Strange shifts in wind patterns cleared the path to Easter Island

Easter Island, the Polynesian island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean famous for its large humanoid sculptures, was not colonised by humans until the Middle Ages, at around 1200 CE, and scientists now think they know why….

….Michael Slezak at New Scientist explains:

“From 1080 to 1100, the tropics contracted, moving the westerly winds further north. This would have created ideal sailing routes from the already colonised South Austral Islands to Easter Island – exactly when many archaeologists now think the island was colonised. Later, from 1140 to 1160, the opposite happened. The tropics expanded, and the easterly winds moved further south, allowing migration to New Zealand, which corresponds with archaeological and oral history records.”

And oddly enough, these unique shifts in wind patterns seem to have stopped about as quickly as they began, closing the region off to the locals once more. This could be why there is no record of any major Polynesian voyage after 1300.

While the lack of direct evidence will likely see this mystery debated for decades to come, the shifting wind patterns theory does go a long way in explaining how this particular region in the South Pacific could have been colonised so quickly within the span of human history. Edited from Strange shifts in wind patterns cleared the path to Easter Island.

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