A glimpse into life in Easter Island

A glimpse into life in Easter Island

Easter Island may be famed for the moai, the collection of large stone statues carved between the twelfth and seventeenth centuries, but there is much more to this tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The island is a paradise for those interested in geology. Formed from three extinct coalesced volcanoes (Terevaka, Poike, and Rano Kau), which are responsible for its triangular shape, the topography of the island has strongly been influenced by magmatic activity. The island is situated directly over the hotspot that created the long Nazca Ridge, the eastern end of which is currently being subducted under Peru. This means that Easter Island was effectively formed by a mountain rising from the sea bed.

The crater at Rano Raraku and the cinder cone of Puna Pau are two distinct examples of the unique geology which exists here. The former provided 95% of the stone used to carve the moai as it was a quarry for the best part of 500 years.  Moai litter its edges, whilst the clear water in the crater lake shimmers majestically in the light of the sun. The crater itself is a testament to humanity's shaping of nature, as well as the awesome power of nature herself, and hiking up to it is a must-do activity when visiting the island.

Puna Pau was another quarry but this was the source of the red stone (called scoria) which was used to carve the topknots (pukao) of the statues. Therefore, as well as being geologically significant, it is also archeologically important.

The volcanic caves formed from lava tubes are one of the major tourist attractions on Easter Island. They were carved when lava flowed underground during the eruption of a volcano. This formed long tunnels, some of which are upwards of three metres in height. The chemical composition of the lava means that many geological minerals can be observed along the walls of the tubes. Geologically, hawaiite and basalt flows are the most common. These are typically rich in iron. However, many of the caves are unsafe, so hiring a local tour guide is extremely important.

Easter Island can be a relatively expensive destination for British tourists due to its location but there are sometimes late flight deals  and decent travel deals that can drastically reduce the costs, so it's worth spending a fair amount of time researching the various aspects of the trip beforehand.