Episode 2.2: Easter Island (Rapa Nui) | 80 Days

Mysterious and isolated island famous for its giant stone heads

S02E02 Easter Island Audio

Welcome to our second episode in season 2 of 80 Days: an exploration podcast. Today we will be exploring the fascinating history and culture of Easter Island.

Named by Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen, on Easter Sunday in 1722, the island is best known for the 887 extant monumental statues, called moai, which were built by the early Rapa Nui people. The island is one of the most isolated in the world, lying more than 1,289 miles from its nearest inhabited neighbour, and almost 2,200 miles from the closest continental point, in Chile. The tiny volcanic island consists of just 163.6 km2or 63.2 sq mi, making it roughly twice the size of Manhattan. The native population, the Rapa Nui, have endured famines, disease, population collapse, civil war, slave raids and colonial power struggles, and the island was most recently annexed by Chile in 1888. Today, Easter Island is home to around 6,000 people, the majority of whom are descended from the original Rapa Nui settlers.

Your hosts are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Switzerland. (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle). List of topics with timestamps given at the end of this article.

Map showing Easter Island in relation to Chile
More detailed map of the island (Wikimedia Commons)

If 100 minutes of podcast doesn’t sufficiently wet your knowledge whistle, as it were, feel free to get into some of the bits and pieces from around the internet that we used for background research.

But before that please feast your eyes on the ill-advised result of Mark’s Moai instagram photoshoot.

And now you can check out some of the main reference links for the podcast!

Thanks this week to backers Nick Ison and Alec Richman. And a massive thank you, as always to our sponsor Hairy Baby, makers of the funniest Irish-themed clothing. Remember to get a 10% discount off anything you buy on their website (www.hairybaby.com) by using our special promo code, read out during the episode. We recommend the 80 Days official tee.


Table of Contents:
[01:20] Intro — a seriously isolated island
[05:17] Dr Mara Mulrooney — on polynesian explorers
[14:42] The mystery — where did all the people go?
[18:08] Moai — giant stone heads
[27:50] The other explanations for the mystery 
[36:53] “Discovery” — Roggeveen, Dutch idiot
[42:32] Was there a Civil War…? [46:30] Birdman Cult [53:38] Catholics, slavery, smallpox and Joseph Byrne [1:07:44] Dutrou Bornier — A bad man [1:13:55] Salmond and his sheep and Chile takes over
[1:21:11] Mana and the Routledge archaeological expedition
[1:29:23] Thor Heyerdahl expedition
[1:32:15] Pinochet’s law is like Pinochet’s love
[1:37:07] Modern day


80 Days is a podcast dedicated to exploring little-known countries, territories settlements and cities around the world. We’re part history podcast, part geography podcast and part ramble. Each episode, we’ll land in a new locale and spend some time discussing the history, geography, culture, sport, religion, industry, pastimes and music of our new location. More details on www.80dayspodcast.com, Facebook orTwitter.

Originally published at 80dayspodcast.com on April 16, 2017.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated 80 Days Podcast’s story.