9 November 2021

Dreamworld

It is believed that Easter Island was first settled around 1200AD. Those early Polynesian settlers arrived on ocean going canoes. They came from the west, far beyond Tahiti. In sublime isolation they built a unique society  over five hundred years and it wasn't until Easter Sunday 1722 that first contact was made with Europeans in the shape of Jacob Roggeveen, his sailors and their two sailing ships. Arriving there was purely accidental.

By the way, the indigenous people of the island were Polynesian and of course they never called it Easter Island or Isla Pascua. Nobody knows for sure what they called it though modern descendants of those original inhabitants now refer to it as Rapa Nui.

Ever since I became enamoured with The Pacific Ocean in 1972, I had dreamed of visiting Easter Island one day. I finally made it at the end of October 2009, after a five hour flight from Santiago, Chile.

I stayed at The Hotel Tiare Pacific near the airport in Hanga Roa - the only settlement of note on the island. On my first morning there, after a hearty breakfast,  I set off to see the Rano Kau Crater and the cliffs of Orongo. There were no other visitors there - just me. I was seeing things I had read about and dreamt about. It was up on those cliffs that the annual birdman competitions began.  Brave young men swam out to three small offshore islands to retrieve the first sooty tern eggs of the year.

The owner of my little hotel suggested that I might rent a 4x4 vehicle from one of his friends and for three days this allowed me to travel all over the island on the dirt track roads. I visited as many archaeological sites as I could. The highlights were Anakena beach  where it is reputed the first settlers made landfall and Rano Raraku crater where nearly all the famous moai statues were manufactured.

If you remember nothing else from this blogpost, please remember that the moai statues  that stood on their stone platforms did not look longingly out to sea, they all looked inland to where their people were with their internal issues.

On Rapa Nui I felt fully alive. It was such a privilege, such a joy to walk where those Polynesian people had built their own special world, separated from the rest of the planet. There is no truth in the rumour that Easter Island society collapsed because of European contact. It was already declining when Roggeveen visited and this was still happening when Captain James Cook appeared  aboard "The Endeavour" in 1774 - fifty two years after  Roggeveen.

I could write reams more about that mysterious faraway island. There's so much more to say about it but I will leave it at that for I know that not everybody is as obsessed with Easter Island as I am. I would go back in a heartbeat.

36 comments:

  1. I am sure it was like a dream to be walking amongst those statues that are more myth-like than reality for most of us. What an amazing journey that must have been!

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    1. I still have to pinch myself to confirm that I was there.

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  2. Mysterious. There's so much not known. You must be curious to find out more.

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    1. I have read everything I could find about the island - apart from lengthy and almost impenetrable archaeological notes.

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  3. That's a mystical place and you sound awed by all you saw.

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    1. I came away wanting to stay longer than the week I had allowed myself. It was so wondrous to me.

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  4. When do the real Moai return from the stars, Neil?

    Excuse me, I'm carried away by Graham Hancock's *Magicians of the Gods*.
    Much of his text is storytelling; Hancock takes ayahuasca and is guided by a female divinity who sounds like David Icke in drag.

    I prefer real science like *The Copernicus Complex* by Caleb Scharf, a renowned astrophysicist who describes the staggering nature of interstellar space.

    *Is it possible,* writes Hancock, as speculative as any Guinness drinker, *that the Moai statues of Easter Island are the work of a lost civilization dating back to the Ice Age 12,000 or more years ago?*

    I won't tell you his theory about the Book of Enoch and the Watchers.
    It might give you weird dreams and scare Shirley.

    My only numinous experience was as an infant watching *Quatermass and the Pit* on our black and white television.
    Remember when they found the crashed flying saucer, buried below London, and the ghosts of Martians floated like cobwebs inside the recovered craft?

    Is it true the oldest Moai was made around AD 690 or is that Mother Icke talking through Mr Hancock?
    Pleasant dreams of Easter Island.
    Haggerty


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    1. Reputable archaeologists using accurate radiocarbon dating methods agree that Easter Island was first populated around 1200 as the Normans cemented their rule in England. The first Easter Islanders would have found a forested island with great opportunity for habitation. By 1722 almost all the trees had gone - used up in what was effectively an environmental disaster created by humans. There were no space aliens and thankfully no twats like David Icke who belongs in a lunatic asylum.

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  5. Island communities have always fascinated me, and Rapa Nui is a particular mysterious and sad example. If it were easier to get there, I would have done so long ago, and every time you post about it, my interest and fascination are renewed.

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    1. I realised that many of my current visitors would have had no idea that I had been there. Very few stick around as long as you have done Meike! I appreciate your kind support and indeed your friendship.

