From Rangitahua to Rapa Nui

Seventy-one percent of the earth’s surface is blue. While we label different parts of that blue with regionally inspired names it is in fact a single ocean, seamlessly connecting all peoples of the world.

The Pacific Ocean is the largest identified expanse within our global ocean. At its northern reaches lie the Hawaiian Islands. At the south-western corner are the Kermadec Islands of New Zealand. At the south-eastern corner is the island group of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and Sala y Gómez. All have been identified by the Pew Environment Group’s Global Ocean Legacy Project as lying at the centre of three of the most important and unspoiled marine ecosystems on the planet.

In ancient times island voyagers crossed the Pacific giving shape to the Polynesian triangle. In later times whalers and sealers, explorers and settlers, crossed the Pacific to feed commerce and the yearning for new beginnings. Today trade, security, tourism and fisheries see the Pacific crisscrossed by vessels of increasing size and capacity. The largest ocean space on the planet is full of activity—and increasingly marked by our human footprint.

In July 2012, the Pew Environment Group facilitated transport of a travelling Kermadec art exhibition to Rapa Nui. Inspired by a voyage by nine artists to the Kermadec region in 2011, the Kermadec exhibition is challenging, inspiring and passionate. The works in it celebrate the wonder of the Kermadec ocean wilderness and its connections with the wider Pacific.

Over two weeks Kermadec artists, the Pew Environment Group, and the peoples of Rapa Nui discovered and explored the natural, linguistic and cultural connections that the waters of the Pacific have created. Building on those connections, the peoples of New Zealand and Rapa Nui celebrated the ocean, shared its stories and imagined its future. 

The following visual record is a tribute to our ocean—Mata U’i Moana Nui.

—Jay Nelson, Ernesto Escobar, Bronwen Golder,
The Pew Environment Group