When I was younger, I was under the impression that Easter Island is where the famous bunny lived and that he, or she, I never really thought to ask, would run around coloring eggs and collecting candy. As it turns out, this is slightly less than accurate. Though I know much more about the island now, I feel that it is still largely misunderstood. This is not a list of things you need to know about Easter Island, but rather a list of interesting things you probably didn’t know. Hopefully it causes you to want to learn more, because the place is fascinating, even without the mythical creatures.
You’ll see very few trees on Easter Island today, though there used to be many forested areas on the island. The trees that existed there have gone extinct, it’s thought to be due in part because of over-harvesting at some point near the 15th century. However, another main cause was Polynesian rats, brought by early settlers. The rats were rampant on the island, with few if any natural predators and an ample supply of food. Namely, the nuts from the giant palms that grew on the island.
Because the once ample supply of trees is no longer available, you’ll also see very few birds on the island. Archaeologists have found evidence that there was once a very healthy community of seabirds, upwards of 30 species, but that that population declined along with the trees.
Everyone knows the statues, or moai of Easter Island, but few know that it would typically take a team of 5 men an entire year to carve one.
The first foreigner to visit the island was Jacob Roggeveen on April 5, 1722. It was Easter Sunday and he named the island because of it. After that visit, it was 48 years before another ship made contact with the island.
Easter Island is still under the rule of Chile, though it is labeled as a “special territory”. Independence is still a major call to action for many native islanders. Granting independence would end a control that has existed for hundreds of years.