"Happy Easter" Island
While I don't go in for the religious aspects of this "holy" day very much, NASA's easter related web ephemera struck me as quite interesting.
I never really put two and two together to understand that Easter Island (aka Rapa Nui) was named that because the Dutch stumbled upon it, Easter Day 283 years ago. Rapa Nui is an amazing place that speaks to the nature of human's amazing ability to change their environment. People probably first arrived on the island between 400 and 700 C.E. by sail-canoe from somewhere in the west (probably Polynesia not India according to recent DNA evidence). Most researchers think that huge numbers of trees would be required to build and move the giant statues that dot the island. Unfortunately our species of two legged primates aren't so good with restraint. These ancient inhabitants got carried away with the statues forcing them to deforest the entire island, causing a massive eco-system crash, civil wars, starvation, and total isolation (no more canoes). So much for the noble savage.
Geologically, Easter Island is the tiptop of three volcanoes, Poike, Rano Kau, and Maunga Terevaka. These volcanoes formed as the result of a hot spot in the earth’s mantle welling up through the crust of the Nazca plate. Rapa Nui is just east of the East Pacific Rise where the earth is creating new oceanic crust pushing the Pacific Plate westward and the Nazca plate eastward towards South America. The same hotspot that created Rapa Nui is responsible for a chain of volcanoes that stretch out to the East, buried beneath the sea.