Malpelo, Cocos, and Easter Islands


In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. Malpelo, Cocos, and Easter Islands is Number 141 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The book covers three Pacific Ocean islands belonging to three different Latin American countries: Malpelo Island to Colombia; Cocos Island to Costa Rica; and Easter Island to Chile. The section devoted to the uninhabited island of Malpelo is very brief, and consists of only a description of the geography and a historical sketch. The section devoted to Cocos Island is more extensive, and covers physical and political geography, political history, and general observations. The study recounts the colorful history of the island, which includes visits by explorers, pirates, and naturalists, and rumors of a vast treasure, said to have been buried on the island in 1818 or 1819 by the notorious pirate Benito (also known as Bennett Graham). The section devoted to Easter Island is the longest in the book, and covers physical and political geography, political history, economic conditions, and general observations. The study discusses the native Polynesian population of the island, which, owing to diseases and forcible removals, had declined to about 250 people from nearly ten times that number at the time the island was discovered by Europeans in the 18th century. The book recounts that during World War I German warships committed several breaches of Chilean neutrality by putting into Cook Bay, landing armed parties on the island, and reprovisioning themselves with supplies from the island.

Last updated: February 18, 2015