Paradise lost in the Pacific ocean

The archipelago of Mangareva

House of idols', Mangareva, Gambier islands.

The Conquistadors were not only searching for gold. Columbus dreamt of the riches of Japan but coming from a mystical age where the Paradise of the Bible merged with the description of Atlantis by the ancients, he also searched for earthly paradise, wrote repeatedly about it, even believing he might have found it “there are great indications of this being the terrestrial paradise, for its site coincides with the opinion of the holy and wise theologians whom I have mentioned”.

The very immensity of the Pacific ocean, so vast that it could contain all land mass of the planet, meant its inhabitants remained hidden from the rest of the world. From the first encounters, the nudity of the natives, their apparent goodness and uncorrupted state, could easily lead to the conclusion they were living in the age before the original sin.

The quest for an earthly paradise, added to the discovery of new lands where people are nude and peaceful, have child like and pure souls, resulted, in the 18th century, in the ideal of the 'good savage', where men, uncorrupted by civilisation, live “free, healthy, honest and happy lives”.

When Tahiti was discovered, outsiders saw “the only corner of the earth where men live without vices, prejudices, needs, or disagreements. Born under the finest sky, fed on the fruit of a soil fecund without tillage, ruled by heads of the family rather than by kings, they recognise no other god but love”.
And with the immensity of the ocean, several islands were still living in the dreamed age of 'earthly paradise'.

One of them a small archipelago, Mangareva.

Friars led by brother Laval, far away from Paris and Rome, had full control, and could revel that “our little mission succeeded at recreating the innocence of earthly paradise”. Mangareva was turned into a theocracy.

This chapter describes the burning of statues that ensued, as only eight 'idols' survive, displayed in the Metropolitan Museum, the Louvre and the British Museum.

And then quotes the official reports from French officials visiting Mangareva's “earthly paradise”, like the report by Admiral Cloué “The islands are a convent, these people are subjected to the rules of 12th century monastical life... In the 36 years in this country they ran as masters, did the Fathers civilised it? Far from it, they could have shaped men, instead they made children, or less even. Those wretched people are slaves. This race is already reduced to one thousand people, one can almost count how many years are needed under this regime for all of them to die. In a sermon, he rejoiced at seeing everyone die, saying disease was proof of the love of God, and all those who were not dead were damned”.

This is a preview of the chapter about Mangareva and the search for an earthly paradise in the Pacific ocean, from the book Lost Treasures.