A five-hour flight from Santiago, Chile and about 2,100 miles away is Easter Island. It is considered one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world with the nearest inhabited island 1,289 miles away. The island itself measures only fifteen miles long by seven miles wide – a needle hidden in the haystack of the Pacific. The Polynesian people settled on Eastern island around the 8th century and created a thriving and successful society. Currently, the island only supports about 7,500 inhabitants – 4,500 Rapa Nui natives and 3,000 Chileans and non-natives. At its height in the 1600’s, the island was inhabited by between 15,000-20,000 but due to the overconsumption of natural resources and resulting wars, the population dropped to just 2,000-3,000 by the time Europeans arrived in 1722.
Easter Island is famous for its 887 monumental statues called Moai, created by the early Rapa Nui people. Moai were created to pay homage to recently passed monarchs and acted as a means to display the power of the king to rival tribes. It appears that quite the arms race transpired. These statues are immense - measuring well over twenty feet high with the largest weighing in at 82 tons and towering at 32.5 feet in height. While the stone to carve the Moai reside in one location, the statues are scattered all over the island and the great mystery of how these statues were moved to their final resting sites persist to this day. Theories surround the Moai transportation methods, from rolling them along tree trunks to alien interference, levitation, and many others.
We spent two days exploring the island and the national park where a majority of the Moai exist. It was humbling to witness this engineering feat in such an isolated culture. But what struck me the most was the fact that the island used to be almost completely covered in forty-foot-high or taller palm trees. When walking the island and the national park, there was scarcely a tree in site. The rolling grassy plains were a stark reminder or maybe even a prophetic warning to our own society. The reality of overpopulation, overuse of resources, and the downfall resulting from human pride is evident here to this day. I hope we can all learn a lesson from this tiny island far away from home – there is a limit to the nature that we plunder and there are consequences to exceeding those limits. // Jeff