Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hoto Iti 3: 7:19PM


It's now 7PM and the day is finished.  What a day it was... The rain kind of blew our plans for the original location we had scouted on Sunday.  Instead, we ended up moving down the valley. This area was flat but regularly invaded by buses and ATV tours for tourists viewing the sets of Lost and other movies.  We found a flat stretch that was off the main road. The Kualoa Ranch folks were kind enough to bring up a backhoe/grader to flatten this stretch by removing the small humps of grass in the center. This part of the valley was a bit drier relative to the upper end due to the lack of an orographic effect. We had a small army of volunteers for the "pulling" jobs and we all huddled underneath a small shelter while small squall blew through. It wasn't long, however, before the crane and then the statue arrived.  The statue showed up on a flatbed truck bearing a monster wooden crate. Huge.

The crane lowered the crate to the ground and the freight moving folks opened up. Holy friggin'-cow. This is a huge statue. Both Terry and I felt sick to our stomachs at the idea of moving this massive monolith. What had we gotten ourselves into? 10,000 lbs?


It was only a bit latter when the statue was lifted up and set on the ground that we realized that we had a serious problem -- the statue would not stand on its own.  Blargh!  The angle of the base is correct and the statue is a direct copy of the digital model I sent.  However, I had to wonder whether or not I had made a mistake somewhere. This was, of course, an eroded statue laying on the road.. and there had clearly been post-falling modifications made to it (cupules on the top of the head, for example).  Perhaps there was material lost on the bottom edge that was critical to the movement -- but now lost? We can't stick anything back on! Or perhaps we scaled something incorrectly. Or we had it all wrong to begin with.  I have to say, my head started to spin with possibilities... all dark and gloomy.

We took a break for lunch and thought about the problem.  There are a couple of scenarios that we could imagine.  First, it is entirely possible that statues that had fallen were somehow modified to make it impossible for anyone else to move them and therefore "cheat" the signal that the statues represent. After all, if you had moved a statue 4 miles and it fell just before you had it on the ahu, you wouldnt want someone to jack your statue and make away with all the effort you put into getting the statue that far... This kind of modification would help ensure the "signal" is honest --- a statue that made it to the ahu would be guaranteed to be transported from the quarry (or be substantially smaller if somehow the material were "reused").

Evaluating this idea requires looking in detail at all the road moai -- if they have some kind of modification that is consistent with prohibiting further transport, then this might be the case.

The only problem, though, is that the modifications that would have been necessary to make this statue lean at a crazy steep angle (20 degrees) did not appear to be some kind of hack-job. Instead the front edge (the part that presents the point at which the center of mass is behind (letting the statue stand) or in front of (causing the statue to fall) is uniformly curved and well shaped.  So if someone removed material, they did so with an eye to preserving the shape of the base).

The second idea - and one I think might be ultimately the case -- is that the statue were made purposely leaning forward beyond the point of vertical stability.  This might seem surprising but from the point of view movement it makes sense that the statue remain in a constant "unstable" state with rope restraints used to hold it back from tipping.  This way, the folks allowing the statue to move forward would simply allow forward movement and not have to "catch" the statue as it transitioned from its stable upright position to a forward falling one.  If the angle of the ropes were correctly positioned it wouldnt take an excessive amount of force to keep the statue tipped back. In fact, the flat nature of the back edge of the base is consistent with this idea -- the flat edge is perfectly shaped to provide a leverage point for the statue to be tilted backwards.  Given that we consistently see this shape, and that the shape is more pronounced on bigger statues (and since they could have made the back base shape in any way they wanted) the back edge goes along with this idea.

We also noted that the difference between standing and falling forward is small - just a single 2x4" piece of lumber is adequate to hold the statue upright  - the difference between vertical stability and falling forward is just a matter of inches. so perhaps... perhaps, the statues in transport were made to be unstable and that stability -- putting it upright for standing was done with a couple of flat stones wedged under the front.  In fact, we find such stones along the roads -- poro stones that are flat that could serve this function.  And the presence of such stones underneath statues (as noted by Heyerdahl during his excavations at the quarry in the 1980s) helps support this notion.

We rigged a rope around the statue's head so that we had an attachment point along the plane of the eyes -- this gave us the maximum leverage to restrain the statue.  The crane operator released the tension on the straps and we had 12 folks pulling back to hold the statue. It worked.  We played a bit with the angles and the pulling to see if we could get the statue to rock and tilt side to side -- this also was successful.  So we might be okay.  In fact, thinking about it I had to remind myself that the prehistoric Rapanui moved this exact statue (or rather a 2x version of this statue) about 3 miles from the quarry before fell. Sure, it might have fallen, but the shape was adequate to get it that far. So in many ways, we need to remember that the shape the statue has is a product of prehistoric Rapanui engineering -- the shape is not from our imagination but theirs -- and they were able to move them.  Our problem is simply figuring out how this might be done given the form of the statues as we see them.

It is certainly easy to forget this point when you are looking at giant 10,000 lb (well, 9,600 lbs according to the crane operator) cement statue towering over one's head.  It is easy to doubt that the shape is "correct" -- but there is really no reason to think that it isn't. Trust in the ancestors.

Tomorrow we will do some rope configuration -- likely we will move the ropes to attach along the upper chest area.  This wide point will provide us leverage to rotate the statue as we tilt it.  We might need more than 2 ropes but that will be our starting point. We can start from there.

