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Farewell, Rapa Nui!

April 25, 2019

Orongo is a deserted village of stone huts important in the tribal history of Easter Island. The island was plagued with tribal warfare over land, resources and power, and by the latter part of the 17th century the society that had so systematically carved the moai had disintegrated into anarchy and were even beginning to destroy the statues they had so painstakingly created. A group of warriors suggested that the path to restoring order was to create an annual competition, with the winner assuming the seat of chieftain for the following year. Thus was born the Birdman competition.

Tribal leaders would each select one athlete to compete, while they lived and watched from these huts, built into the side of a hill that topped a 1000-foot cliff overlooking the wild ocean and these three islets, Moto Nui, Moto Iki and Moto Kao Kao.

The springtime competition began with a climb down the rocky cliff face and a swim through the chilly, shark-infested waters to Moto Nui, the largest of the islets.  There the swimmers would wait for the first egg laid by one of the hundreds of Sooty Terns that migrated there to lay their eggs and raise their young. Sometimes they’d be on the islet for weeks. The lucky spotter and retriever of the first egg would signal to his waiting chief, who would shave his head and eyebrows and wait for the competitor to swim back to the main island, climbing the steep cliff and presenting the unbroken egg. The chief would be proclaimed Birdman until the next competition. This tradition continued for about 150 years and was central to the island’s religious beliefs.

On the backside of this village is Rano Kao Crater, which we had visited earlier in the week. Much more scenic on a fair day!

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Our organizer photographer arranged a model shoot one day at Anakena Beach, and we were fortunate to be able to meet these beautiful people and make pictures they can use on social media. As I usually do, I’ll end this series of posts with faces from Rapa Nui.

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2 Comments
  1. Cheri Anderson permalink

    Gorgeous portraits of a beautiful people!

    Like

  2. Wow, your photos are lovely! I particularly liked the ones of the crater. We really enjoyed our visit to Easter Island, such a beautiful place.

    https://literarylydi.wordpress.com/2019/07/16/rapa-nui-an-isolated-island/

    Like

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