Rapa Nui | Seeing is Believing Pt I

Approaching the Quarry
Approaching Rano Raraku

Miles from nowhere – the nearest inhabited land is 1289 miles away – Rapa Nui (also known as Easter Island) is one of the most enchanting and remarkable places I have visited. In the tradition of great things coming in small packages, this 63 square mile triangular-shaped island has enough wonderful sites and activities to warrant spending at least a week. We barely scratched the surface with six full days of hiking, biking and exploring and hope to return one day.  The first stop was Rano Raraku, the volcanic crater where every one of the 887 extant monumental statues known as  Moai was carved.Tiptoe Through the MoaiThere are approximately 400 Moai in various locations around Rano Raraku and it is possible to get quite close and look (but not touch)!Close Up of Stone Quarry-2The island’s first inhabitants arrived sometime between 700 and 1100 CE. Oral tradition holds that the island was colonized by villagers from another Polynesian island, perhaps one of the Marquesas. Carbon dating shows that the Moai were carved between 1100-1680 CE.  Families or tribes would commission a Moai to honor an ancestor who would then protect them. Quarry Moai with Leaning MoaiThe Moai were carved with stone hand chisels by a team of five or six men and took a year or more to complete. During this time, the commissioning family was responsible for feeding the carvers. Quarry Many MoaiOnce the Moai was complete, the family was responsible for moving the statue to its Ahu. Given their size – the largest one raised on a platform weighs 82 tons and is almost 10 meters long – there is a lot of speculation about how they were moved. One theory is they were moved with a Y-shaped sledge (which would have required as many as 250 men to pull). Another possible method was attached ropes and “walking” the Moai. Recently, a group of scientists constructed a modern Moai and demonstrated the feasibility of this latter method.Fallen MoaiApproximately half of the statues remain in the quarry. Another quarter were installed on Ahu – shrines or platforms in different locations, and the remainder can be found elsewhere, not having reached their destination. A fallen Moai lost its “mana” or spirit,  would no longer be able to protect its family and was abandoned.  The family would have to commission a new Moai and begin the lengthy and expensive process again.

Quarry Crater
Edge of the Crater Lake with Moai in Background

So much more Moai info still to come, including the starring role of  Thor Heyerdahl (of Kon Tiki fame) in the next post. Stay tuned!


9 thoughts on “Rapa Nui | Seeing is Believing Pt I

  1. Dear Maggie,
    Happy that I had a small part in your visit to Rapa Nui.


    Carolyn Rothberg
    Plaza Travel
    16530 Ventura Blvd.
    Suite 106
    Encino, CA 91436
    800 347-4447
    818-789-5405 Fax

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  2. Oh, amazing! I can’t wait to see more of Rapa Nui… I’ve been fascinated by it ever since I read Thor Heyerdahl’s book “Aku Aku” as a teenager. That crater must be seriously huge though – the Moai look tiny in there!


  3. I have developed an obsession with this wondrous island recently, it’s remoteness and unspoilt beauty is the key to my desire to visit this place. so much so that I have my own. little moai in my car to keep me focused on one day standing on that little island.

    Liked by 1 person

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