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Easter Island Pictures
Rapa Nui Photos

 

 

 Easter Island sunrise, Rapa Nui, Chile

Moai to the max at a typical cloudy Tongariki sunrise on Chile's Rapa Nui (Easter Island or Isla de Pascua in Spanish), in December. This, the largest shrine on the island and the work of several centuries, was restored in 1993.

 

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Not much of an activity centre and a long, expensive trip from the mainland, but Chile's Easter Island (annexed by Chile in 1888) is little developed, has a small Polynesian population and displays some of the world's oddest artifacts in a barren, volcanic landscape along with a bizarre, apparently self-destructive history. This destination is definitely a must-see, if you can afford it.

 

Easter Island Rano Raraku rainbow,, Chile

A view of Rapa Nui's Rano Raraku quarry - seen on the left - where most moai were carved, though the occasional red top hats came from Puna Pau crater in a different location. To the right is one lone moai a hundred metres from the Tongariki set.

 

A little of of Rapa Nui's (Easter Island) history

Pollen samples indicate the existence of forests of trees, including huge palms around 200 AD, and human habitation from somewhere between 300 AD and 800 AD depending on who you listen to. Large fishing canoes, palm shelters, edible nuts and wood fires would have comfortably supplied the people with the necessities of life.

 

Tongariki by day, Easter Island, Chile

Tongariki a little later, with one of many overturned moai.

 

More than 200 statues once stood along the island's coast on ahu (ceremonial platforms), transported up to 10kms (6 miles) from the crater of Rano Raraku - probably by sleds lubricated with sweet potatoes - where they were quarried from volcanic tuff (porous rock). There are about 400 statues still in the quarry, inside and outside the crater.
Moai range in size from barely a metre to up to 11m (33ft) and weighing 82 tonnes, though there is one still in the quarry that is 20m long and would weigh around 250 tons (pictured later).

Moai were constructed from about AD 500, probably as a form of ancestor recognition or worship by five differing clans that shared control of the island; the inland-looking aspect of most of the moai indicates that the clans thought that the moai were watching over and protecting their people.
Peak moai production was in AD 1400 when the island population was as high as 20,000 and moai size had become highly competitive.

 

moai giant hat, Easter Island

Somebody left his hat lying around.

 

In 1722 when a Dutch explorer called Roggeveen arrived on the island on Easter Day, the first visit recorded by a European, all the moai were upright, but 52 years later when Captain Cook stepped ashore almost all had been toppled.

 

The initial thoughts on the cause of deforestation and collapse of Rapa Nui culture

Archeologists found no evidence of natural disaster (volcanic eruption, tidal wave) and thus concluded that Easter Island is a fine example of human habitat self-destruction.
Due to the demands for wood for moai construction and transport in addition to the the increased demands for shelter and boats for the larger population the island became deforested.
Fishing boats became smaller and less efficient, soil eroded and crops became stunted. Result: starvation and inter-clan war, a verdict supported by archeological discoveries of sudden increase in obsidian (a hard stone) weapons in the 17th century, corpses that had been beaten to death and caves used as sanctuaries.

 

 

Inside the Rano Raku Volcano, Easter Island

Inside the Rano Raraku quarry/volcano.

 

When the whiteman's colossal ship arrived the islanders saw the wealth and sophistication of the 'aliens' and were suitably awed (according to Roggeveen's own reports), realising the poverty of life and style in which they were living. This led to the comprehension that their ancestors were not protecting them, quite the opposite, the moai fixation had ruined the land.
And so clans pulled down other clans' moai, or possibly even their own, and by the time Captain Cook arrived in 1774, the great statues were mostly face-down in the dirt...

...until 1955, when the first moai were re-erected by Norwegian adventurer and Kon Tiki builder, Thor Heyerdahl. Now about are 17% upright, though but erosion is taking it's toll.

 

Rano Raraku volcano and moai quarry,  Easter Island, Chile

And the outside of Rano Raraku, the source of almost all moai.

 

About 400 statues in various stages of development are still scattered around the outside and inside of this crater.
Rapa Nui is triangular, 23km long by 11km wide, and was created by the eruption of three volcanoes. The total area of is 171 sq kms. There are just two sandy beaches.

This is one of our favourite places on Rapa Nui, as well as...Anakena beach

 

 

The Weather

Climate: subtropical with an annual average temperature of 20C. September to April, the drier months and summertime, is the main tourist season.

Coldest month, August/mid-winter (15C-18C). Hottest month February/summer (24C-27C).
Wettest month, May (16cm of rain). The driest month is September.

 

 

 

New thoughts on Rapa Nui: not Ecocide, Genocide! >>>

 

Anakena Beach Pictures >>>

 

 

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