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CONAF has asked us to take a native guide with us each day. This serves two purposes. First, the guide will keep an eye on us and make sure we don't do anything we shouldn't -- there are so many archaeological artifacts and sites here, this is more useful than it may sound. Second, the guide knows the island extremely well. It was suggested that we take a guide named Zoro who has worked with scientists and archaeologists his whole life, going all the way back to William Malloy (still regarded as the greatest archaeologist to work here). I was briefly resistant to the idea of having a guide that doesn't speak hardly any English (because we speak hardly any Spanish), but amazingly we seem to understand each other very well because of his experience working with scientists. Nevertheless, I am making it a priority to try to learn some more Spanish as fast as possible.

Today we looked at Rano Aroi and other depressions on the largest mountain on the island. These depressions collect the sediments we want to bring back to the lab to analyse. The depressions here will help us understandithe highest elevation areas, which we think were the last to be deforested. Previously, work here has focused on the crater at Rano Aroi which has a large swamp. Unfortunately, there was an effort to clear away the upper meter of peat some years ago and previous results suggest that it may or may not still contain sediments that will give us the results we want. Luckily in several hours of walking, we found areas that appear likely to give us excellent records from the last 1000 years.

We then proceeded into the crater at Rano Raraku, where the moai (statues) were made. This site has proven most popular to core, for reasons that may be obvious from today's photo - be sure to note the moai in the background. With a lake sediment core, we look backward in time as we go down. In each layer of sediment from the lake, pollen, soil and all sorts of other biological and chemical markers tell us what the surrounding environment was like when that layer formed. So, it has proven possible to work back through time, identifying when the forest around the lake was cleared, and when massive statue building activity was underway, as well as when European introductions of trees and grasses occurred.

Luggage! In my excitement, I thought we should show off the rush tags placed on our lost luggage. These rush tags really work! It turned out that our luggage continued on from Tahiti to Los Angeles, and then was returned to us via Santiago, Chile within 26 hours of our arrival! I wonder if I can earn airpoints for that!?

I'll begin today with a bit more about collapse and history.Continuing backwards in time from Orongo, we move through the 'collapse' to the classic height of Rapa Nui culture. The eeriest element is the seemingly sudden abandonment of the culture, with evidence lying strewn around the landscape. Visiting the statue quarry at Rano Raraku, a volcanic crater composed of tuffs believed to be the best carving rock in Polynesia, one finds many nearly completed statues presumably waiting to be moved to ahu (alters), as well many statues still being carved. One behemoth would have weighed about 200 tonnes if it was completed, more than twice what any successfully erected statue weighed. It's fascinating to go directly from the statue quarry to Ahu Tongariki, the largest ahu on the island.From a travel perspective, the best and most surprising news of the day was the return of our luggage. Mark Horrocks and I made our way to the airport shortly after we heard the 11 am flight from Santiago arrive. We held relatively little hope, but since this is what we were told to do we tried to be optimistic. We couldn’t really see inside baggage claim, which is a controlled area even for flights from Chile. So we walked around the airport outside the security fence until we could see the backside of baggage claim. Within a few seconds, our spirits suddenly buoyed when I saw one of my duffels come around on the conveyor. Sure enough, they were all there. We still had to go the desk to claim them, and it turned out that they'd stayed on our Air Tahiti plane and gone on to Los Angeles, and somehow made the loop down through Santiago in outstanding time.

News wasn't all good though. First, we're still having trouble finding out more about the status of permission to do research. We came in the expectation that there could possibly be one hurdle left. I'll write more about that tomorrow. Plus David Feek and John Flenley left some coring gear on the island previously, but have been unable to locate the owner of the hotel (a native anthropologist) where it was left. Serious renovations appear to underway at the hotel, so it is possible the gear is buried or lost. If we can find it, this gear two rafts and some coring rods might save us a lot of time and expense. It seems hopeful and by the end of the day we heard the owner is on the island, so we'll try again tomorrow.

Ahu Tongariki is the largest set of restored moai statues. The ahu is of considerable interest from a natural hazards perspective. The entire set of moai were swept away by the tsunami resulting from the enormous 1960 magnitude 9.5 earthquake centred on the coast of Chile. They were restored to the ahu through the efforts of an enormous crane sent from Japan.
As I understand it, the moai at Rano Raraku represent the final stages of statue carving. Many are artistically distictive and convey considerable personality.
Around the statue quarry, dozens of nearly completed moai can be found. These moai presumably awaited movement to a distant ahu, possible across a distance of dozens of kilometers. We admired one moai still attached to its parent rock which was estimated to weigh 200 tonnes.
John Flenley contemplates collapse. Many statues were toppled purposefully to cause their necks or torsoes to break.
A statue lies face down at the Ranu Raraku quarry.

Troy Baisden

Was Collapse Inevitable on Easter Island (Rapa Nui)? Reconstructing a Civilisation's Failure is a Marsden Programme Troy Baisden is involved in.

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