What you are about to see .. is a LOT of pictures of giant stone heads.
Dom: going to Easter Island was a dream come true for me. As a child, documentaries on this island would fire my imagination more than almost anything else.
What kind of strange civilization lived there? How did they get there? Why big heads? How did they move these giant things? What the hell is the Birdman?
The five hours flying over nothing but sea gave a good indication of the remoteness of this island. It is the most remote inhabited island in the world. And at less than 200sq.kms it's pretty small too. I was impressed to find that all the locals spoke English, Spanish (it is part of Chile), and their own Polynesian/Cooke Islands dialect. They call the island Rapa Nui. We call it Easter Island because a Dutch guy happened to arrive there on Easter Sunday.
We hired a Suzuki jeep to get around. It was necessary as most of the roads were unsealed which made the driving great fun. Along the SE coast the Moai (or heads) are nearly all toppled over. This is due to a tsunami that hit the island in 1961. But the Japanese came and stood a few back up, maybe so they could take better pictures. The 15 they restored look fantastic, all stood in a line on a massive Ahu (platform) which the sun rises behind every morning. (I wanted to see the sunrise so I got C up at 5am and we drove there. My timing was a bit wrong, and it was a further 2 hours until sunrise.)
Just down the road is the Ranu Ratunga quarry where most of the Moai were cut from the volcanic rock. Amazing. Of the 700+ Moai on the island, about 400 are still in the quarry area, never having been transferred to their coastal platforms. It made for an awesome site. Many were near complete burial, just their heads poking out from the ground. The biggest Moai, which wasn't completed, is 21 metres in length and would have weighed about 300 tons if it had been finished! There's still no certainty over how these heads were moved about the island.
The Birdman cult was the religion that took over from the era where the Moai were made. Each year a competition would take place. One representative from each tribe would make the swim to a nearby island and wait until the migrating birds arrived, then try and steal an egg from a specific species. The winner, or the man he represented, would become the leader of the island until the next year's competition.
But here's the catch, the winner also had to stay in solitary confinement until the next year's competition. I think I know why this civilization never conquered the world.