Interesting facts about Easter Island

Easter Island is an island and special territory of Chile in the southeastern Pacific Ocean.

It is located at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle in Oceania.

The island stands in isolation 1,900 km (1,200 miles) east of Pitcairn Island and 3,540 km (2,200 miles) west of Chile.

Forming a triangle 23 km (14 miles) long by 11 km (7 miles) wide, it has an area of 163 square km (63 square miles).

The small and hilly island is not part of a sunken landmass but is a typical oceanic high island formed by volcanoes rising from the seafloor.

The island’s largest volcano is known as Rano Kao, and its highest point is Mount Terevaka, which reaches 507.5 m (1,665 feet) above sea level.

Easter Island boasts no natural harbor, but ships can anchor off Hanga Roa on the west coast – it is the island’s largest village, with a population of roughly 3,300.

The island is most famous for its 887 known Moai statues. They are also known as moai, Easter Island heads and ‘Easter Island statues.

The Moai statues are monolithic human figures carved by the Rapa Nui. They range in size from a height of less than 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) to around 10 meters (33 feet) tall.

All but 53 of the 887 moai statues known to date were carved from tuff (a compressed volcanic ash). There are also 13 moai carved from basalt, 22 from trachyte and 17 from fragile red scoria.

“Ahu” are stone platforms on which many moai sit. There are 313 known ahu and 125 of these carry moai. The biggest, Ahu Tongariki is 220 meters (720 feet), and had the most (15) and tallest moai.

It is still unknown precisely why these statues were constructed in such numbers and on such a scale, or how they were moved around the island.

In 1995, UNESCO named Easter Island a World Heritage Site, with much of the island protected within Rapa Nui National Park.

Experts disagree on when the island’s Polynesian inhabitants first reached the island. Some believe that they arrived around 800 AD, though a 2007 study found the time to be 1200 AD.

Land clearing for cultivation and the introduction of the Polynesian rat led to gradual deforestation.

The name “Easter Island” was given by the island’s first recorded European visitor, the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, who encountered it on Easter Sunday (5 April) in 1722, while searching for “Davis Land”.

A French navigator, Jean-Francois de Galaup, comte de La Perouse, found 2,000 people on the island when he arrived in 1786. A major slave raid from Peru in 1862, followed by epidemics of smallpox, reduced the population to only 111 people by 1877.

By that time, Catholic missionaries had settled on Easter Island and begun to convert the population to Christianity, a process that was completed by the late 19th century.

In 1888, Chile annexed Easter Island, leasing much of the land for sheep raising.

The Chilean government appointed a civilian governor for Easter Island in 1965, and the island’s residents became full Chilean citizens.

Easter Island’s traditional language is Rapa Nui, an Eastern Polynesian language, sharing some similarities with Hawaiian and Tahitian. However, as in the rest of mainland Chile, the official language used is Spanish.

Today’s tourists are numerous, and most visit the Rano Raraku quarry, which yielded the stones used for almost all of the island’s moai.

The pre-Christian Easter Islanders had numerous superstitions and resorted to charms, prayers, incantations, and amulets to bring good luck and ward off evil.

Annually in February old and young of both sexes meet in contests to revive the arts and practices of the island’s past, including carving, tattooing, reed-boat building, and traditional singing and dancing.

There are around 25 restaurants catering to tourists on the island.

Pisco, a hard alcohol made from fermented grapes, is the unofficial drink of the island.

In 2018 the Rapa Nui Marine Protected Area, encompassing 286,000 square miles (740,000 square km) of Pacific Ocean surrounding Easter Island, was established.

Easter Island enjoys a warm throughout the year and swept by strong trade winds. The average annual temperature is 68 °F (20 °C), with a range of 59 to 80 °F (15 to 27 °C). February is typically the hottest month. Rainfall is steady throughout the year – May tends to be the wettest month and
September has the least rainfall.

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