adriana Clement there, but she died soon afterward. In 1714, he returned to Middelburg by himself.

Roggeveen got himself involved in religious controversies, supporting the liberal preacher Pontiaan van Hattem by publishing his leaflet De val van ‘s werelds afgod (The fall of the world’s idol). The first part appeared in 1718, in Middelburg, and was subsequently confiscated by the city council and burned. Roggeveen left Middelburg for nearby Flushing. Thereafter he established himself in the small town of Arnemuiden, and published parts 2 and 3 of the series, again raising a controversy. The followers of van Hattem were known as Hattemites. Their beliefs can be summarized in his own words:

Everything is necessary: ​​sin is not in the actions of man, but in his disposition. Therefore he becomes neither evil nor good by the first, but he can not be changed, so his sins also give no cause for displeasure to God. Christ has made us free from death, to make us different from what we already were: but to make us know how we were before: His death makes known to us that we are justified by God, and as a result of that no man can act against God’s will, so man may be as he ought to be, and may even be said never to have committed any sins, so the chosen one does not sin anymore and needs nothing to worry about because he is being judged before God. The will of God is not fulfilled by action, but by suffering, and faith is nothing but accepting that which Christ has revealed to us through his death.

In short, Christ’s death on the cross has redeemed all humans, and, therefore, humans are incapable of sin any more. Everything, including human suffering, is God’s will. This is a rather unusual, and heretical, theology, even by liberal Protestant standards, and you can see that it was not likely to sit well with the 18th century Dutch, given that it condones all behavior, no matter how hedonistic or libertine, as God’s will. Some historians have suggested that one impulse behind Roggeveen’s search for Terra Australis was to find a territory to set up a Hattemite colony.    

On 1 August 1721 he headed an expedition sponsored by the Dutch West India Company, the rivals of the VOC, to seek Terra Australis and to open a western trade route to the “Spice islands.” The “southern continent” of Terra Australis had been theorized as existing since the time of Aristotle, followed by Ptolemy. The reason given for the existence of such a land mass was pure symmetry. The northern hemisphere had large land masses on it, so the southern hemisphere must also have large land masses. Some early 16th century geographers hypothesized that South America and/or Africa were joined to Terra Australis, but the discoveries of southern passages around those continents ended those speculations. The Flemish geographer and cartographer, Cornelius Wytfliet, wrote concerning the Terra Australis in his 1597 book, Descriptionis Ptolemaicae Augmentum,

The terra Australis is therefore the southernmost of all other lands, directly beneath the antarctic circle; extending beyond the tropic of Capricorn to the West, it ends almost at the equator itself, and separated by a narrow strait lies on the East opposite to New Guinea, only known so far by a few shores because after one voyage and another that route has been given up and unless sailors are forced and driven by stress of winds it is seldom visited. The terra Australis begins at two or three degrees below the equator and it is said by some to be of such magnitude that if at any time it is fully discovered they think it will be the fifth part of the world. Adjoining Guinea on the right are the numerous and vast Solomon Islands which lately became famous by the voyage of Alvarus Mendanius.

Roggeveen’s fleet consisted of three ships, the Arend, the Thienhoven, and Afrikaansche Galey and had 223 men as crew. Roggeveen first sailed down to the Malvinas (what Brits call the Falkland Islands), which he named “Belgia Australis,” passed through the Strait of Le Maire and continued south to beyond 60 degrees south to enter the Pacific Ocean. He made landfall near Valdivia, now in Chile. He visited the Juan Fernández Islands, where he spent 24th February to 17th March. The expedition later arrived at Rapa Nui on Easter Sunday, 5 April 1722. Roggeveen’s account of his stay on Rapa Nui, which lasted a week, can be found here, https://www.easterisland.travel/easter-island-facts-and-info/history/ship-logs-and-journals/jacob-roggeveen-1722/

Here is a sample concerning the famed moai:

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.

