For an entire day it had rained a swirling mist as the wind blew in from
all directions. We were sure it would last several days. Stepping outside
meant getting soaked to your core and never warming up again until you were
back in your bed listening to the rain drops fall from the roof eves to the
green orchid leaves below. The raising of the moai was cancelled for a day.
In the morning, the wet tropical air had turned to a crisp clarity, and the
moai was bathed in a beautiful golden light. Nearby, a group of horses
nervously clung together while watching the crowd of workers arrive at the
site. A yearling had been hit by a car the night before and was standing in
the middle of the road, its face swollen and dazed from the impact.
Work had to begin if the moai were going to be raised in a day, and within
hours the concrete statue was at a 45-degree angle. Archaeologist
Van Tilburg looked on as her colleague,
Claudio Cristino, addressed the
possibility that the 9.5-ton moai could list to one side and fall to the
ground. "Safety is a big issue for us, so we're trying to move the moai in
a position where the pivot point is not at the base, but in the middle
(where three cross logs are supporting the moai) providing a central point
of balance," explained Van Tilburg. Cristino, on the other hand, was
watching the point at which the base of the moai touched the pedestal
stones, noting that it would be the "critical point to watch when the
statue raises more upright." Stones were taken from the ahu ramp and
recycled into the raising project by being placed underneath the moai as it
was slowly pried upward by long wooden levers.
Progress was good but the day began to wane and the time limit we had
placed on the raising experiment was coming to an end. Three days were
budgeted to raise the moai and we had only an hour of sunlight left.
Several members of Jo Anne Van Tilburg's team were to leave on a plane at
9:00 pm to return to the United States. "The workers want to finish this
today, for Jan (Van Tilburg)
and Ted (Ralston) and
Darus (Ane) before
they leave." But the quickened pace caused a few supporting rocks to slip
and the statue listed dangerously to one side. "It's too dangerous for us
to continue," said Van Tilburg. "We'll have to continue tomorrow morning."
The statue was now standing at a 60-degree angle.
Because the first day of the raising experiment was devoted to re-rigging
the transport sledge (designed by Van Tilburg's team) so that the moai
could be raised, NOVA has decided to fund another day of Cristino's raising
project in order to film the most critical hours in raising a moai. As we
left the site, the sun was slowly setting behind the quarry, and we turned
to see the moai standing nearly upright. In the distance, the yearling was
down, having collapsed in its stupor. It lay alone, still breathing,
clinging to its final moments of life before drifting off.