Would you like to go on a cruise to a remote island? If so, set sail with Wonderopolis today as we head for a world-famous Polynesian island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean. Where are we headed? Easter Island, of course!
The island’s local Polynesian name is Rapa Nui. The name “Easter Island” came from Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, who was the island’s first European visitor on Easter Sunday in 1722.
Today, Easter Island is believed to be the most remote inhabited island in the world. It’s a special territory of Chile that is famous for its 887 huge statues — called moai — that were created by the early Rapanui people between 1100 and 1680.
Easter Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Much of the island and the moai statues are protected within Rapa Nui National Park.
The huge stone moai statues are sometimes referred to as “Easter Island heads.” This nickname is a bit misleading, though, since most of the statues have bodies. Scientists are still unearthing many moai statues that have large portions buried beneath the ground.
Almost all of the statues were carved out of solidified volcanic ash from an extinct volcano called Rano Raraku. The Rapanui carvers used only stone hand chisels to create the magnificent statues.
A single moai statue could have taken a team of six men about one year to finish. Experts believe each statue might represent the deceased leader of a particular native family.
Although many statues remain in the quarry at Rano Raraku, many others were transported to other areas of Easter Island. This fact has fascinated explorers for years, because some of the statues weigh over 80 tons. How did the native Rapanui transport these statues up to 11 miles away without wheels or animals?
Experts have come up with many different theories over the years about how the native peoples might have transported these huge statues hundreds of years ago. To date, though, no one knows for sure how many of the statues got to their current locations around the island.