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The coast is formed by soft, eroded, ashy cliffs, with a vertical drop of about 500 to 1,000 feet; the cliffs are intercepted by long stretches of low, hard, and rugged lava formations.There is no natural harbour, but anchorage is found off Hanga Roa on the west coast; off Vinapu and Hotu-Iti on the south coast; and off Anakena and in the Bahía la Perouse on the north coast.The original Rapa Nui vocabulary has been lost except for some mixed Polynesian and non-Polynesian words recorded before the Tahitian dialect was introduced to the decimated population by missionaries in 1864. In their traditions, the islanders consistently divide themselves into descendants of two distinct ethnic groups, the “Long-Ears” and the “Short-Ears” (see below).Intermarriage is common, and an influx of foreign blood has become increasingly dominant in recent years.Sheep were especially numerous for almost a century after foreign ranchers began commercial ranching in 1870; sheep ranching came to an end in the mid-1980s, but cattle ranching was enhanced.A large wild cat, living in caves, is of unknown introduction.Notable among the few small offshore islets are Motu-Nui, Motu-Iti, and Motu-Kaokao (which figured in a local bird cult) near the southwest cape.The only true sand beach is at Anakena; most other beaches are of gravel.
Grass and small ferns dominate the barren landscape, whereas the boggy crater lakes are thickly covered by two imported American species, the totora reed (an important building material) and (a medicinal plant).Vast quantities of flies, large cockroaches, and a small scorpion were introduced recently.A small, long-legged chicken reported to have laid blue eggs was introduced in pre-European times but later interbred with European varieties.One intermittent stream, fed by the Rano Aroi crater lake, flows down Mount Terevaka’s slopes before disappearing into the porous soil.Water from the extremely deep crater of Rano Kao, which is about 3,000 feet wide, is piped to Hanga Roa.
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Rapa Nui, Chilean dependency in the eastern Pacific Ocean, the easternmost outpost of the Polynesian island world. The island stands in isolation 1,200 miles (1,900 kilometres) east of Pitcairn Island and 2,200 miles west of Chile.