Thursday, February 5, 2009


5 Feb 2009 – We were on Easter Island (Rapa Nui) yesterday. Clyde enjoyed seeing the Moa statues and made a new friend or two as always. He also got his passport stamped. We took a tour to several sites on the island where we could get a close look at the statues.

The island is of volcanic origin and quite hilly and green. It had been almost completely deforested in the past and now has some trees, but is mostly open spaces and grassland. Cattle and horses roam freely everywhere with few fences to control them. The sea here is an amazing blue color that looks like Lapis that has been electrified to glow. It may be the most remote island in the world. It is 2000 miles west of Chile and 2000 east of Tahiti. The water here is warm and the people are of Polynesian descent, but speak Spanish since the island belongs to Chile. The people are friendly, but not much English is spoken.

The origin of their famous statues (Moai) is something of a mystery. The leading theory is that Polynesian people migrated here about 1000 AD and created the Moai to venerate ancestors, give status to their villages and provide a source of power or good luck to the people. The Moas were all quarried from compressed volcanic ash on a single mountainside and many of the larger ones are still in the quarry. About 900 Moai are known --- about 400 distributed around the island and the rest still in the quarry. The biggest weigh many tons and stand 36 ft high. The ones distributed around the island average about 14 ft tall. Most along the coast were erected on platforms facing a village. They were mostly complete when transported from the quarry, but had their eye sockets carved on site where they were erected. White coral eyes were inserted -- this “activated” them and gave them the power to help the village. Some of those that were inland were thought to be used to measure the arrival of the equinox for spring planting. Most of the Moas had already been toppled from their platforms before the first arrival of Europeans in the 1700s. Many have been re-erected by archeologists.

Thor Heyerdal did a lot of archeological work here, but is not popular since his theory is that South Americans came here and built the Moai and were later killed by the Polynesians. They do acknowledge, however, that he was the one who brought Easter Island to the attention of the world and started the first archeology work here and was the first to re-erect a Moa.

Our tour was in non-air-conditioned vans at high speed down red dusty roads sometimes slowing to avoid a cow or horse on the road. We thought we had gotten a quick tan, but it washed off when we got back to the ship.

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