No memorials of the past are more fantastic than the series of great statues—some of them as tall as a four-storey building—that greet the visitor to this lonely and storm-swept Pacific island. By C.A. Burland.
Twelve hundred miles distant from any other inhabited land, there are fifty-five square miles of volcanic hills covered with black soil and dry grass—an island of grey skies and chilly winds, with beaches swept by a continual swell of great waves from the Pacific. Such is Easter Island, a most unpromising place for human habitation. It is now used as a great sheep ranch, though four hundred natives still live there in a reservation on the slopes of the extinct volcanic peak called Rano Kao.
Once a year a ship reaches the island from Chile, for Easter Island is a Chilean possession. The boat stays for a week or two and then sails away for another year. During its stay, a brisk trade is carried on in carvings and curios made by the natives for sale against such luxuries as fashionable cotton dresses for the women, soap, which is a great treasure among them, and new food-stuffs to add to the normal supplies grown on their plantations, or fished from the cold sea.
It was not always so in Easter Island, as any visitor can see. Here and there along the coast are stone platforms covering trenches filled with human bones. Beside them he broken statues of lava—giant statues, which once wore red stone hats. On the slopes of the extinct volcano stand more statues, enormous monuments, some of them as tall as a four-storey house. In the ethnographical museums of the world you may see strange carved wooden figures and a few tablets with a writing that nobody can read. These also are from Easter Island.