Three excellent (and recent) books recount Easter’s history in very different ways. The geographer and botanist John Flenley, who uncovered evidence of Easter Island’s vanished forest and extinct giant palm trees, has collaborated with well-known archeologist Paul Bahn to bring the Easter Island saga up to date with the discoveries of the last century in The Enigmas of Easter Island. They offer a clear summary of Easter’s settlement by the Polynesians around 900 AD, and its subsequent history, the frightening collapse of it’s society due to clan warfare and the decimation of its forests, and the disastrous Peruvian blackbird slaving raids which nearly wiped out the few disease ridden Rapanui islanders. They document the environmental problems beginning with the cutting down of forests and the introduction of rats, which led to the collapse of the essentially farming economy.

The archeologist Jo Anne Van Tilburg, a leading authority on the statues, has used her understanding of Easter Island’s history in her biography Among Stone Giants: The Life of Katherine Routledge and Her Remarkable Expedition to Easter Island of the enterprising self-trained archeologist and ethnographer Katherine Routledge, who spent 17 months on the island in 1914, and whose unpublished notes she deciphered. Van Tilburg’s book is really three narrative in one—part history of this unique society, part gothic novel and a powerful biography. The various relationships of Routledge, her husband, other expedition members, islanders and Angata, the island priestess, who gained spiritual powers over Routledge—make for fascinating reading.

Easter Island by Jennifer Vanderbes is a tale of love, betrayal, history and intellectual passions which converge on the island. In 1913, Elsa Pendleton travels from England to Easter Island with her sister and husband, an anthropologist sent by the Royal Geographical Society to study the colossal statues. What begins as familial duty becomes grand adventure—on Easter Island she discovers her true calling. But she is unaware that World War I has been declared, and that a German naval squadron, fleeing the British across the South Pacific is heading towards the island. Sixty years later, Dr Greer Faraday, an American botanist travels to the island to research the islands ancient pollen, and piece back her life after the death of her husband. A series of revelations bring to life the parallel quests of these intrepid women as they delve into the mysteries of Easter Island.

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