Rapa Nui: Where It All Began

The moai targets

Our work on Easter Island, which began in 2007, is really the prototype for Adventures in Rediscovery. The outcomes were so powerful that we knew that similar projects could and should be developed.

The work undertaken on this iconic island demonstrates how powerful technologies can be used in brand new ways to preserve cultural and historically significant sites.

Resulting point cloud from the moai laser scan

It began one day when Pete Kelsey, while on a business trip in Argentina, decided to visit Easter Island (known to locals as Rapa Nui) and bring along a bag of technology to test his hunch that something interesting could happen there. He started asking around for local archeologists, and because this is a small island, quickly found Sonia Haoa, then Rapa Nui’s coordinator of national monuments for CONAF, Chile’s national forest department.

3D Print of scanned moai

At the time, Sonia and her team were using paper and pencil to document the artifacts which cover almost every square foot on the island — a labor intensive and time-consuming process. Pete showed the team how his implementation of hardware and software would enable their work to be done much more quickly and accurately. After a few more visits back to Rapa Nui, Pete and team were able to develop incredibly detailed 3D digital maps of the island.

Providing Rapa Nui officials and researchers with 3D digital models of their island means that locals are better equipped to sustainably develop and enable tourism, while protecting its historical artifacts and natural resources – because they know now exactly where they are. The land planning and analysis completed as part of this project may also help locals make informed decisions about development, protection, and education on Rapa Nui. And Sonia will be able to complete a thorough documentation of the significant sites and objects on Rapa Nui before it’s too late.

Mentor, teacher and dear friend, Sonia Haoa

An additional outcome of Pete’s innovative use of technology, is his appearance on Travel Channel’s Secret Worlds television series. Pete has also been featured with Sonia in Fortune magazine, sharing how their work is changing the future of historical and cultural preservation on Rapa Nui.

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