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Cindy Wheeler | profile | all galleries >> 2009_january_easter_island tree view | thumbnails | slideshow
Easter Island is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world. It sits in the South Pacific Ocean 2,300 miles west of South America, 2,500 miles southeast of Tahiti, 4,300 miles south of Hawaii, 3,700 miles north of Antarctica. The closest other inhabited island is 1,260 miles away - tiny Pitcairn Island where the mutineers of the H.M.S. Bounty settled in 1790.

There is very little (if any) written history of Easter Island and very few (if any) descendents of the original settlers. I have read a couple of different "histories" of Easter Island and I certainly don't know what is accurate so I'll give a brief summary of what I thought was interesting. Approximately 1200-1600 years ago people (from far away!) settled on Easter Island and they called themselves the Rapa Nui. The Rapa Nui began carving giant statues, known as moai, out of volcanic rock. (The moai remind me of Stonehenge because they are pretty incredible ancient relics and no one really knows why they were made.) The moai were carved with hard stone tools in the side of mountains made of volcanic rock. You can look at the mountain and see where they were carved out. The moai may represent the chief that is buried under where the moai is standing. This is not known for sure.

It is believed that once the moai was carved the Rapa Nui used trees to roll it to the water and built rafts out of trees to float it around the island. The moai were erected on stone built ahu's (platforms) by/for each different clan. Appx 1,000 moai were built and most of the moai face inland to watch over the village. (Only about a quarter of the moai that were carved were ever erected.) It is said that all of the Moai were toppled over about 250 years ago in tribal wars after the deforestation.

Core samples taken have shown that E.I. was once heavily forested and now it is treeless. The depletion of the natural resources caused the population to diminish from a high of 10k people(?) to 100 people(?). It's really a guess. The histories I read also said they were cannibals, the island people died out because slave traders stole all of the islanders (over 5,000 taken to Peru), the European's that showed up in the 1800's brought diseases that wiped out the rest of the Rapa Nui. It's all very interesting and a google search brings up lots of information if you want to know more.
The Moai of Easter Island
The Moai of Easter Island
IMG_2387.JPG
IMG_2387.JPG
All of the moais have been toppled over, erosion, hurricanes etc.  Any that are standing now have been set back up.
All of the moais have been toppled over, erosion, hurricanes etc. Any that are standing now have been set back up.
This is one still in the carving process
This is one still in the carving process
Another stopped mid-carving
Another stopped mid-carving
15 in a row, Tongariki.  Good example of the Ahu or platform.
15 in a row, Tongariki. Good example of the Ahu or platform.
Same 15
Same 15
Ahu Nau Nau Altar These back up to a beach. There were originally more and they weren't all re-erected.
Ahu Nau Nau Altar These back up to a beach. There were originally more and they weren't all re-erected.
Here's the beach behind the last moais.
Here's the beach behind the last moais.
Petroglyphs, Ana Kai Tangata Cave
Petroglyphs, Ana Kai Tangata Cave
The view from where the rock paintings are
The view from where the rock paintings are
The man who climbed down the cliffs, swam to these 3 islands and got the 1st egg of a Sooty Tern is the leader for the next year
The man who climbed down the cliffs, swam to these 3 islands and got the 1st egg of a Sooty Tern is the leader for the next year
High on the rim of the crater was the ceremonial village of Orongo. Then entrance to these dwellings are very small.
High on the rim of the crater was the ceremonial village of Orongo. Then entrance to these dwellings are very small.
View from the village are the Birdmen carved in the rocks.
View from the village are the Birdmen carved in the rocks.
More of the Birdmen petroglyphs on the mountain
More of the Birdmen petroglyphs on the mountain
Volcano crater, Rano Kau
Volcano crater, Rano Kau
there are many moais still laying on the ground
there are many moais still laying on the ground
Scientists/archeologists were working where the red hats/hair were quarried.
Scientists/archeologists were working where the red hats/hair were quarried.
Where they were digging.  It was very, very hot and they were doused in sunscreen.
Where they were digging. It was very, very hot and they were doused in sunscreen.
IMG_41443888 x 2592.jpg
IMG_41443888 x 2592.jpg
A piece of obsidion they found while digging. They believed it to be a carving tool.
A piece of obsidion they found while digging. They believed it to be a carving tool.
Another view of the excavation. You can see how large the red topknots are.  Huge!
Another view of the excavation. You can see how large the red topknots are. Huge!
This is where the red topknots were quarried. You can see some completed ones scattered about.
This is where the red topknots were quarried. You can see some completed ones scattered about.
Ahu Akivi moai, the only moai to face the sea
Ahu Akivi moai, the only moai to face the sea
More of the Ahu Akivi Moai
More of the Ahu Akivi Moai
And more
And more
Lots of rocks and the bluest water ever
Lots of rocks and the bluest water ever
This guy climbed down the rocks (like a goat!) and threw a fishing line in the water and caught fish right away.
This guy climbed down the rocks (like a goat!) and threw a fishing line in the water and caught fish right away.
The Tongariki at dawn
The Tongariki at dawn
Close up of the Tongariki
Close up of the Tongariki
Another one
Another one
The next few were taken early in the morning at the quarry. Many of these are half buried.
The next few were taken early in the morning at the quarry. Many of these are half buried.
The mountain they were carved from is in the background.
The mountain they were carved from is in the background.
From the quarry you can see the 15 moai at Tongariki
From the quarry you can see the 15 moai at Tongariki
So many new moai.  Their features aren't eroded like the others around the island.
So many "new" moai. Their features aren't eroded like the others around the island.
Buried far enough in the ground that it didn't completely topple over
Buried far enough in the ground that it didn't completely topple over
If you could see what a Moai sees ... you would see this.  Notice how long his ears are
If you could see what a Moai sees ... you would see this. Notice how long his ears are