I am SUPER excited to be sharing this week’s photo essay, Easter Island at Night. As with last week, I just had too many pictures I wanted to share, and rather than drag my Easter Island photo series out for months, I’m just giving you more than one photo per week! 🙂 Anyway, as I mentioned last week, I really wanted to go back to Easter Island to photograph it all over again, and I really wanted to do some night shooting! I have grown so fond of exploring at night here in my own back yard, I seriously couldn’t wait to experience the island at night… and man, what a treat!
Easter Island itself is one of the most isolated, inhabited places on the planet (there are actually a few islands that claim “the most isolated”). It’s closest inhabited neighbor is Pitcairn Island, which has less than 100 inhabitants, and is over 1200 miles away. Outside of that, it’s over 2000 miles to anywhere. For some perspective, that’s further than from Knoxville to Las Vegas… over the ocean… there is seriously nothing nearby (and frankly, that’s one of the things I love about the island). As soon as you leave Hanga Roa, which is the only town on Easter Island, there are no street lights, and very very few buildings to create light pollution. What I’m trying to say is, the sky is DARK there! It’s simply amazing to see. As an added ‘neat factor’, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere (which I’m assuming most of you reading are), you see a different part of the night sky there. In several of the pictures in this series, you can see Magellanic clouds, which are dwarf galaxies, and cannot be seen from the continental US (look for blobs of stars in the lower right part of the sky pictures), as well as the Southern Cross, which is hard to see in the continental US. Yes, I was seriously geeking out.
The weather didn’t cooperate for me to get a star trail photo that I was super excited about, though I did get one (and yep, that’s different too! The stars were spinning around the southern pole star, Sigma Octantis, rather than the North Star) that I was sort of happy with. I did, however, manage to get special permission to shoot in Rano Raraku after hours, and got some truly unique shots from there. So much fun!
More next week!
The Milky Way Over Tongariki
Tongariki and Rano Raraku (the first image) are the furthest away from the only town on Easter Island, and the darkest. The sky here is jaw dropping. The bright star in the sky is Mars and if you follow the Milky Way up, you’ll find the Southern Cross constellation (on the upper part of the last dark spot in the Milky Way)
Star Trails and Moai
I wasn’t ecstatic about this one, but it’s the only star trail shot I managed to get that’s worth showing. I started late and the sky started turning blue before I was done, which illuminated the statue (a positive), but also did weird things to the sky (not a positive). BUT, I’ve got something to work on next time!
Dan,I am oneda white. Could you send s copy of this to:
[email address hidden]
He is my son and works as astronomer at Hubble Telescope Hdqs. In Baltimore. Grew up at EHBC. He will love these pictures.
Love your photos and shared experience. I’ll be visiting in November and am wondering… How light is it outside at night? The moon will be very dim. Do the stars give enough light to walk by or is too dark to have any idea where you are? I will most likely be traveling by bicycle.
Thanks for your comment!
On Easter Island there are no street lights except in the main town, so it gets super dark outside of town. You’ll most certainly want a bright headlamp for a number of reasons. The ground is quite rocky at several of the sites that you’d likely want to visit, and the grass has grown up and over a lot of the rocks. It’s kind of hard to describe really, but it makes it really hard to walk on in places, even in the middle of the day. You have to pay attention to what you’re doing. At night, with no light, it’d be virtually impossible to not trip and stumble around. For the bicycling, the roads are quite potholed, so you’ll want to be able to see the road. Also, the cattle and horses will commonly stand in the road, so being able to see them will be important. Finally, some of the locals can be a little rambunctious on their motorcycles, so a light would give them visibility to see you as well.
All that said, Easter Island at night as an absolutely magical experience, especially if you love the stars. I’m a bit jealous of your trip, I’d love to go back again even! I’m sure you’ve read how big the island is, but it can be as long as 13 miles from town to the far reaches of the island by road, so you’ll be doing a lot of peddling, and there are some pretty big hills along the way. BUT, we saw a good number people doing it while we were there, and I bet it would be a great way to experience the island.
Let me know if you have any other questions. I’m happy to share what I know!