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.

54 Join the Discussion

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  1. The statues are really cool and interesting. We can’t believe that these statues could have been moved without today’s machines, wheels, or animals. We thought the time lapse video was put together really well.

    Our guesses for tomorrow… gold, pirates, Titanic, Neptune, Bermuda Triangle, Atlantis, Blackbeard, Pirates of the Caribbean, sea monsters, scuba divers, famous sunken ships, buried cave or cavern…

    We can’t wait.

    • Hello to our Wonder Friends in Mrs. Hess’ class, we’re glad you’re here! It’s incredible to imagine the patience and hard work that went into creating AND moving those statues! Thanks for sharing your thoughts about our Wonder video, too! We’re proud of you for correctly guessing today’s Wonder! :)

      HOORAY for excellent Wonder guesses from Wonder Friends! See you tomorrow! :)

  2. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We were so excited to see that today’s wonder was about Easter Island. Many of us remembered Easter Island from the Movie “Hop.”

    We think tomorrow’s wonder will be about people searching for gold in the water or maybe even a sunken treasure.

    thank you for the wonders,
    Mrs. Tillman’s 4th graders

    • Way to go, Wonder Friends in Mrs. Tillman’s 4th grade class! You correctly guessed today’s Wonder! YIPPEE! We also enjoy your connection to Easter Island through the movie “Hop”! :)

      We sure hope to Wonder with you soon! :)

  3. Today’s Wonder made our heads spin! How on earth did they move those statues? We enjoyed pronouncing some of the words in this wonder and laughed a little when we realized that Mrs. Ski trying to pronounce “moai” sounded a lot like The English Speaking Tapir from yesterday’s Wonder. :) Can’t tell you how many times our WonderFriend Garrett has asked for a hamburger. We made some great connections to places we have seen the statues like in Night at the Museum.

    We think that tomorrow’s Wonder will be about Sand Dollars, scuba diving treasure hunters, under water pirates, sunken ships, treasure, Jake and the Never Land Pirates,TV Shows where they bury treasure, Gold Miners, or Sponge Bob’s encounter with the Flying Dutchmen. Really, we couldn’t make that one up if we tried. :)

    • What great guesses our Wonder Friends in Mrs. Ski’s AM Class had yesterday– including Easter Island! Nice work! :)

      We intrigued by the process and amount of time it would have taken the team to create those statues and then move them! PHEW!

      We’re still laughing about yesterday’s Wonder, too! We’re glad to know you’re still smiling in your classroom, too! He he!

      Thank you for sharing all your creative guesses– we can’t wait to make a splash! :)

  4. We would like to know if you can visit Easter Island and see the statues up close? If so, how do we get there from Wisconsin? Thanks Wonderopolis. (By the way, we LOVED the video of the tapir learning English in yesterday’s Wonder of the Day.)

    • Hello, Wonder Friends in Mr. Mac’s 5th Grade Class! We sure are glad that you enjoyed WONDERing with us today! While it may take some time to get there, you can certainly visit Easter Island. You’ll need to get to Chile, and then hop on another plane to see those amazing statues! While it would be cool, it seems like carpooling is out of the question here! :)

      Thanks for sharing your comment today, and laughing with us yesterday! See you soon, Wonder Friends! :)

  5. I think the next wonder should be about plagiarizing or something having to do with court that would be good but I liked learning about the easter heads or moais;
    or something todo with the titanic since it’s the 100 years of it being set to sail then sunken by the iceberg.

    • Hi there, Dazy, thanks for sharing all your suggestions for more Wonders! We are so glad to know that you’ve been using your imagination! HOORAY for you!

      We are glad you enjoyed WONDERing about Easter Island with us today– it’s a mysterious and historic place! See you soon, Wonder Friend! :)

  6. Hello. Today’s WONDER of the day was awesome. Yesterday’s wonder was amazing. I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day will be about treasure.

    • Thanks for your kind comment, Gurtej! We’re glad you have enjoyed our Wonders in the past few days. We look forward to WONDERing again soon– thanks for your SUPER guess! :)

  7. We enjoyed our virtual visit to Easter Island and talked a lot about how the giant statues were moved. We located Easter island on a globe and it is sooooooo far off the coast of Chile. Remote indeed!!!

    We think tomorrow’s wonder might be about exploring shipwrecks in search of treasure.

    • That’s great news, Wonder Friends! Gwen and Angus, we’re thrilled to hear that you looked up Easter Island on a globe– it’s really out there! We hope to Wonder with you again tomorrow! Thanks for visiting us! :)

    • Hi Wonder Friend! We learned in today’s Wonder that the remote island is called Easter Island for another reason; we Wonder if you can find the answer in the excerpt below:

      “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.” :)

    • Great question, Zezzy! We’ve included an excerpt from today’s Wonder… you can find the answer to your question below:

      “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.” :)

  8. We were all wondering why they built them if no one lives there? Did they once live there?

    Cool Wonder today!

