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Easter Island

9:53 a.m. on July 9, 2010 (EDT)
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We are starting our third day on Rapa Nui (as Isla de Pascua/Easter Island is known in the Polynesian language). Spent yesterday doing a bit of touring, hiking along one of the crater rims in search of geocaches, exploring a lava tube, and getting up close and personal with some moai (that's the statues). Also found out that a lot of the "common knowledge" is wrong). Only a few kilometers of hiking and hill climbing. Parts of the island are a lot like California (SF area) hills, except they are green all the time. But there are the more tropical areas as well. Turns out most of the vegetation is "imported", since the first settlers (the Polynesians who first got here) decimated the trees in their transporting of the moai, and later the Peruvians, then Chileans tried to do various sorts of livestock and agriculture.

More later - the Internet is everywhere! Even 2000 miles from any other land.

10:28 a.m. on July 9, 2010 (EDT)
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Look forward to hearing more, Bill! I am curious to know what those misconceptions you mentioned are...

11:12 a.m. on July 9, 2010 (EDT)
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I guess the Easter Islanders use the net a lot to be so strong out there in the south Ocean.

Looking forward to hearing more about it. Ever since reading the Voyage of the Beagle when Darwin was on Easter Island, I have always wanted to go there too.

12:22 p.m. on July 9, 2010 (EDT)
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A much more sobering account of Easter Island is in Jared Diamond's "Collapse" -- he talks about how the islanders became so consumed with statute building -- trees were cut down to roll them across the landscape -- that they literally cut down every tree on the island, destroying its ecosystem and leading to a population crash that killed thousands of people.

Not that anything like that is happening anywhere in the modern era, mind you.

12:55 p.m. on July 9, 2010 (EDT)
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Bill,

Will you be there for the total eclipse?

12:59 p.m. on July 9, 2010 (EDT)
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Have fun, Bill. We'll look forward to some pictures.

Noddlehead, yes, he will be there for the total eclipse.

1:21 p.m. on July 9, 2010 (EDT)
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When is the eclipse? I am guessing it will be only visable from the southern hemisphere? Is Easter Island the south Pacific or Atlantic? Off the coast of South Aerica or Africa, I forget which?

1:37 p.m. on July 9, 2010 (EDT)
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Gary, Go about 2500 miles west of SA and you will be there.

Eclipse on Sunday.

8:32 p.m. on July 9, 2010 (EDT)
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Friday,9 July - weather nublosidad parcialmente, y chubascos (that's partially cloudy and showers). We did a bit more hiking and touring the moai. Shot lots of images. The island is mostly national park and world heritage area these days. No getting up next to the moai to take pictures. The locals are very serious about preservation. We have about a 50% chance of losing the eclipse in cloud cover according to the forecasts for Sunday.

12:42 a.m. on July 10, 2010 (EDT)
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Will do a Sun dance on Saturday for that part of the world. I have seen one total eclipse and it was pretty cool.

10:02 a.m. on July 10, 2010 (EDT)
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Went to the End of the World last night (French/Polynesian restaurant), and got "tatooed" Maori style

10:05 a.m. on July 10, 2010 (EDT)
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That beak belongs on an Eagle!

5:53 p.m. on July 11, 2010 (EDT)
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Success! We got the full totality in the clear! More later.

10:03 a.m. on July 12, 2010 (EDT)
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Great! Now we want to see some pictures...

11:44 a.m. on July 12, 2010 (EDT)
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Look out missionaries! There's a hungry Maori warrior on the prowl!

9:33 p.m. on July 13, 2010 (EDT)
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That beak belongs on an Eagle!

The design is from the bird cult that was the main religion on the island among the original inhabitants. So yes, it is supposed to look like a bird's face, though not an eagle. The main raptor on the island is a caracara.

The design (a warrior design) is on the left side of the face, and is individual for each man. The right side is symbolic of the person's function in the tribe - chief, tribal elder, shaman, and so on. Women get a very different style of ornamentation.

We are back home now. It will take a few days to sort and select a few images.

10:13 a.m. on July 14, 2010 (EDT)
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http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/image/1007/TSE2010Easter_guisard.jpg

I am not sure what Bill got to see, but this is the image at todays Astronomy Picture of the Day at the link above.

