Easter Island: The Mystery of the Moai

By Founder/Designer Adam Rapp

Adventure. Exploration. Mystery.
It’s all on Easter Island. This trip was planned since before I even knew what planning a trip was. I first saw the majestic statues and learned about the ancient mystery of the Moai from the pages of National Geographic, which brought the Moai across oceans and right into my living room. I knew someday I would have to go see it for myself.

Fast forward 20 years and there I was, under the stars, on a Chilean island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, completely alone with huge stone faces for company.

Our best scientific understanding tells us that the teams of people stood the Moai faces up and rocked them back and forth, using ropes to inch the statues forward. Local stories tell of the Moai walking to their final “Ahu,” or platforms. But pictures, and scientific knowledge are no match for the sheer power of seeing the statues in person.

My journey started at the volcanic crater of Rano Raraku. It’s a wonder to see the statues frozen in time, in various stages of completion, and standing in all manner of angles staring back at you on the cliffside. I retraced the well-worn path down from the quarry and saw an ancient Moai face down in the road, just where it had fallen hundreds of years ago. One could feel like they were discovering it for the first time.

Ahu Tangariki is the most impressive and awe-inspiring of the Moai groups on Easter Island. I visited on my first afternoon and went back two days later to watch the sunrise. It wasn’t enough. On the second to last night of my trip, the skies were predicted to be clear, and I couldn’t resist trying to see the Moai once more, silhouetted by black sky and bright stars. Sure, night viewing is not encouraged, and standard tours to the island don’t include it. But that didn’t stop me. If anything, it made me more determined. I found one of the few cabs and headed down the road that rings the island shortly after midnight. As my eyes adjusted to the absolute darkness, I saw the forms of fifteen faces. Slowly, the majesty of the stones against the night sky came into focus. The mystery of the Moai was clear that night.