    • Great question from our Wonder Friends in Mr. Ambrosier’s 2nd Grade Class! Researchers believe Polynesian people inhabited the land before it was discovered by the Dutch explorer. The statues are thought to have been in honor of a leader! Thanks for visiting us today! :)

  9. Dear Wonderopolis,

    We enjoyed seeing the time lapse video of the island today. We didn’t know that it was called Easter Island because it was discovered on Easter Sunday.
    We think tomorrow will be about the lost city of Atlantis, treasure under the sea, or being rich.

    Thank you for the wonders,
    Mrs. Witkowski’s 4th graders

  10. Very interesting, as ever, but… it would be even better to be able to read the text more comfortably. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to make it a little bit darker?

  11. Today’s Wonder had us head over heels. We found a video from National Geographic that showed 5 scientific theories on how the statues were moved beyond “aliens did it”. It was really neat to see a team of scientists led by archaeologists testing their theory.

    It reminded JD of Night at the Museum.

    We think tomorrow’s Wonder will be about Sponge Bob, Titanic, money people throw in fountains, pirate ships, Treasure Island, Brock’s distant possible relative Captain Smith of the Titanic, Aquaman, pirate treasure, Tanked (TV Show), pirates, submarines, a specific famous pirate like Black Beard, TV Shows where they bury treasure, Gold Rush, sand dollars, or Aquanauts.

    • We’re glad to know that our Wonder Friends from Mrs. Ski’s PM Class have continued their WONDERing about Easter Island! NICE WORK! :)

      All of your underwater guesses make us want to go on an adventure! Keep up the great WONDERing– we will see you soon! :)

  12. Hello…Mrs. Howard’s class was wondering how do you view yesterday’s wonder of the day and the comments that were posted? We sometimes miss viewing the wonder of the day and would like to go back to review it together as a class.

    Thanks

    • Hi there, Tyler! We bet you’ll be interested to find out why Easter Island’s name was chosen… check out the Wonder and read all about it! :)

  13. This is a heads up for bla! Easter Island sadly does not have the Easter bunny living there but he probably lives in a pretty little forest happily eating carrots! But Easter Island is called that because Jacob Roggeveen landed there on Easter Sunday, or as we call it, Easter’s Day! Does that sum it up? P.S. Hey Wonderopolis! I had no idea Easter Island really exsisted! Cool!

    • Libby, thanks for being a great Wonder Friend and sharing your knowledge with others! That’s the spirit! We’re glad you learned something new and had fun, too! Have a WONDERful Wednesday! :)

  14. Wow! that wonder was really interesting! Have you ever seen the movie HOP? In that movie, the bunnies live on Easter Island. It was fascinating to learn that it took a year for 6 rapa nui carvers to finish a moai statue, and that they probably represented deaceased leaders from a particular native family. Thank you for today’s wonder! :) ;)

    • Hi there, Berkleigh! We haven’t seen Hop, but some other Wonder Friends mentioned the movie in relation to today’s Wonder, too! How cool! We are glad you shared what you learned about Easter Island and what you found interesting! We are glad you’re WONDERing with us! HOORAY! :)

  15. I wonder if someone will use a time machine to go back and help the native Rapa Nui people move with advanced technology.

    • That’s an awesome idea, Gavin! We would love to learn more about the native people who are responsible for those amazing statues. Keep up the great work– we LOVE when our Wonder Friends use their imaginations in creative ways! :)

  16. I did not know that the Easter Island statues where called moai! The moai are interesting to me. I always wondered about the Easter Island statues and how they where formed. Thank you wonderopolis for informing me about this subject!

    • Thanks for WONDERing with us, Henry! We’re so glad your questions about Easter Island have been answered– keep up the great work! :)

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend Mrbutterhead! We are glad you asked! Easter Island is a remote location, which means it’s difficult to get to and from there. In addition to the location, Easter Island is protected as a National Park, so no one else can built on the land! :)

    • Hey Huston, thanks for visiting Wonderopolis today! We didn’t see any ponies on the video either. We did see a lot of the moai statues instead; what did you think of those? :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Who lives on Easter Island?
  • Where is Rapa Nui?
  • What are moai?

Wonder Gallery

Easter IslandVimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to learn more about Easter Island and the moai? Jump online to check out these great resources:

  • Move a Megalith: Explore the many theories about how the giant moai statues were moved to their locations around Easter Island!
  • Explore the Island: Bring the sights and sounds of Easter Island to life!
  • Easter Island Statue Project: Explore the history of the moai through the eyes of the people still researching them!

Still Wondering

Check out National Geographic Education’s Quarry on Easter Island feature to see photos and learn more about Easter Island!

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