Off Easter Island
Thursday 17th March 1774
This is undoubtedly the same Island as was seen by Roggewein in Apl 1722 altho' the description given of it by the author of that Voyage does by no means correspond with it now, it may also be the same as was seen by Captain Davis in 1686, but this is not altogether so certain. In short if this is not the land and if it is not then his discovery cannot lie far from the continent of America for this Latitude seems to have been very well explored between the Meridian of 80 and 110, Captain Carteret carries it much farther, but his Track seems to be a little too far to the South. Had I found fresh Water on this isle I intended to have determined this point by looking for the low sandy isle mentioned by Wafer, but as I did not, and had a long run to make before I was assured of geting any and being at the same time in want of refreshments, I declined it, as a small delay might have been attended with bad consequence. No Nation will ever contend for the honour of the discovery of Easter Island as there is hardly an Island in this sea which affords less refreshments, and conveniences for Shiping than it does. Nature has hardly provided it with any thing fit for man to eat or drink, and as the Natives are but few and may be supposed to plant no more than sufficient for themselves, they cannot have much to spare to new comers. The produce is Potatoes, Yams, Taro or the Edoy root, Plantains and Sugar Cane, all excellent in its kind, the Potatoes are the best of the sort I ever tasted; they have also Gourds and the same sort of Cloth Plant as at the other isles but not much, Cocks and Hens like ours which are small and but few of them and these are the only domestick Animals we saw a mong them, nor did we see any quadrupedes, but ratts which I believe they eat as I saw a man with some in his hand which he seem'd unwilling to part with. Land Birds we saw hardly any and Sea Birds but a few, these were Men of War Birds, Noddies, Egg Birds, &ca. The Sea seems as barren of fish for we could not catch any altho we try'd in several places with hook and line and it was very little we saw a mong the Natives. Such is the produce of Easter Island which is situated in the Latitude of 27o 6' South and the Longitude of 109o 51' 40'' W. It is about 10 Leagues in circuit an hath hilly Rocky surface, the hills are of such height as to be seen 15 or 16 Leagues...
The Inhabitants of this isle from what we have been able to see of them do not exceed six or seven hundred souls and a bove two thirds of these are Men, they either have but a few Women among them or else many were not suffer'd to make their appearance, the latter seems most Probable. They are certainly of the same race of People as the New Zealanders and the other islanders, the affinity of the Language, Colour and some of their customs all tend to prove it, I think they bearing more affinity to the Inhabitants of Amsterdam and New Zealand, than those of the more northern isles which makes it probable that there lies a chain of isles in about this Parallel or under, some of which have at different times been seen...
They have enormous holes in their Ears, but what their Chief Ear ornaments are I cannot say. I have seen some with a ring fixed in the hole of the ear, but not hanging to it, also some with rings made of some elastick substance roled up like the Spring of a Watch, the design of this must be to extend or increase the whole.
Their Arms are wooden Patta pattows and Clubs very much like those of New Zealand and spears about 6 or 8 feet long which are pointed at one end with pieces of black flit.
Their Houses are low long and narrow and have much the appearance of a large boat turned bottom up whose keel is curved or bent, the largest I saw was 60 feet in length, 8 or 9 high in the middle and 3 or 4 at each end, its breadth was nearly the same; the door was in the middle of one Side, built like a Porch so low and narrow as just to admit a man to creep in upon all fours. The framing is made of small twigs and the covering of the tops of Sugar Cane and Plantains leaves and extends from the foundation to the roof so that they have no light but what the small door admits. These people dress their victuals in the same mannr as at the other Isles.
Of their Religion, Government &ca we can say nothing with certainty. The Stupendous stone statues errected in different places along the Coast are certainly no representation of any Diety or places of worship; but the most probable Burial Places for certain Tribes or Families. I saw my self a human Skeleton lying in the foundation of one just covered with Stones, what I call the foundation is an oblong square about 20 or 30 feet by 10 or 12 built of and faced with hewn stones of a vast size, errected in so masterly a manner as sufficiently shews the ingenuity of the age in which they were built...Some pieces of carving were found a mongest these people which were neither ill designed nor executed. They have no other tools than what are made of Stone, Bone, Shells &ca. They set but little value on Iron and yet they knew the use of it, perhaps they obtained their knowledge of this Metal from the Spaniards who Visited this Isle in 1769 some Vistages of which still remained amongest them, such as pieces of Cloth &ca.