Wild Places and Wild Music Reprise

In the previous post for my exhibition, I think most people only saw the poster.  They didn’t realise the post included 28 images for the prints on exhibition plus an extra ten.  If that’s you or you didn’t see that post:

Click here or go to previous post for Online Exhibition with 38 images.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

A2:  Pencil Pines on Cradle Plateau,
Overland Track, Tasmania, August 2017
Fujifilm X-T2, 55-200mm f3.5-4.8
Epson P800, Canson Rag Photographique.

(One of the 38).

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Wild Places and Wild Music

Both an actual and a virtual exhibition…

As you can see, I am about to hold an exhibition.  For those who cannot attend, I am holding a concurrent virtual exhibition here in this thread.  You can if you wish, purchase an A3+ print of any of the images below.  A3+ is larger than A3, actually an American size also called Super B, 13″ x 19″ or 329mm x 483mm.

All Prints $A90.

Free postage in Australia and New Zealand.  $10 for US, Canada, UK and Northern Europe.  For other countries, please enquire.  If you are interested in purchasing a print, make a comment below or send an email to zenophon@iinet.net.au.  If you are in Canberra, there’s the exhibition at Smith’s Alternative.

All images were taken and processed by me and also custom printed by me to a professional standard.

Note that there will be some difference between the images on screen and the prints because you are looking at a projected image rather than an image on paper, and your screen may not be calibrated.

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Links below the images go to corresponding colour posts in this Blog. even in the case of monochrome images, because the colour posts have more information.

If you click on an image, instead of 640 x 640 px, as you see on the page, it opens much larger to 1900 x 1900 px.

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Wild Places

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The following images correspond to prints in the actual exhibition (rows A and B).  They are from Victoria, Tasmania, South Georgia, Falkland Islands, Hokkaido (Japan), Iceland, Easter Island, Patagonia, Madagascar and Ladakh (far north India).

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

A1:  Path to the Sand Dunes
Point Hicks, Victoria, November 2016
Nikon D800, Sigma 180mm f2.8 macro
Epson P800, Crane Museo Portfolio Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

A2:  Pencil Pines on Cradle Plateau,
Overland Track, Tasmania, August 2017
Fujifilm X-T2, 55-200mm f3.5-4.8
Epson P800, Canson Rag Photographique.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

A3:  Penguins in front of mountain range
Right Whale Bay, South Georgia, November 2015
Nikon D3s, 85mm f1,4
Epson P800, Canson Rag Photographique.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

A4:  Red-crowned cranes at dawn (-26ºC)
Otowa Bridge, near Kushiro Wetlands, Hokkaido, February 2012
Nikon D3, 300mm f2.8 + TC20E III (stitched panorama)
Epson P800, Canson Arches Aquarelle Photo Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

A5:  Hokkaido Trees (planet view – link goes to original image)
Hokkaido, Japan, February 2012
Nikon D3, 300mm f2.8 + TC20E III
Epson 3880, Ilford Gold Fibre Silk .

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
A6:  Hofsjökull icecap
Central Highlands, Iceland, September 2013
Nikon D800, 300mm f2.8
Epson P800, Canson Rag Photographique.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
A7:  Wake of Ketch
Wineglass Bay Sail Walk, Tasmania, September 2017
Fujifilm X-T2, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6
Epson P800, Canson Rag Photographique.
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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

A8:  Lone Moai at Ranu Raraku
Easter Island, April 2011
Nikon D3, 105mm f2
Epson 3880, Ilford Gold Fibre Silk.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

A9:  Verraux’s Sifaka in tree
Berenty Nature Reserve, Madagascar, October 2015
Fujifilm X-E2 (Infrared), 55-200mm f3.5-4.8
Epson P800, Crane Museo Portfolio Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

B1:  Stellar’s Sea Eagle over ice and snow
Nemoro Strait, north of Hokkaido, Japan, February 2012
Nikon D3, 300mm f2.8 + TC14E II
Epson 3880, Ilford Gold Fibre Silk.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

B2:  Whooper swans
Lake Kussharo, Hokkaido, Japan, February 2012
Nikon D3, 180mm f2.8
Epson 3880, Ilford Gold Fibre Silk.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