Their visit, peaceful at first, was marred by the killing of 10 to 12 local men in a skirmish that is rather vaguely described. When the fleet first anchored, local men swam out to their ships, and later came in canoes. They were intrigued by the ships, and were given gifts. They also very quickly took to stealing items from the ships. When an expedition went ashore, they traveled in gunboats, and went ashore in close quarters, fully armed. One group of men, not observed by Roggeveen, opened fire on locals when they felt threatened. Seemingly the problem was smoothed over, and the Dutchmen were regaled with chickens and tropical fruits.

Subsequently, Roggeveen continued west and charted the location of six islands in the Tuamotu Archipelago, two islands in the Society Islands, and four islands in Samoa, losing his flagship, Afrikaansche Galey at Takapoto atoll. At Makatea, he opened fire on a crowded beach in retaliation for a violent encounter with the inhabitants, and in return the Makateans ambushed a shore party, killing ten of his crewmen. The remaining two vessels sailed past New Guinea to reach Batavia in 1722, where he was arrested for violating the monopoly of the VOC and had his ships confiscated. After a lengthy lawsuit in the Netherlands, the VOC was later forced to compensate him for his losses and to pay his crew.

After his return to the Netherlands, Roggeveen published part 4 of De val van ‘s werelds afgod, to continued controversy. He died in Middelburg one day before his 70th birthday on January 31st 1729.

Zeeland, Roggeveen’s homeland, has a number of culinary specialties. These two are biscuits that are a bit out of the ordinary, dûmkes and tarwe diamanten (wheat diamonds).



150 gm flour
150 gm butter, softened
1 egg, beaten
150 gm sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp aniseed
50 gm hazelnuts, chopped
½ tsp ginger powder


Preheat the oven to 320˚F/160˚C.

Grease one or more baking sheets.

Cream the sugar and butter together. Add the egg and mix. Then add the rest of the ingredients and mix well to form a firm dough. Pinch off pieces of the dough to form rolls about ½ inch in diameter and 2 inches long. Flatten to form oblong biscuits.

Place on greased cookie sheets and bake for 20 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Tarwe Diamanten


200 gm wholewheat flour
100 gm brown sugar
75 gm butter, cold cut in small cubes
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp rolled oats


Preheat the oven to 320˚F/160˚C.

Grease one or more baking sheets.

Pulse the flour, sugar, and butter together in a food processor until the mix resembles wet sand. Place the mixture in a bowl, add the egg and beat together. Add the remaining ingredients, mix well to form a dough, and knead.

Roll out the dough into flat sheets, and cut into diamond shapes.

Place on greased cookie sheets and bake for 20 minutes. Cool on wire racks.




Apr 052015


On this date in 1722, Jacob Roggeveen (1 February 1659 – 31 January 1729), a Dutch explorer who was sent to find Terra Australis, came across Easter Island, and was, thus, the first European to visit. His father, Arend Roggeveen, was a mathematician with much knowledge of astronomy, geography, rhetoric, philosophy and the theory of navigation as well. He occupied himself with study of the mythical Terra Australis, and even got a patent for an exploratory excursion; but it was to be his son who, at the age of 62, eventually equipped three ships and made the expedition.

He became notary of Middelburg (the capital of the province of Zeeland, where he was born) on 30 March 1683. On 12 August 1690 he graduated as a doctor of the law at University of Harderwijk. He married Marija Margaerita Vincentius, but she died in October 1694. In 1706 he joined the Dutch East Indies Company, and between 1707 and 1714 as a Raadsheer van Justitie (“Council Lord of Justice”) at Batavia, Dutch East Indies (now Jakarta). He married Anna Adriana Clement there, but she died soon afterward. In 1714, he returned to Middelburg by himself.

On 1 August 1721 he left on his expedition, in the service of the Dutch West India Company, to seek Terra Australis. It consisted of three ships, the Arend, the Thienhoven, and Afrikaansche Galey and had 223 men on crew.

