Monthly Archives: October 2012

Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign, Easter Island

Ahu Tongariki, the largest collection of standing moai on Easter Island.

Ever since Dutch explorer Admiral Jacob Roggeveen landed at a small island in the South Pacific on Easter Sunday 1722 and encountered a landscape filled with giant stone statues, the world has wondered about Easter Island: Where did the statues come from? How and why were they made? And, most puzzling, how were these behemoths—some weighing as much as 75 tons—moved.

In 2004, I flew to Easter Island and spent ten days there with University of Hawaii Professor Terry Hunt and his archaeology students, who were digging at Anakena Beach—site of the first Polynesian settlement on the island. Since then and as a result of his findings, Hunt has taken academic dynamite to the old myths and blown them apart.

The original theories went like this: The first settlement was in 700 AD, after which the population mushroomed to 10,000 or more, and the islanders destroyed their environment, cutting down all the trees to roll the massive statues—called moai—into place. Famine, warfare and even cannibalism followed. It was a classic example of wasted resources leading to societal collapse, one that the world should take note of.

According to Hunt’s research, that’s all wrong.

Carbon dating of bones and other items from his dig now puts the first settlement closer to 1200 AD, and new evidence shows the population reached a maximum of 3,000, which was all the 64-square-mile island could handle because its ecosystem was depleted even before the first settlers arrived.

So did the islanders—now known as Rapanui—cut down their trees? The island was originally covered with thick forests of Jubea palm trees, and the Rapanui did cut down some of them to build shelter, says Hunt, but not to move moai. The real culprits were Polynesian rats that had arrived with the settlers, possibly as stowaways on the canoes. They multiplied rapidly, and their favorite food? The seeds of the Jubea palms. Without seeds, no new trees could grow.

Also, says Hunt, there is no evidence of warfare: no remains of fortress-like buildings or weapons of war. And all anecdotal evidence points to a peaceful people who understood that in order to co-exist in an inhospitable environment—with no lakes or streams, poor soil conditions and inconsistent rainfall—they would have to get along or perish.

Next time: the moai—why they were carved. And did they, as the local folklore says, really walk from the quarry to their current locations?

Categories: culture, Easter Island, History, Photography, Stock Photography, Sunsets, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 47 Comments

Golden Sunset

Golden Sunset

glittering gold sunset near Waikiki

Sharing this sunset from a few nights ago.

I’m standing on the rocks below Diamond Head, and the structure you can see on the hill at right is the Diamond Head Lighthouse. Most people view it from above, when they climb to the top of Diamond Head Crater on a hiking trail and look down from the pinnacle.

In the 1800s, with so many ships running aground on reefs and shoals during the night, something had to be done, and in 1878 a lookout station was built. Its first attendant, John Peterson (from Sweden), known as “Lighthouse Charlie,” was on duty seventeen hours a day, watching through his telescope for incoming vessels. He lived in a small cottage nearby and was paid $50 a month.

When a steamship ran aground in 1897, a stone tower topped by a fixed white light was built. In 1918, after Hawaii was annexed as a territory, the federal government built the current lighthouse, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. It stands 55 feet tall, 147 feet above sea level, and its 1,000-watt electric light magnified by a 7,300-candlepower lens can be seen 18 nautical miles away.

Categories: environment, Hawaii, History, nature, Photography, Stock Photography, Sunsets, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge: Big

The Trojan Horse. Existing only in the pages of Homer’s epic poem, The Iliad, it has been recreated on the outskirts of Troy—an ancient, excavated city in northwestern Turkey.

the Trojan Horse

The Trojan Horse and me

In the poem, Paris, Prince of Troy and thought to be the handsomest man alive, traveled to Sparta in Greece to win the affections of the beautiful Helen, wife of Menelaus.

When Menelaus found out that Paris had stolen his wife and carried her (and much of Menelaus’ treasure) off to Troy, he sent a fleet of ships to destroy Paris and Troy. But Troy wasn’t that easy to destroy. So a large wooden horse was built. It was hollow so that soldiers could hide inside. When the Greek fleet sailed away, the Trojans thought they had won and brought the giant horse—which they were told would bring them luck—inside the walls. That night, of course, the soldiers in the horse emerged and slaughtered the Trojans as they slept off their victorious drunken stupor.

There’s much more to the story, just as there is more to the finding and excavating of Troy, but that’s for another post.

To show how BIG the horse is, note the relatively tiny figure (all 5’9” of me) leaning against the horse’s leg.

The term, Trojan Horse, is used today to represent a deception—something that looks good on the outside but really isn’t. I’ve had a few encounters with that: an ex boyfriend or two, even a job that looked like my dream job but soured after a couple of months. Anybody else had any Trojan Horse experiences?

Categories: Animals, History, Photography, Stock Photography, Travel, Travel: Turkey | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Travel theme: Animals

October 4 celebrated the Feast of St. Assisi, the patron saint of animals. It has also been designated World Animal day, so this is perfect timing, says Where’s my backpack? to share our animal photos. Perfect timing for me, too, since I’ve recently returned from a visit to the San Diego Zoo, where my camera caught many animals just hanging around and being their charming selves.

gorilla mother and youngster

Ok, ok. You can have a Twinkie, but you’d better be hungry for dinner.

Just click on any of the photos to access larger images in the photo gallery. (My apologies for some of the incorrect designations [gazelle, not antelope; bonobo, not orangutang; etc.] I’m trying out the gallery style and still have a few kinks to work out)

Categories: Animals, nature, Photography, Stock Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 43 Comments

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