Salmon wasn’t the only thing on the menu during the Norwegian royal couple’s state visit to Chile that ended over the weekend. In addition to controversially opening doors for more Norwegian salmon-farming players in Chile, they came bearing gifts and oversaw the pending return of items taken from Rapa Nui (Easter Island) during Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl’s expedition more than 60 years ago.
Thor Heyerdahl Jr was along for the ceremony to mark how items including skulls, skeletons, a stone wheel and stone axe will be returned after being taken as part of his father’s research on navigation, migration and settlement of the islands that lie 3,500 kilometers off Chile’s Pacific coast. King Harald, when he was still a young crown prince, had bid Heyerdahl farewell when he sailed from Oslo as the expedition began in 1955.
The actual return of the ancient items to the people of Rapa Nui will take place after all protocols are signed and they can be shipped to Santiago. From there, they’ll eventually be sent on to Rapa Nui, which up to now hasn’t had a facility on the island able to receive them.
King Harald and Queen Sonja, who were met by demonstrators opposing Norwegian salmon farmers in Chile, received a warm welcome in Santiago and at the ceremony. King Harald also had a gift from the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo that Heyerdahl founded to house his rafts and collections. The gift “was small enough to fit in the king’s pocket,” wrote museum leaders in newspaper Aftenposten last week: a harddisc containing the 1,822 photos that Thor Heyerdahl took during his many trips to Rapa Nui. The king and queen have also visited the island with its iconic statues, on a private trip over the Easter holidays in 2014.