Roggeveen first sailed down to the Islas Malvinas (which he renamed “Belgia Australis”), passed through the Strait of Le Maire and continued south to beyond 60 degrees south to enter the Pacific Ocean. He made landfall near Valdivia, Chile. He visited the Juan Fernández Islands, where he spent 24 February to 17 March. The expedition later arrived at Easter Island (Rapa Nui) on Easter Sunday, 5 April 1722 (whereupon he reported seeing 2,000-3,000 inhabitants).


It amuses me that in 1722 when Roggeveen arrived on 5 April it was Easter Sunday, and it is again this year. I was there for my birthday in 2013 which fell on Holy Saturday, so I got to attend mass in Hanga Roa on Easter Sunday on Easter Island!!![One day it will have to be Christmas on Christmas Island.]

Here’s a facebook album of the trip. Even if you are not on facebook you can view it.


There’s perhaps more images than you care for, but they are not stock stuff. Some of them are repeated here in this post.


Polynesian people settled on Easter Island (Rapa Nui) in the first millennium CE, and created a thriving culture, as evidenced by the moai and other artifacts. However, human activity, the introduction of the Polynesian rat, and overpopulation led to gradual deforestation and extinction of natural resources, which caused the demise of the Rapa Nui culture. By the time of European arrival in 1722, the island’s population had dropped to 2,000–3,000 from a high of approximately 15,000 just a century earlier. Diseases carried by European sailors and Peruvian slave raiding of the 1860s further reduced the Rapa Nui population, down to 111 in 1877.

The name “Easter Island” was given by Jacob Roggeveen, because he arrived on Easter Sunday, 1722. Roggeveen actually named it Paasch-Eyland (18th century Dutch for “Easter Island”). The island’s official Spanish name, Isla de Pascua, also means “Easter Island.” The current Polynesian name of the island, Rapa Nui “Big Rapa”, was coined after the slave raids of the early 1860s, and refers to the island’s topographic resemblance to the island of Rapa in the Bass Islands of the Austral Islands group. The indigenous Polynesian name may have been Te pito o te henua, but this is uncertain.


Early European visitors to Easter Island recorded the local oral traditions about the original settlers. In these traditions, Easter Islanders claimed that a legendary chief Hotu Matu’a arrived on the island in one or two large canoes with his wife and extended family. They are believed to have been Polynesian. There is considerable uncertainty about the accuracy of this legend as well as the date of settlement. Some archeologists suggest the island was settled around 300-400 CE, or at about the time of the arrival of the earliest settlers in Hawaii. Some scientists say that Easter Island was not inhabited until 700-800 CE. This date range is based on glottochronological (historical linguistic) calculations and on three radiocarbon dates from charcoal that appears to have been produced during forest clearance activities. Moreover a recent study which included radiocarbon dates from what is thought to be very early material suggests that the island was settled as recently as 1200 CE. This seems to be supported by a 2006 study of the island’s deforestation, which could have started around the same time. A large, now extinct palm, Paschalococos disperta, related to the Chilean wine palm (Jubaea chilensis), was one of the dominant trees as attested by fossil evidence; this species, whose sole occurrence was on Easter Island, became extinct due to deforestation by the early settlers.

The Austronesian Polynesians, who first settled the island, are likely to have arrived from the Marquesas Islands from the west. These settlers brought bananas, taro, sugarcane, and paper mulberry, as well as chickens and Polynesian rats. The island at one time supported a relatively complex culture.

Jacob Roggeveen’s expedition of 1722 gives us our first description of the islanders. They were “of all shades of colour, yellow, white and brown” and they distended their ear lobes so greatly with large disks that when they took them out they could “hitch the rim of the lobe over the top of the ear.” Roggeveen also noted how some of the islanders were “generally large in stature.” Islanders’ height was also witnessed by the Spanish who visited the island in 1770, measuring heights of 196 and 199 cm (6’5” and 6’6”). DNA sequence analysis of Easter Island’s current inhabitants indicates that the 36 people living on Rapa Nui who survived the devastating internecine wars, slave raids and epidemics of the 19th century and had any offspring, were Polynesian. Furthermore, examination of skeletons offers evidence of only Polynesian origins for Rapa Nui living on the island after 1680.

