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Tongariki Sunrise

April 22, 2019

Most stories about Easter Island include photos of this iconic spot. Like Macchu Pichu or the Eiffel Tower, Tongariki has been photographed countless times from every angle and has no secrets. And yet, being there is another thing entirely, especially as the sun begins to reveal itself through the swirling clouds.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

These fifteen statues extend 220 meters — over 720 feet! In 1960, an earthquake on the Chilean coast measuring 9.5 on the Richter scale was followed by a tsunami that scattered the fallen statues.  Between 1992 and 1996 these moai were moved back and replaced upright on the ahu, a colossal effort given that these are the largest moai on the island. The biggest of the statues weighs about 88 metric tons (a metric ton being about 10% heavier than a US ton). A construction company from Japan donated a crane for the restoration job, and when it broke down, they sent another — gratis!

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After the sun came up, I wandered around behind the ahu to the rocky beach, calm on this day. I did notice that one of the moai might have been a plumber…

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On the other side of the day, we journeyed to Rano Raraku, a quarry called the nursery of the moai, as it was the spot where most of them were carved. Disembodied heads  stand watch, or simply lie on the ground where they fell. Broken moai were thought to have lost their mana, so were abandoned. 

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This guy is Pitu Pitu, a sort of famous moai. I love his cocked head and quizzical expression. Up here we could get closer to the statues than anyplace else — close enough to see the distinctive carved features (note his nostril) and tattoos. This is where their personalities came to life.

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Sad to say, because the moai are carved from porous volcanic rock, rain, wind and sun are steadily eroding them, and there is at present no effective way to preserve them.

2 Comments
  1. Cheri Anderson permalink

    What an amazing experience it must have been to be among them! Coincidentally, Anderson Cooper did a special on them on 60 minutes this last Sunday. Great photos!

    Like

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