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  6. I've never found Easter Island interesting, in spite of one of our Prime Ministers being referred to as an Easter Island statue. However, you have made it sound quite interesting. I'd be happy to hear more about the island.

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    1. If you use the search facility you can look back to my original posts about Easter Island Andrew.

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  7. How wonderful to be there with no other people around..very special. I have had 2 lovely experiences of being alone somewhere unfamiliar . The first was walking my friend's dog " round the block" in the suburbs of Berlin , almost pinching myself that I was walking in Berlin of all places! The other was in Canada...we were staying with relations in a log cabin in" cottage country" I think they called it....a large region north of Toronto, with wooded hills and many lakes. One early morning I went down to the lakeside on my own, and there was a loon ( Canadian duck, though I am sure you know that?) in the mist on the lake, moving along, leaving a wake, and giving out its mournful cry.

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    1. What a beautiful, magical sight to behold and remember Frances.

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  8. It has always seemed to be an intriguing place to me and I would have loved to have visited.
    I can now enjoy it vicariously through your blog.

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    1. Why not got to the search box - top left - and look for my original Easter Island blogposts.

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    1. I see what you mean Tasker - that's clever.

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  10. The first thing I thought when I saw your photos, was chickens. Jared Diamond writing in 'Collapse' gives a good history. They are extraordinary those statues, capturing the imagination of Thor Heyerdal and many others.
    The link....http://employees.oneonta.edu/allenth/Class-Readings-Password/EnvironmentalCollapseOfEasterIsland.pdf

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    1. Thanks for pointing me to that excellent article Thelma. Clearly, there is evidence to suggest that the first inhabitants arrived a lot earlier than my blogpost suggested.

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  11. Fascinating pictures and fascinating civilization.

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    1. Hi Marty. If you have a spare ten minutes, please read the article that Thelma suggested above.

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  12. I remember back in my youth when the direction of settlement was still up for debate. There was a rather large contingent of Thor Heyerdahl subscribers who felt they came from the west coast of South America. I'm glad modern DNA technology settled that dispute for good. Despite the direction of settlement, I have always been amazed at the faith of ancient people who shoved out on boats not knowing when and where landfall might come but confident that should it arrive, they had everything in their boat to start a new life there.

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    1. You are right Ed. That factor alone is quite amazing. And why did they leave their original homes anyway?

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  13. Fascinating YP. It's a place that has fascinated me - although I find the sculptures vaguely disturbing - perhaps they were meant to be.
    But where were all the tourists from the dozen or so mega cruise liners? Surely the tourist industry hasn't missed out on a chance to wreck this idyllic, unspoiled island? Not enough interest in such a wonderful history and culture? Thank goodness for that!

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    1. It's so far away from anywhere. No cruise ships appeared in the week that I was there. Besides, I don't know where they could possibly throw their anchors.

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  14. Lovely photos. I read that article and then remembered reading it in the book. Have you read Jared Diamond's books? His first book, "Guns, Germs and Steel" made quite an impact on me, especially his Indonesia friend's question of why Westerners have so much cargo. I have tried to limit my cargo over the years, with some success. We try to live small, although I'm finding it harder with a small person in the house.

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    1. I had never read anything by Jared Diamond before Thelma's link.

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  15. Actually I am QUITE obsessed with Easter Island and it is on my bucket list! I have a sinking feeling it might be more touristed these days than when you went, but probably not a whole lot more. I've read that cruise ships can't dock there because the island's shores are so steep and rocky, which has no doubt helped preserve local culture.

    Did you ever read Jared Diamond's book "Decline"? It's a study of civilizations and what makes them collapse, and the first third of the book is about Easter Island. I don't remember the specifics -- I read it a long time ago -- but it was very interesting. Thor Heyerdahl's book "Aku Aku" was good too.

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    1. If any cruise ships call at Easter Island they must be few and far between. As you say, it is hard to dock there and the Pacific is very unpredictable. I believe that almost all tourists arrive by plane aboard the daily flight from Santiago as I did.

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  16. Oh, Diamond's book is "Collapse," not "Decline." My bad!

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    1. I read the Diamond article that Thelma linked in her comment. Fascinating.

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  17. This is possibly my all-time favourite blogpost of yours. I loved your posts about Rapa Nui in 2009 and I love your reminiscing now.

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  18. I read somewhere that the people from the future went back in time and built the pyramids in Egypt and Mexico. I think they may have paid a visit to Easter Island?

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    1. Some ill-educated nutters did come out with nonsense like that. It is awful that anybody ever listened to their tripe.

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.

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