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Easter Island Duo

· Thor Heyerdahl,Archaeology,Easter Island,HMCS Cape Scott,Medical Expedition

I recently bought an interesting book that had a very long title:

Reports of the Norwegian Archaeological Expedition to Easter Island and The East Pacific – Volume 1 Archaeology of Easter Island; with contributions by Thor Heyerdahl, Edwin N. Ferdon, Jr., William Mullot, Arne Skjolsvold, Carlyle S. Smith; Monographs of The School of American Research and The Museum of New Mexico, number 24, Part 1, 1961; George Allen and Unwin Ltd, London, 1962. Printed in Sweden.

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Certainly, seeing Thor Heyerdahl’s name on the spine drew my attention. He is probably most famous for hisKon-Tiki expedition in 1947, in which he sailed 8,000 km (5,000 mi) across the Pacific Ocean in a hand-built raft from South America to the Tuamotu Islands. The expedition was designed to demonstrate that ancient people could have made long sea voyages, creating contacts between societies. In 1955–1956, Heyerdahl organised the Norwegian Archaeological Expedition to Easter Island. Heyerdahl and the professional archaeologists who travelled with him spent several months on Easter Island investigating several important archaeological sites. Highlights of the project include experiments in the carving, transport and erection of the notable moai, as well as excavations at such prominent sites as Orongo and Poike. The expedition published two large volumes of scientific reports (Reports of the Norwegian Archaeological Expedition to Easter Island and the East Pacific). This book covers the findings of this amazing expedition in 559 pages of text, drawings, charts, maps, followed by 96 plates followed by “tip-ins”, a series of 11 double fold out illustrations. This is a very scarce volume, especially in its near-fine condition.

And now for the “Duo”

On the front and rear endpapers were some 70 signatures.

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At first, I thought (hopefully) that it was signed by Thor and other members of his expedition. Nope, I couldn’t find his name. But there was a surprisingly large number of people from Canada and many medical types. Unravelling the mystery started with the page of signatures under the heading of HMCS CAPE SCOTT. I googled the name of the ship and found its Wikipedia page that read in part “In 1964, Cape Scott was engaged in a civilian medical mission to Rapa Nui in the south Pacific Ocean, called the Medical Expedition to Easter Island (METEI). Carrying nearly 40 doctors and technicians and 20 prefabricated shelters, Cape Scott was refitted to increase fuel capacity from 4,441 to 9,000 barrels and enlarge the forward hatch to handle large cargoes.”

So, then I googled METEI and came across the following book, that was published in 2019 “Stanley’s Dream - The Medical Expedition to Easter Island”. The book was written by Jacalyn Duffin, physician and historian, who is professor emerita at Queen's University, where she held the Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine from 1988 to 2017. A partial description of this book reads as follows “In 1964-65, an international team of thirty-eight scientists and assistants, led by Montreal physician Stanley Skoryna, sailed to the mysterious Rapa Nui (Easter Island) to conduct an unprecedented survey of its biosphere. Born of Cold War concerns about pollution, overpopulation, and conflict, and initially conceived as the first of two trips, the project was designed to document the island's status before a proposed airport would link the one thousand people living in humanity's remotest community to the rest of the world - its germs, genes, culture, and economy.”

And sure enough look at the page with the most signatures and near the top is his signature along with the notation “Director of the expedition”. Someone brought this 1962 book on the 1964 expedition and proceeded to get most of the participants, the ships crew, and some local inhabitants of Easter Island to sign the book.

What a great linking of two famous expeditions to the wonderous, mysterious world of Easter Island.

One mystery remains – who brought the book on the voyage? Above Stanley’s name is written “Ex Libris C E Fowler”. He was a very interesting man who lived to be 100 and he just passed away in the summer of 2021, which accounts for the book coming onto the market. But, he was an architect and his obituary does not mention the voyage to Easter Island. He lived in Halifax, as did a number of people who went on that voyage, so likely he gave the book to a friend to take on the expedition. I have been in contact with Jacalyn Duffin, and we have a great time e-mailing back and forth. She was excited to find out about the book and we have been sharing information and pictures. She asked three people who were on the voyage, and no one could remember who had the book.


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