Rapa Nui Multimedia

The New York Times has a nice multimedia piece up this afternoon about the danger faced by the moais, those enigmatic statues on Easter Island, known locally as Rapa Nui.

Check it out and then explore more photos from the island at EarthPhotos.com. Here are a few:

Island Transport

 

Only Known Authentic Moai Eye, in the Father Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum near Hanga Roa

 

Anakena Beach and Ahu Nau Nau

 

Sunset

And here are twenty entries, photos and stories from our visit to Rapa Nui.

 

 

Rapa Nui

Travel due west from Easter Island, dodge a Tahitian Island or two, and you’ll come ashore in the northern Brisbane suburbs. Head east and you’re in Chile. Sail south to Antarctica? The forbidding Cape Herlacher on the Amundsen Sea. Set out northbound – a long, long way – and you’ll land on the tip of Baja California.

Easter Island, brochure-writers say, is the most remote inhabited spot on the planet. That’s not really true, and all the islands are remote out here. For example, Easter Island’s nearest inhabited neighbor, Pitcairn Island, is 1300 miles west and home to 42.

There is a spot in the Indian Ocean more remote than either of these mere motes, a place claimed by France called Kerguelen Island, but it has no permanent residents, only scientists.

In fact, the remotest inhabited island in the world is Tristan da Cunha, a surely inbred place with a population of about 270, in the South Atlantic Ocean, 1,750 miles from South Africa. Supply boats from South Africa sail there less than once a month. In bountiful contrast, cruises stop at Easter Island and there are daily flights.

Since there is no airport at Tristan de Cunha, Easter Island claims the prize for most remote airport in the world. Mataveri Airport is 2,336 miles from Santiago, from which there are scheduled flights, and 1,617 miles from Mangareva in the Gambier Islands, where there are none.

The flight out takes about 3-1/2 hours. The airport at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station commands a crossroads by comparison, a mere 842 miles from Williams Field, which serves the U.S. McMurdo Station and New Zealand’s Scott Base in Antarctica.

Stand down by the shore in Miraflores, the fancy shopping suburb of Lima, Peru, and look west. Amid the children and the frisbees and the noise, and coastal Peru’s bewildering garúa and the unmuffled engines, it is hard to get an idea what the remoteness of Easter Island feels like. How the isolation seeps into your thinking. How it makes you different. It is a fundamental feature of Rapa Nui.

The more I learn, the more I understand Easter Island really is a mysterious place, having confounded just about everybody since 1722, the date of the first known non-Polynesian contact. Everybody has theories about Rapa Nui, and nobody really knows, so you might as well develop your own theories too. Why not?

There are multiple mysteries. First the huge statues, called moai. How and why did the islanders move them from quarry to perch?

There is the question of the society’s apparent collapse. Some would have us believe the islanders were dim enough to cut down their very last tree, but I am skeptical. Or was it European contact and the diseases that unleashed?

At least the question of how Rapa Nui was originally colonized seems to have been answered. Norwegian Thor Heyerdahl pointed to the Incas and Spaniards via Peru. The Swiss author Erich von Daniken put it all down to spacemen. That nutty old Daily Mail even fingered the diabolical sweet potato.

Clearer heads traced the larger colonization patterns of Polynesia, sometimes via pottery, back to today’s Papua New Guinea via the Solomon Islands. The distance between the Solomon Islands and Easter Island, though, is some 6000 miles. How long did it take? Even learned guesses range across more than five hundred years.

A British archaeologist who lived on the island in 1914-15 named Katherine Routledge wrote that it “bears no resemblance to the ideal lotus-eating lands of the Pacific; rather, with its bleak, grass grown surface, its wild rocks and restless ocean, it recalls some of the Scilly Islands or the coast of Cornwall. It is not a beautiful country or even a striking one, but it has a fascination of its own.”

In the end, it’s hard to get a non-academic feel for the place from home. Unless you go, it’s all just words in books. They say the tallest moai weighed 82 tons and the heaviest weighed 86. My horse-trailer-pulling Ford F-250 weighs a mere three. How can you tell what you think about how they hauled those things around until you stand under one and look it in the eye?

This is why you go, of course, because it is a singular place on earth. As much as it would like to be, it is not like the rest of Polynesia. It may recall the coast of Cornwall. It surely is nothing like its Chilean suzerain.

So you just have to go out there to see.

New Ancient Continent

If you’re geographically inclined you’ll enjoy this eight page pdf claiming to have discovered a new continent, titled Zealandia: Earth’s Hidden Continent from the Geological Society of America, from which this map comes:

zealandia

Interesting in its own right, but also it’s not often you get to read about Kerguelen.

CS&W’s Graceless and Rude National Character Survey

Time to raise some ire. Based on strictly personal experience, here are some stereotypes that are sure to offend. All in good, clean fun. I think I’ll add more as they occur to me. Feel free to irritate your own chosen ethnicity in the comments.

NATIONAL CHARACTER

Finland: Stubborn. Not malevolent.

Germany: No excuse for the disappointment that is their food.

India: Does luxury well. Wealth disparity allows this. High end more affordable for tourists than elsewhere.

New Zealand: Permanent slightly perplexed look. Sunburnt. Buggy eyes.

Pacific Islands: Collective motto: “Don’t hurt me please.” The ukelele and all its music is the cause of this.

Paraguay: Important only to Paraguayans. Who are sweet and all, sure. Still.

Scotland: Paternal. Strong men will take care of you. Like it or not. Ireland has some of this.

Thailand: The world’s consistently strangest names. Like Kejmanee Pichaironnarongsongkram. Except possibly

Turkmenistan, whose leader is Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow.

Turkey: Tirelessly gracious but with a useless language shared by no one but Central Asians. In Turkish, as often as not the “G” goes away. “Erdogan” is pronounced “erdo-an.” A “C” with a cedille, “ç,” is pronounced “dj” like George. Çiragon is “Jiron.”

USA: Groupthink. If you want, you can really think things through and work out what you think. But you have to do more than ‘like’ things on Facebook. Why bother? Your tribe’s news channel can think everything through and tell you.

Vietnam: Wiry. Persistent. Shake hands with tight grip. Prim. Barefoot.

Reading Around the Web

Looks like my second book, Visiting Chernobyl, is on track for publication by the end of next week. The day it’s up on Amazon I’ll excerpt it here and send the first chapter to everybody who signs up over on the right (Go ahead, sign up now). While I’m tending to that, here are a few entertaining, well done or arcane things to spend some time with:

A Night under Concrete: Albanian Tourism Project Puts Beds in Bunkers

Tom Christian, Descendant of Bounty Mutineer, Dies at 77

How a high school-educated drug smuggler built a fleet of submarines—in the middle of the jungle

The Enclaves and Counter-enclaves of Baarle

I Went on the World’s Deadliest Road Trip

Bad Blood: The Life and Death of Alexander Litvinenko

Getting to Shore at Sea

Shadows in Greece

The Russia Left Behind

The death of a language

Why Navalny Is Winning

Liquid History