B3:  Huemul Glacier and Mt Fitzroy behind
North of El Chalten, Argentina/ Patagonia, March 2011
Nikon D3s, 180mm f2.8
Epson P800, Crane Museo Portfolio Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

B4:  Panther chameleon capturing insect
Peyrieras Nature reserve, Madagascar, October 2015
Nikon D3s, 85mm f1,4
Epson P800, Canson Museo Portfolio Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

B5:  Rockhopper penguin with nesting material
Berkeley Sound, Falkland Islands, November 2015
Nikon D800, 300mm f2.8
Epson P800, Canson PrintMaKing Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

B6:  Ponies returning to Rumbak Village
Hemis National Park, Ladakh, far north India, January 2018
Fujifilm X-T2, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6
Epson P800, Canson Rag Photographique.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

B7:  Ana Kakenga (lava tube)
Easter Island, April 2011
Nikon D3, 14-24mm @ 14mm, ISO200, 1/250 sec f4
Epson 3880, Ilford Gold Fibre Silk.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

B8:  Stars at night near Rumbak Village
Hemis National Park, Ladakh, far north India, February 2018
Fujifilm X-T2, 14mm f2.8
Epson P800, Canson Platine Fibre Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

 

B9:  Walking in to Rumbak Village
Hemis National Park, Ladakh, far north India, February 2018
Fujifilm X-T2, 56mm f1.2
Epson P800, Canson Platine Fibre Rag.

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Extra Wild Places

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I have also included some additional images below from South West Canyonlands (US), St Kilda (Scotland), Antarctica, South Australia, Greenland and Hawaii.  They are also available for purchase.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

XP1:  Antelope Canyon
Arizona, October 2014
Fujifilm X-T1, 55-200mm f3.5-4.9
Epson P800, Canson PrintMaKing Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

XP2:  Main Street, Hirta Village
St Kilda, Scotland, July 2013
Nikon D800, 85mm f1.4, R72 Infrared filter
Epson 3880, Crane Museo Portfolio Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
XP3: Salt bush country near Oonatra Creek
Boolcoomatta Station, South Australia, March 2015
Fujifilm X-E2 14mm f2.8
Epson 3880, Crane Museo Portfolio Rag.
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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

XP4:  Deception Island from Ship
Deception Island, Antarctica, March 2011
Nikon D3s 300mm f2.8 (stitched panorama)
Epson P800, Canson PrintMaKing Rag.
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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

XP5:  Polar Bear on Ice Floe
Greenland Sea, August 2013
Nikon D3s, 300mm f2.8 + TC20E III, ISO1250, 1/2500 sec f11
Epson P800, Canson Rag Photographique.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

XP6:  Red crowned cranes in mating dance
Akan international Crane Centre, Hokkaido, Japan, February 2012
Nikon D3, 300mm f2.8 + TC14E II
Epson P800, Canson Rag Photographique.
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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

XP7:  Na Pali Coast from helicopter
Kauai, Hawaii, March 2015
Nikon D800, Sigma 35mm f1.4
Epson P800, Canson Platine Fibre Rag.

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Wild Music

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These are mainly images from the Blues Festivals I have been Official Photographer for, over the last ten or twelve years. (Once again, $A90 each, should you want to order prints).

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

C1:  Darren Jack
Thredbo Blues Festival 2012
Nikon D3s, 85mm f1.4
Epson P800, Canson Platine Fibre Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

C2:  Dallas Frasca
Down by the River Festival, Wangaratta, March 2018
Fujifilm X-T2, 80mm f2/8 macro
Epson P800, Canson Platine Fibre Rag.
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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

C3: Guitarist, The Tommyhawks
Narooma Blues Festival 2015
Nikon D3s, 180mm f2.8
Epson P800, Canson Platine Fibre Rag.
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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

C4:  Tomcat Playground
Sydney Blues Festival 2016
Nikon D800, 14-24mm
Epson P800, Canson Platine Fibre Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
C5:  Ian Moss
Sydney Blues Festival 2012
Nikon D800, 180mm f2.8
Epson P800, Canson Platine Fibre Rag.
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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

