The night before we were to fly to Easter Island, the LAN airline strike ended. Yay. Lucky for us, not so lucky for people who had been stranded over there, but during the night, the Air Force of Chile (Easter Island is under Chile’s jurisdiction) had come to the rescue and flown them back to Santiago, Chile.
What a weird name for a South Pacific island. Didn’t see the Easter Bunny anywhere, so what’s up? We can thank a Dutchman who discovered the island in 1722 on Easter Sunday. The island’s other name is Rapa Nui. About 3,000 people live there now, called Rapa Nuians, who are descended from the Polynesians. The island, formed by three volcanos, is really far out: 2,340 miles from Santiago.
The Moai statues
Across the island there are about 900 Moai statues. Ancestors of the inhabitants carved the giant Moai statues from rock quarries where, today, some partially carved Moai still remain. Due to tribal war, the stonework was abandoned suddenly. While the history of the Rapa Nui people is mostly lost, evidence studied by archeologists and other scientists suggest the Moai were made as representations of tribal leaders. They were looked to as having power to make the people prosperous and the land fertile. When that didn’t happen, the islanders pushed the Moai over face-down so they could no longer “see” the people. Wouldn’t that be an interesting tradition nowadays!
Birdman Island and a Kontiki adventure
Coincidentally, when five of us took a small boat excursion over to the three adjacent islets—the tall one in the photos was instrumental in the ritual of the Birdman cult—we were able to meet up with the explorers on two rafts built like the one that Thor Heyerdahl used in 1947 on his island adventure. We met the leader, who is featured in a photo below. Read about his group’s still-in-progress adventure at Kontiki2 expedition.
Our days and nights on Easter Island, a magical and mysterious patch on this amazing planet, have given me monumental (no pun intended) amounts of story material. I’ll be writing more about it. Leave any questions in the comments section below and I’ll try and answer them.
Thanks for reading!
Click the first photo to begin the slideshow.