The German-Chilean Expedition to Easter Island (1957-58)
The German-Chilean Expedition to Easter Island (1957-58) Part One
Fischer, Steven Roger
THE TWENTIETH CENTURY SAW SEVERAL MEMORABLE expeditions to Rapa Nui which today orient the expertise of most Easter Island scholars. There was the Chilean Scientific Expedition of 1911 led by German meteorologist and geophysicist Walter Knoche (Knoche 1925). Then came the epochal Mana Expedition of 1913-15 (on Easter Island 1914-15) (Routledge 1919). Of comparable distinction was the Franco-Belgian Expedition of 1934-35 led by Swiss ethnologist Alfred Métraux (Métraux 1940; Lavachery 1935). Still towering in popular prominence is the Norwegian Expedition of 1955-56 conceived and led by celebrated adventurer Thor Heyerdahl (Heyerdahl and Ferdon 1961 and 1965). A few better informed afficionados might also recall the remarkable METEI of 1964-65, the Canadian Medical Expedition to Easter Island led by Stanley Skoryna of McGill University (Boutelier 1992; Skoryna 1992). Yet who today recalls the one that figured between the Norwegian Expedition and Canada’s METEI – the German- Chilean Expedition of 1957-58? In its own fashion it was peer to all the above and, after over fifty years of apparent oblivion, deserves not only recognition but celebration. For, in that era of strident “Heyerdahlism”, its message was a veritable voice in the wilderness that argued the scientific case for a unique Polynesian settlement of Easter Island. Several decades were to pass before the German-Chilean Expedition’s seeming heresy became public orthodoxy.
Easter Island, Rapa Nui
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