D1:  Rick Estrin, Rick Estrin & the Nightcats
Narooma Blues Festival 2014
Nikon D3, 300mm f2.8
Epson P800, Canson PrintMaKing Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

D2:  Dutch Tilders
Rose Cottage Canberra, March 2008
Nikon D3, 180mm f2.8
Epson P800, Canson Museo Portfolio Rag.
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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

 

D3:  Leesa Gentz, Hussy Hicks
Sydney Blues and Roots Festival 2017
Nikon D3s, 105mm f2
Epson P800, Canson Platine Fibre Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

D4: Rosscoe Clark
Sydney Blues and Roots Festival 2017
Nikon D800, 50mm f1.4
Epson P800, Canson Arches Aquarelle Photo Rag.
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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife
D5:  Brian Cadd, Cadd and Morris
Narooma Blues Festival 2009
Nikon D3, 300mm f4
Epson 3880, Ilford Gold Fibre Silk.
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Extra Wild Music

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A few more that aren’t in the actual exhibition, including one from Cuba.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

XM1:  Kid Anderson, Rick Estrin & the Nightcats
Narooma Blues Festival 2014
Nikon D3, 300mm f2.8
Epson P800, Canson PrintMaKing Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

XM2:  Turner Brown Band
Blues on Broadbeach 2017
Fuji X-T2, 10-24mm
Epson P800, Canson Platine Fibre Rag.

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Australia, Black and White, Blues, Easter Island, India, Japan, Live Music, Madagascar, Monochrome, Patagonia, Photography, South Georgia, Travel, Wilderness, Wildlife

XM4:  Street musician
Havana, Cuba, September 2016
Fuji X-Pro2, 56mm f1,2
Epson P800, Canson Rag Photographique.

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Other

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Mt Haughton Tree on Cliff in Fog 6 A3+

Tree on cliff in fog, Mt Haughton, Budawangs, NSW, c. 1984

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This is a summary page for posts other than images of travel, lighthouses or live music.  The links below either do not appear in other tabs or they focus on broad subjects:

Comments on the image above:   I was walking with a friend in the Budawang mountains in Morton National Park, probably in 1984, in driving rain and it was getting dark.  My friend kept wanting to stop and bivouac anywhere with the least amount of shelter but I insisted on keeping on going because I knew what was ahead.  We reached a huge “camping cave”, a great overhang on the side of Mt Haughton, and stayed there all of the next day out of the inclement weather.

At the edges of the overhang, I was able to set up my tripod and take photographs out into the mist and rain from a nice dry location.  At first glance it looks like a tree on the right with a branch coming off it, but it’s a cliff with a tree growing improbably out of the vertical face.  This of course is well before the days of digital photography and I was using a borrowed Linhof Technika.  This is a large format camera with a 5×4″ film size (9x12cm in Europe but a slightly different size) and it is a field camera because it folds up to a compact size.  The film would have been Fujichrome 50 (before the days of Velvia).

See also:

Monochrome and Infrared

Here are links to the posts on my blog that contain monochrome and infrared images.  The infrared images can either be monochrome or colour.

. Ring around the moon, Canberra, June 2014 Perversely, I am illustrating this post with a colour photograph that probably includes the night-time equivalent of a rainbow (though it looks almost monochromatic).

Update – Easter Island: A Parable for Our Times?

Moai at Ranu Rararaku

Easter Island – A Parable for Our Times? looks at our most important political issue – sustainable development – in the light of what happened on Easter Island.  I have added a brief introduction, seventeen new monochrome images and a  new conclusion.

(It is now a separate post).

Easter Island Wrapup and Contents

It’s now been over two months since I returned from Patagonia, Antarctica, the Falklands, Iguazu Falls and Easter Island.  Most of that time I have been writing up Easter Island, which I have now finished.  Having got home I have been processing all images and therefore posting more of them.

Easter Island especially demands explanations to go with the images and I have given quite detailed accounts of many aspects of the history and archaeology of Easter Island.  There have been 24 posts, 150 images and lots of words.

It started out just about photography.  It’s become somewhat more than that, though the images remain central.

Anakena

One thing I discovered, not in other accounts, was that Easter Island had a two-stage crisis.  First was an ecological crisis that lead to starvation and warfare.  Second and only after European contact, the overthrow of the old religion and the downing of the moai.

