Easter Island exploration, February 2020
Easter Island / Isla de Pascua / Rapa Nui
- 63 square miles (163 square km)
- Population 7,750
- Annexed by Chile in 1888
Where is Easter Island?
Easter Island is one of the most remote places on the planet! Set in the South Pacific (as the most southeastern point of the Polynesian Triangle), it is almost 2,200 miles from mainland Chile and more than 1,200 miles away from the next inhabited island.
Why “Easter” Island?
Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen encountered the island on April 5, 1722–you guessed it, Easter Sunday. Of course, by then, this island had long been populated–since the 6th to 8th century, it’s estimated! However, the history of the Rapa Nui people is a much, much longer and more fascinating subject, worthy of study!
What are the big heads about?
You might be surprised to know they’re not just heads! These statues, called “moai” (MOW-eye), are full length, although the exaggerated heads do make up 1/3 to 1/4 of the statues’ total heights. The only place you really see the famous “heads” is at the quarry, where hundreds of full-length but unfinished moai were abandoned in a standing position, only to be buried up to their necks over the years. The rest of the moai around the island had been placed carefully on top of ceremonial platforms, only to be knocked over by intertribal warfare or potentially even earthquakes.
Ok, so what are the moai about?
There’s some debate about all things moai, but there are widely some accepted ideas. The moai were carved to honor deceased tribal leaders and thought to impart that person’s protective power over the community. They were carved from a central volcanic tuff quarry and moved to a ceremonial platform (ahu) overlooking the respective tribes. A common theory now is that the eye sockets were only carved upon arrival to the ahu and that the protective powers were imparted from the coral eyes implanted in the sockets once the statues were raised.
How do you get there?
You can fly directly only from two places: Santiago (Chile) and Tahiti! Easter Island has a huge runway because NASA developed it as an emergency landing spot for the U.S. Space Shuttle program, although it was never used as such.
Will you take me there?!
We can help plan Easter Island extensions to our future South America itineraries, for sure!