Friday, February 4, 2011

Our Day on Easter Island

We arrived at Easter Island this morning at 8am from the North and anchored off-shore. As you can see it was a bit overcast and had rained – beautiful rainbows over the sea. As odd as it was, this was the first rain in four months. By midday the rain had held up and it was very very hot and we were dripping with sweat.

Easter Island is not a tourist trap by any means – its far away and a World Heritage site. Only ~10 cruise ships come by each year – 7 are scheduled for 2011. There are only a few flights each day. The infrastructure is simple – roads are narrow and unpaved, our cruise consumed all the small cruise buses there are, facilities are simple but Merle was happy at their condition – well worth $1 a visit, and the vendors relatively naïve. The campsite really was minimalist and the happy camper juggler was very 60’s. shown for Jack and Alex.

The stunning and wonderful feature of Easter Island are the moais (volcanic rock statues) scattered across the island. The creation, transportation and installation of the moai must have consumed every element of the resources and energy of the small population that lived here for hundreds of years. The Polynesians came to Easter Island ~ 400AD and the moai are dated from ~700AD onward. Only about 20,000 people lived here at the time.

The moai are a religious / spiritual symbol linking a particular important person (each statue is individual) and heaven. Their bones are in the rock base (the Ahu) and Moai were erected on the remains having been transported from their sites of construction many kilometers away. The moai consists of the stone statue itself – carved out of the rock of the Rano Raraku volcanic crater; the red round stone hat – from different iron-containing rock from a different site; and the eyes – very important and made of coral with a rock pupil. 

They stand with their backs to the ocean. They are huge – tall and heavy. The latterday history of these statues has been documented by the visitors to Easter Island since 1722 – Roggeveen, Captain Cook, various Whaling ships and missionaries. It’s a sad tale of increasing societal breakdown, civil war then the toppling of the totems with little to replace them. Final insult is natural – a tsunami knocked over many in 1960 after a major Chilean earthquake and moved them over 20 yards away! Tons of solid rock.
There are 866 Moais on the Island. About one third are in situ and can be seen standing today. About one third are scattered on the paths to their final destinations and about one third are in various stages of completion in the Rano Raraku crater.

I climbed to the site of their carving and you can see from the pictures this huge moai which has been carved out of solid rock; and you can see where others have been removed. 

They were then slid/levered/manhandled down the slope to prepared pits so they could stand upright and the details of the back were completed. Then they started on their lengthy path to their final location. The distance shots are my attempt to show you where they had to go.

We visited two areas where the moais are congregated – one closer to the crater – Ahu Tongariki with 15 re-erected moais that were toppled in the tsunami and restored by a Japanese engineering company with cranes; and the other – Ahu Tahai which is closer to the port, and the Islands only town Hanga Roa.

We visited Hanga Roa after our tour – a 1 mile walk in the boiling heat – so I could buy peanuts for snacking and breaking teeth and Chilean wine which we consume in the cabin. The wine cost $10 – its going to be interesting.

A long wonderful day – wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Now I’ll add the pictures, post the blog, drink some wine and watch a DVD!!


  1. Gorgeous photos. Can't wait to show the boys tonight.


  2. So mystical and incredibly interesting! The pictures have been beautiful. Good luck with your tooth and I hope you enjoyed that Chilean wine :)

  3. Wow. Absolutely unbelievable. We have no chance against the aliens, especially considering our family can barely build a snowman. And their ain't no way were moving it anywhere.

  4. Absolutely amazing! What do people do between cruise ship tourism?

  5. Absolutely amazing! What do people do between cruise ship tourism?