I finished up by considering whether the history of Easter Island offers a parable for our times.  I hope many people read this because I believe we all need to understand these issues to help build a consensus for positive change.

Ahu Hanga Kio’e

Below is a list of my special topics.  These are folded into the posts which have quite different names, specific to locations, that may not reflect the content of the special topics.  Further below I also present a list of the titles of the posts and then the sources of my research.

Special Topics

Ahu Te Peu

Posts

Note that posts are not necessarily chonological because they are also combined by content.

Easter Island map – click for larger size (so you can read the place names)

You need to click on the map to get it twice as large so you can read the place names.  The maps covers 16 of the 25 place names in the titles of posts.  Of those not covered:

  • Puna Pau is shown as Maunga Vai Ohao,
  • the South Coast is the whole south-east coast,
  • Ahu Vai Teka is just to the West of Ahu Akivi,
  • Ana Kakenga is just near Motu Tautara (which you can see from the cave),
  • Ahu Hange Kio’e is near Punta Cook,
  • Hanga Taharoa is the bay near Mahatua,
  • Hanga Piko is just below the big point at Hanga Roa,
  • Ana Te Pahu is about halfway between Ahu  Akivi and Ahu Te Peu on the South side of the road
  • and Ahu Runga Vae’e is just below Ahu Hanga Te Tenga.

Ahu Tongariki

Bibliography

My discourse on Easter Island reflects what I’ve read, my observations and my analysis. I don’t claim to be a scientist or an archaeologist.  Apart from being a photographer, I am an economic historian (in terms of academic qualifications) who found a career as a systems developer (and I’m now retired).  Here is a list of the books and articles I used:

Easter Island

– Books

– On the Web

Ahu Hanga Poukura

Ecology

– Books

  • Tim Flannery:  Here on Earth(An Argument for Hope) 2010
    • Confusingly, there seem to be several books with very similar titles.  I suspect that this is publishers’ demand for different markets.  Since this is the Australian version, it is probably the book Flannery intended to write.
  • Tim Flannery:  The Weather Makers (2005)
  • Tim Flannery:  The Future Eaters (1994)
  • Tim Flannery:  The Eternal Frontier (2001)

– On the Web

Ranu Raraku

Easter Island: A Parable for Our Times?

Anakena Moai

On Easter Island, the evidence of human activity from a bygone age is almost everywhere and asks a multitude of questions with a thunderous silence.  It’s almost inescapable to wonder – Does the dramatic decline of Easter Island society speak to us as relevant to the problems of the present?

Easter Island is clearly a small island yet increasingly so is the Earth. Improvements in communication bring us all closer together, we can travel virtually anywhere within a few days, world-wide decentralised mass production makes all economies interrelated and increasingly there are many issues that affect the world as a whole.

To consider this issue we will visit the following topics:

  • Traditional Rapanui society
  • Malthus and the Demographic Transition
  • Our World
      • Deforestation
      • Water
      • Species loss
      • Fishing
      • Overpopulation and resources
      • War
      • Is there a comparison with Easter Island?
      • Global warming and climate change
      • Nuclear power
  • The way forward
  • What Action?

Foundation of a Hare Paenga, a house for the family of a chief, appearing something like an upturned boat

Traditional Rapanui Society

First lets recap from other posts in the blog – what happened to the Rapanui due to the world they had created for themselves?  (I am excluding the direct effects of European disease, predation and colonisation.)

They landed on an island thickly forested with huge trees and populated by probably the largest wild bird colony in the Pacific.  After some centuries they had constructed a remarkable civilisation, a highly organised society with a successful agricultural system,  and undertook remarkable public works that amaze us even today.

Unfortunately, this success came at a cost.  Within a few centuries they had cleared most of the forest for agriculture.  Much of the timber at this stage of abundant resources was probably burnt and wasted.  They still used wood for construction, building canoes, moving moai and for firewood, yet the wood they cut down was slow to regenerate.  Eventually, all the forest was gone apart from some spindly shrubs up to two or three metres in height.  Wild birds and eggs had been a significant part of their diet but they were pretty much either all eaten or their habitat destroyed.  Offshore fishing was no longer possible due to the lack of canoes so dolphin and tuna were no longer available as food.  Clearing the forest had led to erosion which greatly reduced the agricultural capacity and also adversely affected water retention.  As Cook saw, water availability had become a major problem.  The population was greatly increasing at the same time as the resources to support that population were diminishing.

