Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, has inspired hundreds of writers and archaeologists since its discovery by Dutch Admiral Jacob Roggeveen in 1722, mainly because of its enigmatic stone statues that have captured the world’s imagination. The ocean however, is an important part of the island’s History.
Easter Island, a Chilean territory since 1888, was formed more that 2.5 million years ago. Is is the peak of an underwater volcano that rises as a mountain of 1.700 ft above the ocean’s surface and 6.500 ft below.
This isolated piece of land, on the eastern vertex of the Polynesian Triangle, developed an unusual marine ecosystem with a mixture of flora and fauna specific to rocky ocean floors and coral reefs. The local fauna consists of more than 160 species, split into 65 families. The most common species of fish are Indo-Pacific, endemic, and pelagic, which respectively make up 27%, 26% and 17% of the existing fauna.
The average water temperature of 71ºF limits the variety of coral, however, this limited variety densely covers large extensions od rocky ocean floor. Scleractinia grows freely and is the most common species, yet the great storms that hit Easter Island in winter keep the higher-placed colonies from developing into a barrier reef.
Easter Island is also known for its clean, clear waters. Mainly due to its lack of plankton, visibility in the surrounding ocean reaches an impressive 200 ft. The absence of rivers, ports, and dumping of sewage and industrial waste, keeps it crystal-clear. This remarkable visibility is only disturbed by rain and large swells that occasionally stir up the sea floor during winter.
Summarizing, Easter Island’s great rock formations with cliffs, caves, arches, lava platforms and shallows, all covered with abundant coral studded with colorful tropical fish, all this submerged in an infinite deep blue. In a few words, this is Easter Island’s marine ecosystem.