A visit to Easter Island

Victor Ashe
Government/Politics columnist

The first week of February, I visited Easter Island in the South Pacific Ocean, 2,300 miles east of Chile, which owns the island. It had been on my bucket list for years. Two other Knoxvillians who have previously visited Easter Island are Will Skelton, active greenways advocate and retired attorney, and Jeff Chapman, well respected director of the McClung Museum on the UT Knoxville campus.

Getting there is part of the adventure, as one flies to Santiago, the capital of Chile, overnight and then flies five hours west over the Pacific to the island, which is partway to Australia from Chile. There are daily flights to the island from Santiago. Otherwise, one goes by ship, and they are infrequent.

About 8,000 people live on 44 square miles in the middle of incredible statues carved on the island centuries ago. In addition to being an open air museum, the island offers outstanding diving, snorkeling and surfing.

Hanga Roa is the main and only town. The airport is next to the town. Much of the island is part of the national park established by Chile.

Tourism is now its main industry. No one knows for sure how the island was first inhabited or when or how the statues (moai) were made and then moved to different sites on the island. The theories are just theories.

It is believed the first settlers arrived from the Marquesas islands between the 4th and 8th centuries. Today about 90,000 tourists visit the island. At times the population has dwindled to a few hundred.
I was able to visit the quarry of a long extinct volcano where some 400 statues with oversized heads have been counted in various shapes, sizes and conditions. The photo here is typical of what exists.

The climate is tropical but seldom exceeds 82 degrees. Accommodations and food are much better than adequate but not deluxe. It can be expensive as most supplies are imported from the mainland of Chile.

■  Bearden activist Terry Faulkner says she will not run for city council this fall as she needs to be home assisting her husband, who has been ill. However, she will continue to speak out on issues and indicated she has not decided whom to support among Wayne Christensen, David Williams and Andrew Roberto, the declared candidates in the West Knoxville city district.

■  New UTK Chancellor Beverly Davenport says she will spend time getting to know state lawmakers as part of her introduction to Tennessee. In the same news conference, she announced her opposition to legislation by state Rep. Martin Daniel to guarantee free speech on college campuses, saying it is not needed. However, she was not precise as to what provisions in it she dislikes. Her comments made it appear she had not read the legislation, which she will need to do prior to meeting with Daniel.

Davenport was able to avoid explaining why she failed to appoint a single African-American to the Athletic Director search committee and named only one woman to the six-member task force. At some point she will have to address these issues while she promotes diversity.

■  Attorney James Corcoran is running for the city council seat currently held by Brenda Palmer. So is Jodi Mullins, who has the backing of Palmer. Corcoran has a page on Facebook. He ran a strong race in the GOP primary last year for state representative, which was ultimately won by Martin Daniel. Half the district is inside the city of Knoxville.

■  County Commissioner Bob Thomas turns 63 today, March 1, and City Law Director Charles Swanson, husband of Judge Pam Reeves, also turns 63 on March 6.

■  Middle Tennessee U.S. Rep. Diane Black will be in Knoxville today talking to people about her campaign for governor next year and attending a UT basketball game tonight. Attorney Jeff Hagood is helping her campaign.

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