Rano Kau

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Colour photo from a cliff top down onto a pond strewn marsh backed by high cliffs, an area of sea is visible through a gap in the cliffs.
View of Rano Kau from near Orongo, showing a gap at the southern end of the crater wall

Rano Kau is a 324 m (1,063 ft) tall extinct volcano that forms the southwestern headland of Easter Island, a Chilean island in the Pacific Ocean. It was formed of basaltic lava flows in the Pleistocene with its youngest rocks dated at between 150,000 and 210,000 years ago.

The crater[edit]

Map of Easter island surrounded by sea with moai dotting the edge denoting Ahus, an inset map shows location of Easter Island in the Indian ocean far to the west of Chile
Rapa Nui, with Rano Kau and the volcanoes Terevaka & Poike. To the south are the ruins at Orongo, as well as the islets Motu Nui, Moto Kau Kau and Motu Iti. To the north are Mataveri International Airport then Hanga Roa town.

Rano Kau has a crater lake which is one of the island's only three natural bodies of fresh water. Most of the volcano is on the coast and has been eroded back to form high sea cliffs which at one point have started to bite into the crater wall. On its northern side, the volcano slopes down to Mataveri International Airport.

Rano Kau is in the world heritage site of Rapa Nui National Park and gives its name to one of the seven sections of the park. The principal archaeological site on Rano Kau is the ruined ceremonial village of Orongo which is located at the point where the sea cliff and inner crater wall converge. One ahu with several moai was recorded on the cliffs at Rano Kau in the 1880s, but had fallen to the beach by the time of the Routledge expedition in 1914.

As well as basalt, it contains several other igneous rocks including obsidian (for which it was one of the major sources for the island's stoneworkers) and pumice.

The crater is almost a mile across and has its own micro climate. Sheltered from the winds that wet most of the rest of the island, figs and vines flourish at Rano Kau.[1] The inner slope was the site of the last toromiro tree in the wild until the specimen was chopped down for firewood in 1960.

Colour photo of circular pond strewn marsh surrounded by steep cliff topped slopes - the sea is visible through a gap in the cliffs on the right
Crater lake of Rano Kau, with Orongo at far right.

Geothermal activity[edit]

At some point in the early twentieth century, the island's manager took a photograph of steam coming out of the crater wall.[2]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Flenley & Bahn 2003 The enigmas of Easter Island ISBN 0-19-280340-9 page 18
  2. ^ Steam crack in Rano Kau