Broadcasting from the Navel of the World
In 1995 I served as webmaster for a multi-disciplinary expedition to Easter Island lead by Cordell Expeditions. During the “Dxpedition,” a group of Ham radio operators set up antennaes on the island thought the most remote humanely habitable spot on the planet. While the Dxers were making contacts with radio amateurs around the world, a team of divers explored a previously unsurveyed section of the coast. All the while the team was surrounded by the relics of a fantastic past culture, and mingling with the vibrant contemporary inhabitants of Rapanui.
Mixed in with these activities was an experiment in remote communications. Our website was updated via an internet link in a NASA satellite tracking located on the island. We posted news updates and images and maintained an up to date database of contacts betwen the expedition and radio operators from Mexico to Africa. We faced challenges like spotty data connections (we averaged about 150 baud!) and server overload due to the popularity of the site.
Upon returning from Easter Island, I edited and directed a documentary chronicling the events of the expedition in collaboration with Dr. Robert Schmieder, leader of Cordell Expeditions. The film distilled over 40 hours of video down to an feature length documentary covering not only the events of the expedition, but also issues of the need for and power of communication exhibited by cultures worldwide.
The expedition was considered a major success, and named Dxpedition of the Year by an international radio amateurs association.
It was a extremely interesting journey. We were there for 3 weeks – the average stay on Easter Island is about 24 hours. We were supported in this endeavor by some really fantastic local folks, may of whom we got to know. But clearly it is something unique to live in and be of this place. A deep deep and unique history. Utterly distinct, and full of glory and tragedy.
Many on our trip had never been in such a remote or alien environment before. The previous year a Hollywood production crew had visited to film the movie “Rapanui” (pre-cursor to the infamous Waterworld). At 25, I was the youngest expedition member by about a decade. The participants came from the US, Europe, Mexico, Chile, and other countries. Easter Island is Chilean territory, but that doesn’t mean that those who live on Rapanui are Chilean. So there were cultural tensions, issues of entitlement, class, wealth, and and ethnicity, in addition to the bonding. Fascinating, rewarding, thought provoking and problematic all at once.
I encourage anyone who can to visit. I’m capturing only a tiny portion of this fascinating place here.