2:40 p.m. on July 14, 2010 (EDT)
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That image was taken at Anakena. That's a beach on the NE side of the island, widely recommended as "the place to be". Except that it was mobbed (going by some of the photos I have seen). And that is the photo that "everybody" just had to take. It is artsy and all that. But it doesn't really show the eclipse.We went over there on a tour a couple days before the eclipse, and the beach was mobbed even then. There were about a dozen people jockeying to establish their positions in front of the ahu, tripod legs overlapping, to claim their positions for the eclipse. Apparently some intended to just stay at their positions for the next 2 days. Things were a lot more leisurely at our location. And no clouds during the main part of the eclipse, unlike the cloud on the left of that photo.

I will post a couple images later.

6:12 a.m. on July 15, 2010 (EDT)
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Andes Sunset Eclipse

Go to "Astronomy Picture of the Day" to see explaination of image. Click on Search at bottom of link and type in Eclipse, it will bring up all images of eclipse's from past APOTD data base.

Not trying to interfer with Bill's report just finding other views of the eclipse interesting!

12:53 p.m. on July 15, 2010 (EDT)
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A few photos -

At the Rano Raraku quarry


at Ahu Tongariki, with 15 moai, the most standing in a single group. All currently standing moai have been re-erected, since all moai on the island were knocked over during the tribal wars and rebellion of the short ears against the long ears.


at Anakena, "THE place to be during the eclipse", according to several magazine and newspaper articles. This was 2 days before - note the photographers already set up below the ahu. This is the same location as the "Astronomy Photo of the Day" that Gary posted above.

The diamond ring, just at the start of totality


The inner part of the corona during totality. If you look closely, you can see some prominences.


The outer parts of the corona. In this image, the inner parts are burned out. Since this is very early in the solar cycle, and thus few sunspots (only one visible, and very small at that), the corona is pretty minimal.

1:20 p.m. on July 15, 2010 (EDT)
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As The Boss would say, That's Where the Fun Is!

2:24 p.m. on July 15, 2010 (EDT)
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Did you use a special lens or did you use a reflector to photograph the images above?

6:54 p.m. on July 15, 2010 (EDT)
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Just my 80-400 Nikkor for the eclipse photos, nothing special. Well, actually, Nikon lenses are all pretty special - and pricey. It's the same lens I used to shoot a lot of the animals in the Kilimanjaro trip report.

Here's a sunset photo, the evening after the eclipse -

This one was taken with another Nikkor, the 18-200, which was used for the other images above.

As long as I am adding photos, here is one of me getting my paint job taken with my Nikon P6000 P&S (has a GPSR built into it) - the painter's face is painted, but the tattoos are real tattoos -

And here is one from the dance show we went to - Polynesian/Maori. taken with the 18-200 and built-in flash. Note that the dancers are full body-painted (plus real tattoos) -


And with the lady dancers as well -


I don't think the electric guitar (being played by the guy who painted our faces) and drums are original Polynesian instruments. The tattoos on the lady dancer on the right are real tattoos, not just painted for the performance.

8:48 p.m. on July 15, 2010 (EDT)
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Great stuff! Please post more photos! More stories as well!


This reminds me of the travel-log shows I saw as a kid. I loved them!

9:25 p.m. on July 15, 2010 (EDT)
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Nice pictures! Thanks for sharing them so the rest of us can live vicariously through your adventures.

10:41 a.m. on July 16, 2010 (EDT)
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C'mon, we want video too!

10:55 a.m. on July 16, 2010 (EDT)
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In the shot of the heads with hats and all, are the body's,heads,and hats all separate parts of rock and have the missiing section on some just fallen off?

11:27 a.m. on July 16, 2010 (EDT)
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C'mon, we want video too!

We didn't shoot any video. We had 4 cameras with us as it was (Chile's limit for visitors is 2, or else you have to get a "professional photographer" license). We were to see the eclipse, after all, not to spend our time staring through the viewfinder.

11:54 a.m. on July 16, 2010 (EDT)
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In the shot of the heads with hats and all, are the body's,heads,and hats all separate parts of rock and have the missiing section on some just fallen off?

