Friday, February 11, 2011

Easter Island is known for its iconic figures known as moai,  You may not
have the image in your mind right now, but you will recognize them as soon as
you as you see the images posted here.  These are stone figures that were
carved and erected by the Rapa Nui people.  There were placed on ahus
(platforms).  They were always on the coast and the maoi always faced
inland.  The images represented the erector's ancestors and they hoped the
ancestors would interceed with the gods to bring prosperity to the island.
Prosperity equates with good harvests from land and sea.  There are 600
known moai (pronounced "moo-I").

On our full day on Easter Island, we visited three sites related to moai.
We learned that by 1838, there were no moai still standing on the platforms,
They had been toppled by civil unrest and the islanders' general disbelief
in the moai concept.  Apparently, the faith waned as times got tougher.
More about that later.
One of the most interesting sites was the quarry where the moai were
carved.  There are many finished and unfinished moai at this site.  In fact,
the largest known one (70 tons) was never completely removed from the
wall of stone.  But most of the figure is clearly discernable.  There is
another small quarry where the red top knots were quarried.

Our tours around the island were lead by archeologists from the University of
Santiago.  They have lived in the island for thirty years and have done most
of the digs and reasearch.  That is what a National Geographic trip will
do for you

The real fascination to me is how these primitve people moved the moai
weighing twenty to seventy tons many miles.  Easter Island is 66 square miles.
And it is not flat.  I really did not acquire a real understanding of how
they moved the moai some many miles.  And they are found on all sides of the

The most interesting site was Ahu Tongariki. Flash back to 1960.  This site
had a platform and numerous toppled moai.  There was a severe earthquake in
mainland Chile. It produced a tsunami that came ashore at this site and  destroyed the platform and
pushed it along with the toppled moai several hundred yards inland. The whole
site was covered in sand and debris.  A Japanese company offered to finance
the restoration of the site in the 1990s.  This included sending a crane that
was capable of lifting the moai.  It took five years to complete the project.
I will post a picture showing the restoration.  You will notice that only one
moai has the top hat.  The other top hats were on the site but they ran out of
money before they could put these back on.  Our guides were the actual project managers for
this restoratiion project.  I will post a photo of this restoration.

Around the middle of the day, we went to the only white sand beach on
the island.  The tour operators had arranged a barbeque under the palm trees
at this beach.  Afterward, we went for a dip in the Pacific.  The water was
still somewhat cool as summer is just beginning here.  But we jumped in
anyway.  I will post pictures from this beach including the moai lined up
near the beach.

Afterward Deb and I and about seven other travelers went for a hike along
the shore to view various ruins.  The natives were rather myopic as so many
people are.  They thought their island was the center of the universe.  We
actually passed a place that they called the navel of the world.  Be on the
lookout for a photograph of Deb rubbing the navel.

As discussed earlier, this is an isolated island.  But there was a long
Polynesion traditon of long oceanic voyages which presupposes the
availability of suitable boats.  The Easter Island folks depleted all
large trees which could be used to make suitable boats for long voyages. 
As a result, they were isolated for the 200 years before the white men started
showing up in the 1700s.

At one point, the native population decreased to 211 and of that
number, 36 were married.  These numbers are down from a of maximum of 25,000.
If you are a native, you should not have much trouble tracing your family tree,
For those of you who know me, I am prone to get a wild hair from time to time.
I saw an 80 " wooden carving of a moai in the dining room at the place
where we were staying.  Ths short version of this story is that I have
commissioned the carver to make us a duplicate and ship it to NC.  We have the
perfect place for it in the Ocracoke house.  I will post a picture of the
moai and the artist standing beside it.

The airstrip in Easter Island is one of the longest in the world.  One of our
guides thanked us for such a nice strip.  It turns out that NASA paid for the
whole thing as an alternative landing place for the shuttles.  Of course, the
shuttle has never landed there.  But the people of Easter Island sure do have
a fine strip.

On Wednesday evening, there was a cocktail party before dinner at our hotel.  I hung
out with some of the airplane crew and learned a lot.  The 757 is owned and operated
by Thomson Airways, a large charter carrier from the UK.  There are actually two
engineers on this trip- one for avionics and one for structural issues.  If you
think about it, engineers are usually at each airport.  But there is no guarantee
that there will be anyone at any of our destinations who could provide the
necesary engineering.  We also have a chef traveing on the plane.  When we are out
having fun, he is in an airport or hotel kitchen cooking up the meals for the next
leg of the trip.
There are three people in the cockpit.  I met the first officer at the same cocktail party.
 He spent nineteen months in Conway, SC learning to fly.  Thomson Airways sends it airplanes
to a facility at the Greensboro airport for repairs and alterations.

Most of our crew has never been on the around the world trip.  I understand that they have to
apply for this duty months in advance. They very happy to be on the jaunt.
On the leg between Easter Island and Samoa, we had to stop in Tahiti to refuel.
The engineer explained the plane has the fuel capacity to make the trip nonstop.
But the strip at Easter Island is shorter than normal because of repairs.  The plane
would not get up in sufficient time if it had a full tank.

The stop in Tahiti proved to be an adventure.  It was supposed to be a forty minute
stop for fuel.  It turned into a a two hour forty minute stop.  An official from the
French aviation authority came on board for an inspection.  Apparently he had some
authority to do this under an agreement among the major airlines. The inspector found
that five of the emergency floor lights were not working.  That definitely got the
two engineers scurrying.  Unfortunately, some of the materials needed were in the hold
of the airplane.  Some of the luggage had to be removed.

All this meant that we arrived in Samoa at 3:00   a.m, EST time  Of course, it was 10
p.m. local time.  But the heck with that as my body was still on EST. 


  1. Herman,
    We are thoroughly enjoying these posts. Thanks so much for letting us share in this wonderful trip.

  2. Hey Herman...
    Thanks so much for taking the time to post this for us winter bound folks here in NC.
    As a geography & history buff, you know I have read about the stops you are making and the insight you provide is very interesting. I'm currently reading the pre-Muslim history of India, so cant wait til you get there.

    Ya'll have fun!!!