According to legends recorded by the missionaries in the 1860s, the island originally had a very clear class system, with an ariki, king, wielding absolute god-like power ever since Hotu Matua had arrived on the island. The most visible element in the culture was production of massive moai that were part of the ancestral worship. With a strictly unified appearance, moai were erected along most of the coastline, indicating a homogeneous culture and centralized governance. In addition to the royal family, the island’s habitation consisted of priests, soldiers and commoners. The last king, along with his family, died as a slave in the 1860s in the Peruvian mines. Long before that, the king had become a mere symbolic figure, remaining respected and untouchable, but having only nominal authority.


For unknown reasons, a coup by military leaders called matatoa had brought a new cult based on a previously unexceptional god Make-make. In the cult of the birdman (Rapa Nui: tangata manu), a competition was established in which every year a representative of each clan, chosen by the leaders, would climb down a vertical cliff, swim across shark-infested waters to Motu Nui, a nearby islet, to search for the season’s first egg laid by a manutara (sooty tern). The first swimmer to return with an egg (strapped to his forehead) and successfully climb back up the cliff would be named “Birdman of the year” and secure control over distribution of the island’s resources for his clan for the year. The tradition was still in existence at the time of first contact by Europeans but was suppressed by Christian missionaries in the 1860s.

European accounts in 1722 (Dutch) and 1770 (Spanish) reported seeing only standing statues, but by James Cook’s visit in 1774 many were reported toppled. The huri mo’ai – the “statue-toppling” – continued into the 1830s as a part of internal conflicts among islanders. By 1838, the only standing moai were on the slopes of Rano Raraku and Hoa Hakananai’a at Orongo. In about 60 years, islanders had for some reason (possibly civil struggle between clans) deliberately damaged this part of their ancestors’ heritage. In modern times, moai have been restored at Orongo, Ahu Tongariki, Ahu Akivi and Hanga Roa.


When Roggeveen visited for a week he estimated there were 2,000 to 3,000 inhabitants on the island. This was an estimate, not a census, and archaeologists estimate the population may have been as high as 10,000 to 12,000 a few decades earlier. It’s quite likely that many island people hid from the Dutch.  Roggeveen’s party reported “remarkable, tall, stone figures, a good 30 feet in height”, the island had rich soil and a good climate and “all the country was under cultivation”. Fossil-pollen analysis shows that the main trees on the island had gone 72 years earlier in 1650. The civilization of Easter Island has long been believed to have degenerated drastically during the century before the arrival of the Dutch, as a result of overpopulation, deforestation and exploitation of an extremely isolated island with limited natural resources. The Dutch reported that a fight broke out in which they killed ten or twelve islanders.

The next foreign visitors arrived on 15 November 1770: two Spanish ships, San Lorenzo and Santa Rosalia, sent by the Viceroy of Peru, Manuel de Amat, and commanded by Felipe González de Ahedo. They spent five days on the island, performing a very thorough survey of its coast, and named it Isla de San Carlos, taking possession on behalf of King Charles III of Spain, and ceremoniously erected three wooden crosses on top of three small hills on Poike. They reported the island as largely uncultivated, with a seashore lined with stone statues.

Four years later, in mid-March 1774, British explorer James Cook visited Easter Island, he reported the statues as being neglected with some having fallen down; no sign of the three crosses and his botanist described it as “a poor land”. He had a Tahitian interpreter who could partially understand the language as it was Polynesian. Other than in counting, though, the language was unintelligible to him.

In 1786 the French explorer Jean François de Galaup La Pérouse visited and made a detailed map of Easter Island. He described the island as one-tenth cultivated and estimated the population as a couple of thousand.


