Lost Mines and Treasures of the Pacific Northwest by Ruby El Hult, 3/5
This book, written in 1957 about events that largely took place in the late 1800s, occupies a strange middle ground both methodologically and temporally. Not only was the author’s research ability limited to the pre-Information Age resources of her time, but there was the further complication of the existence of personal accounts from living people who were within a generation or two of original events (close enough to be convincing, but not close enough to be reliable). Thus, the book is an awkward mix of fanciful hearsay and dry research that takes a few chapters to get into the spirit of. Whether entirely true or not, these stories provide interesting insight into the early history of the Pacific Northwest and the world of pioneers, pirates and prospectors.
Why I read it: The sequel, Treasure Hunting Northwest caught my eye in a used bookstore so I thought I’d better buy the original too.
This account of the first serious archaeological expedition to Easter Island could not be more exciting if it were set on a different planet entirely. Heyerdahl and his crew unearthed ancient statues, carvings and structures that had never been seen by outsiders before and some of their finds amazed the native residents as much as themselves. Even second-hand, the thrill of exploration and discovery was intoxicating. I did experience moral qualms caused by the author’s sometimes manipulative approach to wheedling secrets out of the islanders and it was a bit disturbing how willingly they seemed to trade their ancient artifacts for cigarettes. Still, it wasn’t a completely one-sided relationship–the expedition uncovered new statues, shed light on the island’s history, corroborated some of the local legends and encouraged the native people to remember their past and even revive some almost-forgotten traditional skills.
Why I read it: I’ve been an admirer of Heyerdahl since reading Kon-Tiki and wanted to read this book also before visiting the Kon-Tiki museum in Oslo, Norway, with my brother next month.
A picture quote I made: