It rained all night and most of the day. As we crested the highest point on
Easter Island today, weighed down by cameras, lenses, and tripods, it was
difficult to hold one's ground against the gale force wind pummeling the
exposed land across the island. From the bottom of the ocean to the summit
of Easter Island at
Terevaka, the land massif rises 10,000 feet. But
sea level comes into play somewhere in between, placing Terevaka at about
1,500 feet in elevation above the Pacific. From up there, you can see 360
degrees around the island and you realize just how small this speck of land
is. The clouds rolled in, creating a gray ceiling at eye level. We shot
some stills and got down as soon as we could, before another rain squall
came in from the white-capped sea.
Our team arrives today, both the camera crew for the documentary film we're
making for NOVA, and one of our scientists,
Dr. Jo Anne Van Tilburg
and her team from California, who will help in the making
of a replica moai from a fiberglass mold. We have chosen our site for the
transport and raising of our moai: at Tongariki, the site of the largest
ahu on Easter Island. Preparation of the site and the building of the
pedestal for the moai will begin tomorrow.
Raphael Rapu, an esteemed Rapanui artist and sculptor, will begin carving a
top knot, a pukao, for our moai tomorrow. It will be made from the same
rock, red scoria, a soft volcanic tuff, as the original pukao that capped
many of Easter Island's moai. No one has raised a pukao onto a moai using
ancient techniques since early times.
As Jo Anne arrives on the island and Raphael extracts rock from the red
scoria quarry, a third player in our arena of experts, archaeologist
Claudio Cristino, is working out a method for raising the moai with a pukao
on top. Will it be raised with the moai, lashed to its head? Or will the
one-ton pukao be raised separately?
The wind continues to blow and palm fronds snap menacingly; "the wind will
bring in good weather," a Rapa Nui man reassures us. And for a brief moment
the sky opens up to the north, toward the equator, where the sun breaks
through, shedding light on the green hills around us.