Gary, this relates to several of the myths I referred to in my first post.

First, those are not hats. The red cylindrical pieces are a representation of the topknot hair and head-dress style. It turns out that many of the earlier Polynesians had red hair (determined from studying archaeological studies of gravesites). The topknots were made as a separate piece that was placed on the top of the moai after it was in place. If you look at the topknots on the ground, you can see the indentation which matches a knob on the top of the head.

The toppled moai were tipped over during the wars and rebellions between the long-ears and the short-ears (long-ears were the rulers who had the leisure to do the ear-piercing and extensions of the lobes). All moai were placed on their ahus (the platforms) facing inland. They represent deceased elders of the tribes, who are buried under the ahu, sort of a headstone of the grave (that's not quite accurate, but close enough for now). The beliefs of the religions were that a person's manu (spirit, more or less) dwelt in the head, and was empowered by the eyes. Thus during the rebellions and toppling of the moai, they were knocked over onto the face and the head broken off at the neck where possible, plus the eyes were destroyed (the deep eye sockets were where the white coral and obsidian eyes were placed - only one original eye still exists, and it is in the museum). There is one original moai on which the eyes have been replaced (I have some images that I may post later). So the idea was that without the eyes, the manu could not exert influence, and by breaking the head off, the manu would disappear.

The volcanic rock out of which the moai and topknots are made is quite soft and subject to rapid deterioration from weathering. This also means that the soil buildup is fairly rapid, so a large portion of the moai are partially covered in the sediment getting washed down from the hills (which are volcanic cones of various sizes).

When the first Europeans arrived (the Dutch ship that discovered the island on Easter Sunday, Cook's crew, and others) did find some standing moai, but by the mid-19th Century, there were no longer any standing. The ones now standing have been replaced on their ahu, with the heads reattached in many cases (not all were broken off in the knock-over).

Another myth apparently comes from a mistranslation. The descendants of the original Rapanuians (our guide, Helena, is one of the descendants) state that there was no cannibalism (contrary to what Jared Diamond and others claim). They say that this comes from a reference to a special ceremonial cave (a lava tube) "where men eat", that got interpreted by the Europeans as "where men are eaten" (there was a Twilight Zone episode where human space travelers were "guests" of the planet they landed on and the commander was told by the locals to "prepare for dinner", and told his crew that "they are having us for dinner" - not realizing that they were the main dish, rather than guests).

1:18 p.m. on July 16, 2010 (EDT)
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I remember a simular Twilight episode. I think it was titled "To Serve Man". They told people on Earth that they could go to their planet and be taken care of without any need for hunger. And the aliens left a book with the scientists on Earth. They tried for a long time to decipher the book, finally doing so after many thousands had been taken to the alien planet. The book was a cookbook on how to prepare man for eating, fattening them up first like cattle, taking care of their every need. By then most of man had been taken away.

Seems there have been many myths of cannibalism around the southern hemishere. I remember one years ago that when the europeans saw what they thought were humans on a roasting spit, later it was proven that these were monkeys who without their hides and tails, looked like small humans or children on the spits.

2:21 a.m. on July 28, 2010 (EDT)
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Whenever I see pictures of moai I can't help but think of the a cappella song "Easter Island Head" by Chemistry, with a chorus that begins "I want a head like the heads you see on Easter Island"...

Looks like a nice trip!

8:27 p.m. on July 30, 2010 (EDT)
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TSERapaNui_blanchardCopyright.jpg
As the New Moon's shadow slid across the southern Pacific on July 11, people gathered along the white, sandy Anakena Beach on the north side of Easter Island to watch a total solar eclipse. The experience was captured in this tantalizing composite image, constructed from a sequence of 50 consecutive exposures. At their center is the totally eclipsed Sun surrounded by a shimmering solar corona. From the well chosen viewpoint, palm trees appear in silhouette against a darkened sky and the faint light reflected in the water. Of course, towering above the onlookers, at the boundaries of land, ocean, and sky are Moai, the island's mysterious monolithic statues

Astronomy Picture of the Day

April 24, 2014
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