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Photo of team raising the Moai Moai Nearly Raised
by Liesl Clark
May 5, 1998

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.

Photo of team raising the Moai 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 Jo Anne 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.

Lessons Learned (May 11)
A New Way to Move a Moai (May 9)
Moai is Upright (May 6)
Moai Nearly Raised (May 5)
A Tourist Attraction (May 3)
The Secret of the Sledge (May 2)
Moai Ready to be Raised (May 1)
The Moai is Moved (April 30)
15-Ton Moai Removed from Mold (April 27)
Moai Platform Complete (April 26)
Moai Mold is Filled (April 24)
Moai Mold Ready for Concrete (April 23)
Statue Mold En Route (April 22)
The Team Arrives (April 20)
Arrival on Rapa Nui (April 17)

Photos: Liesl Clark

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