Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, the eastern-most inhabited island of the Polynesian group in the South Pacific Ocean. It is 2,350 miles (3,782 km) west of Chile, which owns it, and is one of the most isolated places in the world. Easter Island is triangular in shape and has an area of about 64 square miles (166 km2). Volcanic in origin, it has a rugged coastline and many extinct crates, the highest rising nearly 2,000 feet (610 m) above sea level. The island has no springs or permanent streams; crater lakes provide the only surface water.
The fertile volcanic soils support crops of corn, taros, melons, tropical fruit, and potatoes. The islanders also fish and raise chickens, cattle, horses, and sheep. Wool and wood carvings are the main exports. Hangaroa, the only settlement, has an airport and a small anchorage for boats.
On Easter Island are the remains of an ancient culture that existed before ancestors of the present Polynesian population arrived in the 17th century. Relics include hundreds of statues, ruins of numerous stone houses, and about 20 wooden tablets with writings that are still not completely understood. The statues, called moais, are carved from volcanic stone in the shape of heads or busts up to 40 feet (12 m) in height. They are found both along the coast and in the interior. Most of them are grouped around burial shrines.
The island was discovered and named by the Dutch navigator Jacob Roggeveen on Easter Sunday, 1722. Peruvian slave raiders and a smallpox epidemic greatly reduced the population of the island in the 1860's. When it was annexed by Chile in 1888, Easter Island had only about 100 inhabitants.
Population: about 2,000.