This is a guest post by Tess Pajaron.
Easter Island is the southernmost island out of all of the Polynesian islands. This area is best known for its incredible statues and beauty. Archaeologists and tourists alike are drawn from around the world to study and view the incredible history that can be found on this small, but incredibly unique part of the world.
The triangular-shaped island is home to approximately 3,700 residents according to the 2002 census data, making it one of the most isolated islands with regular inhabitants. The closest inhabited island is Pitcairn Island which is over 1,200 miles away and home to fewer than 100 people. With so few residents, and in such a remote location, it is clear that the history and mysterious story is what attracts attracts approximately 50,000 tourists from all around the world each year to this island.
To understand why so many people make the trek to this unique destination, it is important to know more about the history and what there is to see while on the island itself.
Volcanic formations – Easter Island was formed by volcanoes that erupted from under the sea forming an island of rock and lava. For years, only wildlife lived in this region. Because of the rigid coastline approaching the island by boat was very difficult. Now, beaches are surrounded by volcanic cones, the highest of which is Rano Kau, a volcano so big that can be seen from space.
Ovahe Beach – The first settlers who called themselves Rapa Nui, were said to have arrived on one of the only beaches in the area at the time, now called Ovahe beach. This beach likely attracted them because it is one of the only white sand beaches in the area. The rest of the coastline is lava rock, black, or has cliffs that are too high to scale. Once here, the settlers began to make it their home. Now, this beach is one of the most important spots on the island because it contains one of the best collections of erected moai.
Moai – Moai are the large statues located all across the island. It is these statues that have given the island the famous reputation it now has. Assumed to be carved between 1100 and 1600, there are now more than 887 statues that have been accounted for on the island thus far. The moai, also known as “Easter Island Heads” were recently discovered to also have torsos carved to go with the heads. Up until very recently, the heads had been buried so visitors could not see the torsos, causing them to make the logical assumption that these were just heads.The vast majority of the moai was carved from lava rock and constructed using stone chisels to make the figures. The largest of the moai ever to have been raised is 32 feet tall and weighs approximately 82 tons. The biggest mystery surrounding these statues is how they were transported and why they were created.
Ahu – The Ahu are the stone platforms found across the island. In Polynesian culture, these stone platforms are used to house sacred statues. Although typically small in size, the largest Ahu is over 700 feet and holds 15 moai. Ahu can be seen primarily on the coastline all around the island. Visitors can now tour the island see the various Ahu containing large numbers of Moai to get a full feel for the mystery behind these incredible figures.
The mystery of the island, the beliefs of the people who inhabited it when the moai were created, and the unknown of what still exists below the surface fascinates visitors and historians alike. This draw is what brings people coming back to experience the island for themselves.
Tess Pajaron is part of the team behind Open Colleges. She has traveled to many different countries and loves to discover new and exciting places. She can be also seen on her social media profile at Google+.