Moai at Ranu Raraku

How had they allowed things to come to this?  I can think of four factors – slowness of change, entrenched interest groups, destructive competition and overpopulation following their period of success.

Life expectancy was probably about 30 years but the trees took much longer than that to regrow.  Drastic change might be obvious if you could see a 500 year period whereas for any 30 year period not much might seem to change.  So if life is “normal” and things seem to be going well, there is much less incentive to become concerned about underlying problems.

The ariki (chiefs) and the ivi atua (priests) led a privileged lifestyle and demanded huge efforts in public works by the ordinary people.  Stopping that system could have stopped their privileged lifestyle.  And the whole massive system of conspicuous consumption in building ever bigger ahu (temples) and moai (statues) was driven by competition between clans and sub-clans.  No point trying to conserve what someone else would just take.

Then when the classical society reached catharsis, prosperity turned to famine and inter-clan competition turned to warfare and even cannibalism.  The population fell by 50% or more even prior to the coming of Europeans.

When Roggeveen arrived in 1722, the classical society, though diminished, was still intact and functioning but when Gonzales turned up in 1770 and Cook in 1774, the priests were no longer visible and many moai had been toppled.  It is therefore likely that the example of the awesomely powerful and wealthy Europeans exploded the power structure and the religion of the classical society and led the Rapanui to overthrow the society themselves.

When Roggeveen’s ship first approached Easter Island, it would have been visible out to sea from here but all the moai were probably standing

Malthus and the Demographic Transition

Malthus wrote in 1798 that all societies were doomed to a perpetual cycle of growth and prosperity alternating with overpopulation and famine.  In this he was opposing the eighteenth century ideal of perpetual progress.  There was no ecological factor to his thinking, so he did not consider that the period of overpopulated desperation might deplete the resource base in ways that would never see recovery.

Our society usually claims to have escaped Malthusian cycles by technological progress.  Developed countries also seem to escape overpopulation through the demographic transition.  Put very quickly, an “underdeveloped” society may have high birth rates and high death rates and exist in a Malthusian equilibrium; a “developed” country may have low birth rates and low death rates and maintain zero population growth; “developing” countries may still have high birth rates but improvements in conditions (health, farming, technology, education) lead to escalating increases in population.  So you’d think the solution would be to get all societies to be “developed”.  Trouble is, that doesn’t take into account resource usage and “developed” countries use disproportionate amounts of scarce and finite resources.

The South Coast (after dark)

Our World

Easter Island is clearly a small island yet increasingly so is the Earth.  Improvements in communication bring us all closer together, we can travel virtually anywhere within a few days, world-wide decentralised mass production makes all economies interrelated and increasingly there are many issues that affect the world as a whole.  So back to the question – Does Easter Island present a parable relevant to the problems of the present?

– Deforestation

The World is not likely to fell all forests quite to the extent of Easter Island.  For example, some countries such as Germany and Japan have had effective forest conservation policies for centuries.  However, worldwide deforestation is a very serious problem.

Japan preserves its own timber but imports timber from other countries.  Australia, for example, sells wood pulp to Japan for making paper.  The prices are very low compared to the price of the paper yet in Australia’s fragile ecosystem, the forests regenerate extremely slowly.  In most cases similar exporting countries are poor and in return wealthy countries are exporting their deforestation problems to poor countries.

The largest remaining forests are in third world countries, especially the tropical rain forests of  the Amazon and Zaire.  About half of the tropical forest that existed in 1800 has already disappeared and at the current rate of destruction, there will be little left outside protected areas by 2050.

Timber may be increasingly in short supply in some countries.  Deforestation can severely degrade cleared land as erosion removes soil, lowers the water table or increases salinity.  The most serious issue, though, is the likely effect of deforestation on World climate.

