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The mysterious crater of Rano Kau

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Today, we descended from the rim to the bottom of Rano Kau crater. At the base of the path, we discussed past coring work in the lake. John Flenley has always been struck by the microclimate in the crater and its potential for agriculture. The wind protection offered by the tall walls (300m) and abundant water would have made it very useful for some forms of agriculture, despite the difficulty involved in descending and climbing back out. With our guide, Zoro, Mark and I began traversing the boulder-strewn lake shore.

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Along the way, we found growing examples of many of the crops Polynesians brought to Easter Island: taro, sweet potatoes, bananas, ti (Tahitian cabbage tree), and paper mulberry. There were also a number of tree crops introduced by Europeans, including avocados and mangos. I wondered why I brought a lunch.

Part of the purpose of today's trip was to think about how we can collect cores that might tell us about past landslides and failures of the crater rim near Orongo, while still achieving the original goals of our research. We are hopeful that by collecting cores where we first descended, and directly underneath Orongo, we will be able to achieve both goals. The former is probably the best place to undertake agriculture, and therefore may have the most enduring record of agricultural activity. The area underneath the village of Orongo may be highly relevant to us because Orongo became the focus of activity after the "collapse".

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Troy Baisden

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