In 1804 the Russian ship Neva visited under the command of Yuri Lisyansky. In 1816 the Russian ship Rurik visited under the command of Otto von Kotzebue. In 1825 the British ship HMS Blossom visited and reported no standing statues. By now the islanders had become openly hostile towards any attempt to land, and very little new information emerged before the 1860s.

A series of devastating events killed almost the entire population of Easter Island in the 1860s. In December 1862, Peruvian slave raiders struck Easter Island. Violent abductions continued for several months, eventually capturing or killing around 1500 men and women, about half of the island’s population. International protests erupted, escalated by Bishop Florentin-Étienne Jaussen of Tahiti. The slaves were finally freed in autumn, 1863, but by then most of them had already died of tuberculosis, smallpox or dysentery. Finally, a dozen islanders managed to return from the horrors of Peru, but brought with them smallpox and started an epidemic, which reduced the island’s population to the point where some of the dead were not even buried. Contributing to the chaos were violent clan wars with the remaining people fighting over the newly available lands of the deceased, bringing further famine and death among the dwindling population.

The first Christian missionary, Eugène Eyraud, arrived in January 1864 and spent most of that year on the island; but mass conversion of the Rapa Nui only came after his return in 1866 with Father Hippolyte Roussel and shortly after two others arrived with Captain Jean-Baptiste Dutrou-Bornier. Eyraud was suffering from phthisis (tuberculosis) when he returned and in 1867, tuberculosis raged over the island, taking a quarter of the island’s remaining population of 1,200 including the last member of the island’s royal family, the 13-year-old Manu Rangi. Eyraud died of tuberculosis in August 1868, by which time the entire Rapa Nui population had become Roman Catholic.

Jean-Baptiste Dutrou-Bornier – who had served as an artillery officer in the Crimean War, but was later arrested in Peru, accused of arms dealing and sentenced to death, to be released after intervention from the French consul – first came to Easter Island in 1866 when he transported two missionaries there, returned in 1867 to recruit laborers for coconut plantations, and then came again for good in April 1868, burning the yacht he had arrived in. He was to have a long-lasting impact on the island.


Dutrou-Bornier set up residence at Mataveri, aiming to cleanse the island of most of the Rapa Nui and turn the island into a sheep ranch. He married Koreto, a Rapa Nui, and appointed her Queen, tried to persuade France to make the island a protectorate, and recruited a faction of Rapa Nui whom he allowed to abandon their Christianity and revert to their previous faith. With rifles, a cannon, and hut burning supporters, he ran the island for several years.

Dutrou-Bornier bought up all of the island apart from the missionaries’ area around Hanga Roa and moved a couple of hundred Rapa Nui to Tahiti to work for his backers. In 1871 the missionaries, having fallen out with Dutrou-Bornier, evacuated 275 Rapa Nui to Mangareva and Tahiti, leaving only 230 on the island. Those who remained were mostly older men. Six years later, there were just 111 people living on Easter Island, and only 36 of them had any offspring.

In 1876 Dutrou-Bornier was murdered in an argument over a dress, though his kidnapping of pubescent girls may also have motivated his killers. From that point on and into the present day, the island’s population slowly recovered. But with over 97% of the population dead or left in less than a decade, much of the island’s cultural knowledge had been lost.

In researching restaurants before my trip I was appalled to read so many reviews praising the steaks. Say what ??? The steaks are all flown in from Argentina at great expense. I was not about to eat beef I could get from my local butcher at a quarter the price, when I could feast on seafood for lunch and dinner, caught that morning. Here’s some images.

easter6  easter17 easter16 easter15  easter23

For my birthday dinner I had spiny lobster – a species of which is found only in the waters of Easter Island. Unlike north Atlantic lobsters, spiny lobsters have no claw meat to speak of; the meat is all in the body, and is wonderful. You cook it much as you do north Atlantic lobsters, namely by boiling in salt or sea water. Time is determined by weight. A 2lb lobster will take 15 to 20 minutes.


Split the body open and serve with rice, vegetables and salad as shown. You can use drawn butter with herbs or a vinaigrette as a dipping sauce.