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Juan Fernandez and Easter Island

Nature volume 135, page 299 (23 February 1935) | Download Citation



BY a recent decree of the Chilean Minister of Lands and Colonisation, it is reported by a correspondent of The Times in the issue of February 14, Juan Fernandez and Easter Island have been declared national parks. This gives effect, so far as Juan Fernandez is concerned, to a proposal which was first put forward so long ago as 1921. The two volcanic islands grouped together under the name Juan Fernandez and situated four and five hundred miles respectively west of Valparaiso are of popular interest because it was on one of them that Alexander Selkirk was marooned from 1704 until 1709; and his adventure is supposed to have inspired Defoe in writing “Robinson Crusoe”. Easter Island, on the other hand, which lies about 2,300 miles from the mainland, is one of the most interesting islands of the Pacific. Its archaeological remains present a problem for ethnologists which hitherto has defied satisfactory solution. These remains consist of more than five hundred human figures, portrait statues, carved in stone, some of gigantic size and one at least approaching forty feet in height, over two hundred stone platforms and stone houses, unique in the Pacific, relics of a race of which the present inhabitants have no knowledge. Even more interesting in certain respects are the tablets inscribed in a script which no one has yet succeeded in deciphering. Since 1888 the island, which has an area of about 48 square miles, has been in the possession of Chile, and has served as a penal settlement. The native inhabitants, who are Polynesians with a Melanesian strain, barely exceed 200 in number, though in 1860 they numbered 3,000; but in the 'seventies a considerable proportion migrated or was removed to Tahiti and the Gambier archipelago. The decree of the Chilean Government, in so far as it will ensure the protection from vandalism of these unique relics of an otherwise unknown culture and an apparently vanished race, is a public-spirited act worthy of the highest commendation.

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