Jacob Roggeveen Biography

(Explorer who discovered Easter Island)

Birthday: February 1, 1659 (Aquarius)

Born In: Middelburg

One of the best known explorers of the early 18th century, Jacob Roggeveen was a Dutch explorer credited to have discovered the Easter Island while he was on an expedition to find Terra Australis. While on this exploration, he also encountered Bora Bora and Maupiti of the Society Islands, Samoa. The expedition which led to the discovery of the Easter Island and etched Roggeveen’s name in the annals of history as an important explorer was actually a dream of his father. Jacob’s father Arend Roggeveen was a mathematician who possessed much knowledge about astronomy, geography, and navigation as well. It was Arend’s fondest dream to embark on an exploration to the mythical Terra Australis, a dream that he was not be able to accomplish in spite of his best efforts. Almost half a century later his sons Jacob and Jan decided to attempt the same voyage their father had once dreamed about. Jan, a merchant, helped in the planning and preparation for the trip though he did not accompany his brother on the journey. Equipped with three ships, Jacob finally embarked on the expedition. Even though he could not reach the land of his father’s dreams, he was able to discover another place, hitherto unknown to mankind, and thereby create a milestone in the history of sea explorations.
Quick Facts

Died At Age: 69


Spouse/Ex-: Anna Clement, Marija Margaerita Vincentius

father: Arend Roggeveen

mother: Maria Storm

Explorers Dutch Men

Died on: January 31, 1729

place of death: Middelburg

More Facts

education: University of Harderwijk

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Childhood & Early Life
He was born on 1 February 1659 to Arend Roggeveen and Maria Storm in Middelburg, the Netherlands. His father was a mathematician who also had interests in astronomy, geography, philosophy and the theory of navigation.
His father was very much fascinated with the idea of discovering the mythical Terra Australis and along with a group of friends presented this idea to the States General of the Netherlands along with a request for a Charter. The charter was granted, but Arend Roggeveen and his friends were unable to finance the expedition and it did not take place. He died after a few years with his dream unfulfilled.
Jacob attended the Latin School and later went to the Academy of Saumur in France (the Protestant University). In 1690 he graduated as a doctor of the law from the University of Harderwijk.
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He applied for a job with the Dutch East Indies Company and was accepted. From 1707 till 1714 he served as a Raadsheer van Justitie ("Council Lord of Justice") at Batavia, Dutch East Indies (now Jakarta).
In 1715, he returned to Middleburg. He had become very wealthy by way of his job with the company though his personal life was fraught with sorrows—he had been widowed twice by now.
Over the next few years he gave serious thoughts to embarking on the exploration his father had once dreamed of. Even though he was well into his fifties by now, he decided to go ahead with the expedition to discover the Terra Australis.
He approached the Dutch East Indies Company with the proposal of making an exploratory voyage to the unknown regions of the Pacific Ocean. This was within the boundaries defined in the company’s charter, and they put three ships at his disposal for the discovery voyage. Thus he revived his father’s dream project.
On 1 August 1721 he left on his expedition as the commander over three ships: the Arend ("eagle"), the Thienhoven, and the Africaansche Galey, with a total of 223 men on crew. He was 62 years old at that time, much older than most of the other explorers of that time.
He was a mature explorer who took no unilateral decision. Before taking any important decision he would consult the captains of the three ships—Captain Jan Koster, Captain Comelis Bouman, and Captain Roelof Rosendael—and the four men would discuss all the alternatives and take the final decision as a team.
They first sailed down to the Falkland Islands, passed through the Strait of Le Maire and continued south to beyond 60 degrees south to enter the Pacific Ocean. The group spent a few days from 24 February 1722 to 17 March 1722 in the Juan Fernández Islands, cleaning, repairing, and re-supplying in anticipation of exploring the unknown parts of the Pacific Ocean.
They resumed sailing and on 5 April 1722 they saw tortoise and floating vegetation, followed by birds—indications that they were nearing land. The Africaansche Galey sighted land by the late afternoon and they decided to stop and wait for the next day. Since it was Easter Day, Roggeveen decided to name the island Easter Island.
He also discovered some islands of the Tuamotu group in addition to the Easter Island on this expedition. He visited Takapoto, Makatea and Samoa, where his fleet rested for sometime before continuing on to Batavia in September 1722. In spite of all their discoveries, they could not reach the fabled Terra Australis. In 1723, Roggeveen returned to the Netherlands along with his crew.
Personal Life & Legacy
After completing his education he married Marija Margaerita Vincentius, but unfortunately she died in 1694.
A few years later he married Anna Adriana Clement but she too died soon after the marriage.
He kindled controversy when he supported the liberal preacher Pontiaan van Hattem and published his leaflet ‘De val van 's werelds afgod’. He had published just one part when it was confiscated by the city council and burned. Fearing for his safety he fled to a nearby town and published the other parts there, again kindling controversy.
He died on 31 January 1729, at the age of 69, in Middelburg.

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