Rapanui, Or Easter Island
RAPANUI, or EASTER ISLAND (Paascheylandt, Oster-insel, de Paques, &c.), the WAniu or TEAPI of Cook, an island in the eastern part of the South Pacific, lying in 27° 8' S. lat. and 109° 25' W. long., 1000 miles east of Pitcairn. It is rudely triangular in shape, with its hypo-tenuse 12 miles long running north-east and south-west, and its three angles marked by three volcanic peaks. The coasts have no natural harbours of any importance, and landing is difficult. There is no lack of fertile soil, and the climate is moist enough to make up for the absence of running water. At one time the island would appear to have been wooded, but it now presents only a few bushes (Edwardsia, Broussonetia, &c.), ferns, grasses, sedges, &c. The natives keep a few goats and a large stock of domestic fowls, and the French house which now owns a large part of the island feeds about 10,000 sheep.
It is doubtful whether Rapanui (i.e., Great Rapa) was discovered by Davis in 1686, though it is sometimes marked Davis Island on our maps. Admiral Roggeveen reached it on 6th April 1722 ; in 1744 Captain Cook discovered it anew, and it has since been visited by La Perouse (1776), Kotzebue (1816), Beasby (1826), &c. At the time of Roggereen's discovery the island probably contained from 1500 to 2000 inhabitants of Polynesian race, who, according to their own tradition, came from Rapa Iti (Little Rapa) or Oparo, one of the Tibuai or Austral group.
The remarkable colossal statues which give a unique archteo-logical interest to Rapanui have been described under POLYNESIA, VOL xix. p. 428 ; figures of them will be found in Pinart's valuable paper in the Tour du Monde (1878, No. 927).