Overturned ahu and their pukeo (topknots) at Ahu Hanga Te’e O Vaihu

– Water

As Captain Cook saw, availability of drinking water was a serious issue for the Rapanui.  Most people take the supply of water for granted but it is slowly developing into a serious issue, for some countries at least.  Many regions are drawing on underground reserves at an unsustainable rate. This water can be hundreds of thousands of years old and unrestricted drawing up of bore water can also cause problems in soil salinity.

There are also many areas where agriculture depends on spring runoff from glacial melt.  Most glaciers are in rapid retreat and this kind of runoff may reduce substantially.  For example, serious problems for agriculture in Northern India and Bangladesh are likely to develop due to sharply reduced spring water flows resulting from climate change.

– Species loss

The Rapanui managed to wipe out most of their wildlife.  Essentially this was their birds, reduced from a great host to a few seabirds nesting on small offshore islands.  We’re not at a comparable stage of species loss yet, although we’re heading in that direction.  We are in the early stages of a global extinction event and it already has a name – the Holocene extinction.  While this extinction event covers the whole 10,000 years of the Holocene, it mainly relates to the last couple of hundred years and the primary cause is human activity.

Fish petroglyphs

– Fishing

The Rapanui lost access to most of their fish stocks due to lack of wood for canoes which prevented ocean fishing.  Our problem is rather different.  We have no shortage of big metal canoes which bring back huge amounts of fish but we need to be careful we don’t strip the fishing stocks.

It is all too easy to view the oceans as an unlimited resource and awareness of this has improved since the 1970s and 1980s, particularly with the development of maritime reserves and aquaculture (farming of fish and other marine organisms).  The main barrier to sustainability is illegal fishing, which can also devastate areas with illegal trawling methods.

International trade accounts for 38% of fish and fishery products, making it the most traded food in the world.  Over 80% of that trade goes to developed countries, so if other countries continue to become more affluent, it is easy to see there could be greatly increased pressures of demand.

Easter Island’s deep sea fishing stocks and marine diversity were significantly reduced by illegal fishing in just the last few years.  Without appropriate conservation measures, world fishing stocks could be essentially fished out by 2050 (this according to a UN study).

Petroglyphs in a landscape. What may look like vehicle tracks is a canoe carved in the rock.

– Overpopulation and Resources

Sometime after 1400, the Rapanui found themselves in an eroded, treeless land that had a reduced capacity to support them and with a population that had grown to an untenable size.

There can be no question that overpopulation is a serious issue for the world today.   Population growth is most acute for Africa and to a much lesser extent, South America and India.  We cannot isolate ourselves from this; increasingly, like the Easter Islanders, we are living in a small and shrinking island (the Earth).  Just as with Easter Island, it’s not in anyone’s interest for one group to ride roughshod over the rest.  In the words of John Kennedy:  If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

One thing that can happen is that when a country sees it is over-exploiting its resources, it takes measures to safeguard them but transfers the exploitation to other countries.  This is ultimately self-defeating; when the resources of poorer countries are gone there is nowhere left to turn.

While developed countries often have stable population levels net of migration, they use disproportionately large amounts of resources compared to the world as a whole.  Many of those resources come from less developed countries.  Increasingly there are newly prospering nations that want a share (China, India, South East Asia).   We are already familiar with the essentially fixed supply of petroleum that has already peaked.  It seems likely that resources will not increase to meet demand this time around.

Fortifications inside a lava tube. The piles of rock are about five feet high.

– War

Ecological crisis on Easter Island gave rise to vicious warfare.  The same thing happened to the Southern Maya when their civilisation overran its ecological basis.  Where nations face the exhaustion of resources upon which they depend, such warfare is obviously possible and war in our world can be truly horrific.  We can only hope it doesn’t work out like that.  At least some of the time, we may be able to contribute to public opinion and help prevent inappropriate, hasty or even illegal wars.

Vinapu stonework

– Is there a Comparison with Easter Island?

Deforestation, water availability and species loss are serious problems for us though not often as severe as the outcomes that Easter Island experienced.

The Rapanui experienced a reduced supply of fish due to reduced capability to fish, though their fishing stocks, for deep water fish at least, were not greatly affected.   We run some danger of exhausting world fishing supplies though effective measures may be in place, as long as we can control illegal fishing.

