Easter Island Facts...
A bird's view over Rapa Nui


Moai Statue. Easter Island, Chile.
Moai Statue - © Daniel Moore

Let's review some Easter Island facts, that would give you some background info by the time you are ready to explore one of the most unique and fascinating places on the Planet.

This small triangular-shaped island is - apart from being the most isolated and inhabited island in the world - home to gigantic moai statues carved from volcanic rock that have not ceased to amaze scientists and visitors alike throughout the times

It is presumed that human presence began circa 700-1100 C.E. coming from the Marquesas Islands (French Polynesia), later to be discovered by Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen on Easter sunday of 1722, who named it Paasch-Eyland: Easter Island.


Apparently, early settlers called themselves the Rapa Nui, meaning "hospitable" or "peace-loving people". The island was named Te Pito o Te Henua by king Hotu Matua. Matua is a Polynesian word for "ancestor"..

It is roughly located half way between Tahiti and Chile - 2,337 miles (3,600 km) to the west of Chile to be precise. It was annexed by the Chilean Government in 1888 and placed under the jurisdiction of Valparaíso.

Rapa Nui or Te Pito o Te Henua (The Navel of the World) saw times of splendor when the island had a healthy number of 10,000 inhabitants and moai building was at its peak.

However, by the time Captain Cook arrived (1774) and La Perouse, some ten years later, the Moai building culture has stopped completely.


The following years proved to be devastating to the Rapa Nui population. In fact, the island collapsed by the 1860s, tribal wars may have contributed to this, but there were others involved.

Whalers came first, raiding the South Pacific from Australia to Chile and always on the look out for cheap labor (euphemism for slaves). Then came Peruvian slave traders, they needed manpower to work on their guano deposits.

It is estimated that Easter Island reached a critical number of 100 inhabitants at some point. Whalers brought tuberculosis and syphilis first. Later, slaves who managed to survive and return to Rapa Nui brought smallpox with them, creating devastating epidemics that extended to the Marquesas islands.

In the history of South America, the single most devastating source of destruction brought by European conquistadores to the New World - from Mexico all the way down to the South - it's been precisely smallpox.


Easter Island Facts:



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By the 1900s, Easter Island was a sheep farm, rented to the Williamson-Balfour Company until 1953. It was then managed by the Chilean Navy, until 1966. The needs of the island were covered by a monthly ship coming from the continent.

With the opening of Mataveri airport, it became accessible to the world. It was enlarged in 1987. For more info about this please visit Airports in Chile.



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