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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 12 (March 1, 1935)

The Riddle of the Pacific

The Riddle of the Pacific.

It was through the courtesy of the Chilian Government that he set foot on that island of the strange stone men. A vessel of the Chilian Navy, a square-rigged training ship, made a call at Wellington in 1924, when bound from Australia to Valparaiso, for the special purpose of giving him a passage to Easter Island; and on that sail-and-steam voyage across the wide stretch of the Pacific he increased his knowledge of Spanish. He was the greatest scientific enquirer of all those who had visited mysterious Rapanui, but even he, who brought to bear on that uncanny island of the giant images all the powers of his keen brain, could not claim that he had solved its anti-quarian problems. “The Riddle of the Pacific”—the fitting title of his book on Easter Island—remains an eternal conundrum.

I have often thought that had a good speaker of Maori from New Zealand visited Rapanui while there were still some of the old wise men living, he could have gathered information that would have solved the mystery of the island and its quarries and statues. But the atrocious raids of the Peruvian slave-ships in 1863 ruined Rapanui; the ruffian Spanish kidnappers from Callao carried off most of the inhabitants for forced labour, and the native priests and legend-keepers were among those stolen.

Macmillan Brown, like his predecessors, arrived on the scene too late to do much but describe the antiquities and the melancholy spirit of the island, and to propound fascinating theories about the vanished lands of the Pacific.