Easter Island experienced severe overpopulation (hand-in-hand with ecological degradation) and their capacity to take effective measures was probably hampered by excessive resource demands of the privileged elite.  Many areas of our world suffer overpopulation, especially Africa, while the developed countries (and even elite groups within developed countries) tie up a high proportion of world resources.

So if that were it, we could say that there are strong parallels with Easter Island and also significant differences.  The world is not as degraded as Easter Island became and we can still address the issues.  In the worst case, we would need to settle for a degraded lifestyle, as did the Rapanui before the arrival of the Europeans.

However, we also have global warming and climate change to contend with and we need to be very sure we understand and deal effectively with those issues as well.

There’s no land out there for thousands of miles….

– Global warming and Climate Change

Sometime between 1400 and 1700, the Rapanui experienced an ecological crisis that resulted in starvation and warfare so that the population fell by 50% to 70%.  After that, they may have reached a period of relative stability.  They still had a viable agriculture although life was much less comfortable and the numbers they could support had fallen.

The issues for the current world that I have summarised above loosely correspond to the crisis that Easter Island went through before European contact.  In the worst case, we will turn many regions arid while many species and  a significant part of humanity will die.  After some time, the chastened humans will regroup and hopefully develop a sustainable way of living under a reduced resource base.

Unfortunately, there is more to it than that.  In the case of the Rapanui, the cataclysm of European contact – disease, exploitation and slavery –almost wiped them out after 1722.  In our case, the somewhat equivalent danger has a quite different cause: global warming and the potential for climate tipping events.

Ahu Te Peu

Some people deny the possibility of global warming when they say “but it’s cold this year, there’s no warming at all”.  This is to misunderstand what it is.  Overall there is warming, the glaciers are melting, the oceans are getting warmer and giving rise to more hurricanes, but it also means greater climatic extremes and in the short-to-medium term, some regions will get warmer and drier while other may get cooler and wetter.  It is true that there can be large natural variations in climate.  It is also true that the great majority of scientists believe that global temperatures have been rising in the last 200 years and that this has a large man-made component.  This view is virtually unanimous for climatologists, those scientists who specialise in climate and climate change.

The most unsettling risk is the possibility of the world ecosystem degrading to fundamentally change the conditions for life.  It has happened before, in previous global extinction events.  It could happen fairly quickly and only be reversible in the very long term, and then to a completely different world, a climate tipping event.

As it stands, if we keep on as we are without effective remedial action, the consequences will be severe.  However, we are not yet at the point of no return.  We can still turn things around.  I think that no-one really knows how much time we have so it is better to act sooner rather than later.  The complication is that there are significant lags involved.  The effective action we take today may take several years to bite.  If necessary, we must be prepared to take one step back to take two steps forward.  If we wait until the situation is catastrophic, it might be too late to recover from.

Te Pito te Kura, Ahu Te Pito Kura

– Nuclear power

In economic terms, we are used to assuming we can always have progress but it’s not necessarily so.  In Europe, for example, Greece’s debt is 150% of its GDP, Ireland’s government deficit is 33% of its GDP, Spain’s unemployment is 20% and Italy owes France $500 billion.   A number of developed countries including the US and Japan appear to have long-term economic problems that will not be easy and quick to address.

We have seen the Japanese experiencing serious problems with explosions in their nuclear reactors, still supposedly under control but unresolved.  Germany and two other European countries have abandoned nuclear power after studying what has happened in Japan.

Indonesia is a much poorer country also prone to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis.  If a situation like Japan’s were to happen in Indonesia, I don’t know what it might develop to if it were to keep on getting out of control.  It couldn’t be good, especially if there were other severe problems to deal with at the same time.  Other countries could at some time descend into economic chaos, civil war or anarchy in such a way as to imperil their reactors.

The economics of wind and solar power keep improving while nuclear power is a short-term solution (plants last for 20 to 50 years) with long-term dangers (waste stays radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years).  Tim Flannery has an interesting view here, though.  He says that notwithstanding the dangers of nuclear power, the dangers of coal power (for global warming) are larger and more immediate.  He also says that wind and solar energy may be cheaper than nuclear by 2018.

