Easter Island

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Easter Island: The History and Impact of this Mysterious Island


Mariah Meadows

April 2, 2016


Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, is one of the most isolated islands in the world. It’s about 2,300 miles from Chile’s west coast and 2,500 miles east of Tahiti (History.com). This Polynesian Island is known for its rock carved statues, known as moai, in addition to its location. The history of this mysterious island still remains, primarily because the only thing that remains from this ancient civilization are the approx. 800 statues. Today thousands visit Easter Island every year to soak up the culture the Rapanui people left behind many years ago.


Easter Island is located in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, formed by a series of volcanic eruptions. This Polynesian island is located on the Nazca Plate (fig. 1), a volcanic hot spot. At each point of the island are volcanic cones which include 70+ active volcanoes. Fortunately, they have not been active for over a thousand years. There are many sea caves along the coast in addition to many lava rocks surrounding majority of the island.

Figure 1: The Nazca Plate that Easter Island is located on (Facts About Rapa Nui (Easter Island), 2009)

Geologic Processes:

Part of what makes this island stick out is due to its geologic characteristics. These include basalt & andesitic rocks and more importantly the Rano Raraku, the volcanic crater in which the moai were carved. The steep slopes on the island is the result of a more current problem - soil erosion. Soil erosion has become a problem because of the deforestation of the island. The decrease in vegetation increases the amount of runoff (fig. 2).

Figure 2: The effects of deforestation on Runoff, Groundwater, & Sediment Transport (wordpress, 2013).

The end of Easter Island’s community:...