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Explorers of the Pacific: European and American Discoveries in Polynesia

Jacob Roggeveen

Jacob Roggeveen

1721 to 1722

Jacob Roggeveen acquired a fortune in the services of the Dutch East India Company before he retired. Jacob renewed the request made by his father to the Dutch West India Company in 1696, that he be permitted to search for the "Southern Continent." The Company responded by equipping three ships, the Eagle, Thienhoven, and African Galley. With the rank of Admiral, Roggeveen sailed with his three ships from Texel on August 21, 1721. After passing through the Strait of Le Maire, he sailed south as far as latitude 60 degrees; but encountering ice and rough weather, gave up the idea of a useful southern continent. He sailed north to Juan Fernandez, which he considered would be valuable for future settlement. Then, proceeding north to latitude 28° S., he sailed west looking for the land which Davis was said to have seen. He failed to find land on the reported bearings but, continuing in a westerly direction, discovered an island on Easter Day, April 6, 1722. This he named Paaschen or Oster Eilandt (Easter Island). He described the inhabitants as being much tattooed, wearing large ear plugs, and having poor canoes. Mention was also made of the stone statues, their size being grossly exaggerated.

Continuing westward, Roggeveen encountered some of the northern Tuamotu islands, which he named Carlshof, or Court of Charles; Schaadelyk, or Pernicious; Daageraad, or Aurora; Abendroth, or Vespree; Irrigen, or Laby-page 20rinth; and Verquikking, or Recreation. The African Galley was wrecked on Pernicious Island, which was probably Takapoto, but the crew were safely transferred to the other two ships. Recreation Island was said to be high land, and though the suggestion has been made that it was Ulietea (Raiatea), it was probably the raised coral island of Makatea. Sailing west again for thirteen days, he encountered two high islands on June 14 and a third on the following day. He named them the Bauman Islands after the captain of the Thienhoven. There seems little doubt that these were the Manua Islands in Samoa. The inhabitants, he states to be very fair and one woman is described as being "young and white." She was probably a taupou chiefess with a bleached-hair headdress. The statement that the people were not painted or marked like the Easter Islanders may be explained by the further statement that they were clothed from the waist down. Thus the characteristic Samoan tattooing from waist to knees was covered by the skirt of tapa or fine matting. The further information that the people wore large hats and carried bows and arrows is characteristic of the inaccurate additions to the Roggeveen account.

After leaving the Bauman Islands, Roggeveen sighted two islands that he supposed were the Cocos and Verraders Islands seen by Le Maire and Schouten, but they must have been the Horne Islands (Futuna and Alofi). Roggeveen finally arrived at Jave toward the end of September and continued to Batavia, where his ships were confiscated by the Dutch East India Company.

Apart from the islands in the Tuamotus, Roggeveen discovered Easter Island and a part of Samoa. Thus, the expeditions of Le Maire and Schouten, Tasman and Roggeveen established a good record of Polynesian discoveries for the Dutch, and the Dutch seem to have rested content with them.