Moai at Ranu Raraku

The way forward

We have no way of knowing whether the Rapanui saw their oncoming ecological problems and tried to do something about it while they still had time.  My guess is that they didn’t.  There might have been a groundswell of opinion from the common people for sustainable change but it was probably too unequal a society for that to be possible.

The ariki mau (the divine paramount chief) could have summoned the ivi atua (priests) & the ariki of the clans and compelled them to accept new social & ecological practices to achieve a sustainable society.   Something like this happened in Tokogawa Japan and in quite a different way in the Polynesian island of Tikopia.  My guess is he didn’t, and any attempts were certainly unsuccessful.   The ahu and moai got larger at the end so the Rapanui classical culture probably went out in a spectacular display, trying to persuade the Gods to restore their prosperity. The ariki and the ivi atua were also entrenched interest groups who probably felt threatened by any prospect of change.

Today, progress towards a constructive outcome is impeded by politicians who serve their own interests rather than the common good and by special interest groups who represent ecologically questionable practices.   In both cases, they are arguably not acting even in their own best interests.

We’re not doomed yet although we are clearly facing risks.  I think all of us have a responsibility to Life itself to understand these issues.  Progress will require concerted and enlightened action by government bodies at national and world levels.  It also requires that “we, the people” support appropriate and positive action wherever we can.  Developing a consensus for change is much more productive than competitive argument.

Any risks of moving to a more sustainable society and then finding out it wasn’t as bad as we thought are nothing compared to the risks of doing nothing until it’s too late.

Moai at Huri A Urenga

What Action?

Let’s imagine a world in sustainable balance in fifty or two hundred years – how could we get there?

Developed countries will not be able to wall themselves off from the rest of the world, even if they can attain sustainable development internally.  Therefore, as well as considering the problems of our own countries, we must consider how we can solve ecological problems all around the world.

Action on global warming is under way and if successful it will avert a climate tipping event. In that case, the developed countries will probably achieve some measure of sustainable development sooner or later. The later that is, the more reduced the resource base will be to operate from (and perhaps, the more like Easter Island).

Moai with eyes inserted, at the Tahai Complex

Here are some policy suggestions for a sustainable future:

  • Sustainable Development
      • We need Population Policies at least on a National basis, to determine what populations our environment can support and what infrastructure this requires
          • In the absence of migration, most developed countries would probably already have zero population growth (due to the demographic transition discussed above)
      • We need independent scientific organisations, well-funded and specifically set up to identify what resources we are in danger of exhausting and to recommend policies
          • They should be able to publish reports without political interference and there should be careful measures to ensure scientists do not represent commercial interests where there might be conflict of interest
  • Global Warming
      • We need effective policies to ensure that world climate remains amenable to human life. This has started but there is much to be done. There can be long time lags for measures to bite.
          • Awareness is probably relatively high in Europe, Canada and New Zealand but in the US and Australia there are currently a disturbingly high number of people who think there is no problem and are not prepare to sacrifice a cent for a problem they can’t see.
  • Preserving the Ecology of Poor Countries
      • Developed countries should move towards providing 5% of their gross national income to assist poor countries towards sustainable development
          • In the longer term, this is more important than disaster relief because it will help to prevent disasters. There of course needs to be safeguards against corruption and against siphoning off to first world salaries.
          • The objective of this would be to protect resources, improve living standards and to stabilise populations (eg low family programs, contraception, public awareness campaigns).
          • This may be hard to achieve politically, especially if countries become more and more immersed in their own problems, but if we do not help to solve the ecological problems of poor countries, they will also become ours.

One clear warning Easter Island shows us is that the point of greatest apparent prosperity can also be the point at which the resources that generate that prosperity are exhausted.  Prescience rather than mindless greed is at a premium.

Reality will inevitably be untidy and incomplete.  We have a responsibility to understand as much as we can and support sustainable policies where we can.  We can at least try to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

Ahu Tongariki

– Comments welcome

Comments are welcome.  Differing opinions are fine.  Please ensure that comments are polite and reasonable.

(Note:  I have separated out this post from 27th April: Easter Island (Ahu Runga Va’e and Ahu Hanga Te Tenga).  Earlier comments on that post relate to the analysis above).