Trapped at the end of the world; an ecological collapse; a microplate with a new family of crustaceans

I. Map Boundaries: 20 to 30 degrees South, 108 to 117 degrees West

II. Country: Chile (Region V—Valparaiso)

III. Overview

More than 2,300 miles from South America and 1,400 miles from the nearest Polynesian island, nine-mile-wide Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, is remote, so remote that only one influx of people is believed to have settled the island about 900 CE. Once settled, the colonists were likely trapped, setting the stage for one of the most famous human-caused ecological collapses.

Easter is home to more than 900, 50-foot-tall, 250-ton statues carved from the volcanic rock found on the island. These were erected between the 10th and 16th centuries and once lined roads leading from the volcanic quarry to other spots on the island. In addition to the statues, the society created ceremonial shrines and the only written language in Oceania. Caves around the coast contain paintings of deities, birds, and fertility symbols. Continue reading