On the Road: Easter Island touring

Posted by Michael Bakich
on Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tuesday, July 13, was an unusual winter day on Easter Island it didn’t rain on us. Because the weather was favorable, we got to see some sites we missed the first day we were here. First was the volcanic crater at the southwestern edge of the island. Our busses dropped us off at its foot, intending for us to get a quick look before driving us to the top. Several of us, however, started off on the narrow trail and hiked to the summit. Because we were near sea level, this trek sure was easier than any we experienced in Bolivia. It’s amazing what twice as much oxygen in your lungs will let you do.

The crater was beautiful. It houses its own ecosystem, complete with water to a depth of about 12 meters. And some plants we saw there exist nowhere else on the island. At the top, we saw ocean all around.

We next visited the area of the "Birdman contest." In the 17th and 18th centuries, as the Moai (large stone sculptures) passed from being the most important objects on the island, the inhabitants replaced them with a contest to see which of the 12 groups would rule for the next year. Each group selected a swimmer who embarked on a 3-kilometer swim through frigid waters to a nearby island to retrieve and return a particular type of egg. The winner’s chief became the Birdman, and his group wielded the most power on the island for the following year.

On this day, we also saw native dwellings and a huge cave used for shelter and storage. Its roof had collapsed, so we were allowed into it. The cave was so big that trees grew from its floor.

The tour company hosted a celebratory supper for us last night. What a feed! It also gave everyone a good chance to chat more about the eclipse. I'm glad that our Internet connection was good enough so that several pictures could appear on Astronomy.com. Believe me, there’s lots more to come.

We have one more day on Easter Island, and then we head home. I probably won´t want to write about that day. My wife, Holley, and I fly from here to Santiago, Chile, then to Miami, then to Dallas, then home. Ack! It’s a good thing I will have a weekend to begin to recover.

Related blogs:

On the Road: Easter Island and the Moai

2010 eclipse pictures from Easter Island

On the Road: 2010 eclipse on Easter Island

On the Road: 2010 eclipse trip — Arica, Chile

Senior editor reaches Chile

Senior editor off to Easter Island

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