Ostend at Anchor joins the Mercator on an expedition!

Ostend at Anchor joins the Mercator on an expedition !

Commissioned by the Royal Museum for Art and History, the Belgian scientist Henri Lavachery sets out on an expedition to the Easter Islands where he will investigate the culture and the famous statues.

The expedition, which consists of a Belgian and a French team, embarks on the French naval ship “Rigoualt de Genouilly” in 1934 and travels to the Easter Islands in the Pacific Ocean.

At the end of July they moor in the bay of the main island.

"THE MERCATOR : PEARL IN OSTEND"

Thema 2019

Ostend Raid 10 May 1918

After research, the team concludes that the sculptures are the work of the ancestors of the Polynesian population and not of a vanished civilization. The sculptures are mainly located on the hillsides and on the beaches of the volcanic island and are constructed from compact volcanic ash. The scientists were impressed by the enormous statues or moai! The meaning of the statues is still unknown today. The statues could represent dead relatives, but also tribal chiefs who were still alive.

The return journey takes place on board the Belgian training ship “Mercator”. In the autumn of 1934 the barquentine made the journey from Antwerp through the Panama Canal to Rapa Nui and arrived there on 12 December 1934. It has been agreed with the Chilean authorities that the Franco-Belgian expedition may take a number of art and culture objects to Europe. This in exchange for a number of Egyptian works of art from the Belgian collections, which are shipped to Chile. A classic example of Belgian barter trade diplomacy.

In consultation with the Chilean governor on the island, the scientists choose a few small and large statues to be loaded onto the Mercator. A stone head of 3 tons is destined for France. The Belgians, however, see it bigger and choose a complete statue, called “Pou Hakanononga” by the natives, which means “god of the tuna fishermen”. It is a 3-meter high colossus weighing almost 6 tons.

After the smaller pieces of art were loaded, the heavy statue had to be hoisted on board. This was first tried with a raft but everything sinks to the bottom of the sea. Fortunately, the statue does not sink too far away for the experienced swimmers of Easter Island. They dive down and attach new steel cables. This way the statue can be recovered. Eventually they succeed in hoisting the “god of the tuna fishermen” on the deck of the Mercator, where it is wrapped in tarpaulin for the voyage to Belgium.

Shortly after New Year 1935, with the her unique cargo safely stowed on board, Mercator departed Rapa Nuifor the long return journey  to Europe via Tahiti, Hawaii, the Panama Canal, and through the Bahamas to arrive at Antwerp at the end of May 1935. The end of a remarkable and successful expedition for Belgium!

Discover the full story of the expedition and the return to Belgium, at the exhibition with unique pieces from the collection of the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels

“Vindictive” Abandoned and Sunk

Communication between the conning tower and the after control was down. The ship’s captain Commander Godsal (formerly commanding the blocking ship HMS “Brilliant”) went outside the conning tower to give orders for the blocking position. He was killed when a shell exploded close to the conning tower. (His body was never found.) Lt Crutchley took command of the situation. The ship grounded at the eastern pier at a 25 degree angle. The order was given to abandon ship and blow it up there. Naval motor launches ML254 and ML276 ran into the harbour through enemy fire to pick up the surviving crew including several badly wounded.

Crew & Wounded Rescued

As HMS “Warwick” and her consorts began to withdraw to the west along the coast motor launch ML254 was taking on water. They signalled an SOS out to sea in the hope of being rescued as they had badly wounded men in the boat. Their call for help was seen, the British ships turned back and they were picked up.
By the time this rescue was completed the the tide had dropped lower and the British ships had to leave the area by a route further into the Channel that was mined by the Germans. At 04.00 hrs the “Warwick” hit a mine destroying the aft part of the ship. The wounded were taken off by HMS “Velux” and HMS “Whirlwind” towed “Warwick” back to Dover.

British Casualties

The British casualties were: 2 officers and 6 men killed; 5 officers and 25 men wounded; 2 officers and 9 men missing.

Enjoy this unique maritime festival to the full!

Ostend at Anchor, presenting The Mercator : Pearl in Ostend !!! from Thursday, May 23th to Sunday, May 26th 2019. It’s all there !!!

Ostend at Anchor is accessible to everyone, with free access and offered by the Ostenders.

Oostende voor Anker is a volunteer organization commissioned by Toerisme Oostende