It is now.. of course... beverage o'clock.  At times like this, I find a bit of Bombay and Tonic to be quite efficacious.

Hotu Iti 2: 10AM

The weather is pretty rainy. Its now 10AM and and everyone is struggling to get things set up. Mata'u is desperately trying to construct an umu -- digging a hole and finding rocks. Of course, the rain is filling the hole and it is unlikely to hold a fire hot enough to cook chicken.  Raw chicken, blargh. As Mike Pfeffer once said "the short-lived life of the chicken sashimi chef..."


Hoto Iti

Kualoa Ranch

We arrived. It's a rainy, misty day.  The clouds are low and sweep past the rugged volcanic cliffs that make up the valley walls. Someone left the gate open last night so the area we are supposed to use has a herd of moo-ing cows.  Our rope "pullers" from UH, the local Navy base and elsewhere are showing up sporadically  The crew has set up a tent for the group of pullers - craft services and what not.  The rain, though, is coming down sideways so the tent is barely a shelter.  A typical scene of chaos, really.

The schedule for today is supposed to go something like this:

8:00am Arrive at Kualoa Ranch (Crew, Terry, Carl)

9:00am EMT, Volunteers arrive

10:00am SHOOT: Test walking with Pullers, Carl, Terry

11:00am Hotu Iti arrives at site

Crane arrives at site

Blessers arrive, SHUTTLE to site

11:30am Unloading of Hotu Iti

SHOOT: Unload and Blessing Ceremony at site

1:00pm LUNCH

2:30pm SHOOT: Test walking with Hotu Iti

3:30pm SHOOT: Re-group for Hero walk

4:00pm SHOOT: Hero walk

6:00pm END DAY 1

Wheels up for hotel… (Possible Sunset B-roll)

The first part of the day is dedicated to getting the folks who are going to be pulling the ropes to move the statue up to speed about about how we believe the statues were moved. We also need them to be able to work as teams. So we will get them doing some tug-of-war exercises that will lead to some practice events. First, we will get them to simply work as independent teams - tugging against each other in typical tug-of-war fashion. Then we will have them work on pulling and coordinating their efforts -- getting the center of the rope to move in different directions.  Once those tasks seem easy, we have a large 10' log that we will stand upright.  The ropes will be tied to the log and we will have the teams attempt to lean the logs in different directions (left, right, forward,back) to simulate the coordination required to tilt the statue.  This should give them some idea of what is required to work as a united whole and as separate groups. Or at least, that is the hope.

The statue - Hotu Iti - is scheduled to arrive @ 11AM.  I havent seen it yet -- While I have footage of the mold being carved back at Janicki in Sedro Wooley, I have yet to see the finished concrete product.  As I understand it, the statue was placed in a crate that was then put in a container. The container was put aboard a cargo ship and sailed to Honolulu where it has been sitting since arriving last week.  Today a truck will bring it to the film location along with a crane to extricate Hoto Iti from the container/box.  It must be a fairly large crane as the statue weighs nearly 12,000 lbs.  That is about the weight of 4 average sedan type cars.  Blargh. Fortunately we have an EMIT on site.

There are some blessings to take place - Rapa Nui and Hawaiian.  Sergio/Mata'u is going to construct an umu to do a traditional ceremony that precedes most Rapanui events.  I saw him digging the hole down by the road stretch we hope to move the statue along.  Physics aside, we need, I suppose, all the good fortune we can get - so bring on the blessings.

We are planning two kinds of "walks" today. First, we will work with the statue while it is still attached to the crane. I'm not sure exactly how we will attach the rope but somehow we will make sure that the statue can move yet not fall over. This will allow us to let evaluate how far we can tilt the statue before it hits it's tipping point.  While I have models to show us what we believe will be the point, these are based on assumptions of homogeneity of the material.  I'd like to actual view the tipping points for the statue so that we can visually assess the angles that are required for moving. Without doing so, I suspect we will be overly conservative and not let the statue tip far enough.  Given the mass of Hoto Iti, it would be easy to be scared of it falling.

If we can get that worked out we will do some "walking" tests with the crane rope attached. Once we get the "hang" of it, we will then remove the crane rope and do what Mata'u calls the "Hero walk."  I guess we will be heroes if we can make that happen -- compressing generations of Rapanui experimentation into a few short hours. Whoohooo!



The Plan for Hoto Iti: The statue that walks

Today is the big day.  The statue will walk (or it won't).  We head out to Kualoa Ranch momentarily.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Hoto Iti: The Statue That Walks

NewImageI left Long Beach on Saturday for Honolulu and the site of our Hoto Iti moving attempt.  This next phase of the NOVA filming will, hopefully, demonstrate how an actual moai can be moved in a standing position using its own distribution of mass and shape to facilitate its "walking."  Earlier this spring I created a 3D model of a "road" moai (i.e., one that was abandoned after falling during transport) that was then used by Janicki Industries in Sedro Wooley, Washington to fabricate a mold that was then used to create a 5-ton 10-foot tall cement replica.  This was then shipped to Honolulu on a container ship and now rests at the port of Honolulu.

Committee Films (the production company) has arranged to have Hoto Iti brought to Kualoa Ranch.  Kualoa Ranch is an enormous chunk of Oahu located out the northeast side of the island.  It's a stunning valley with massive cliffs and the classic "Polynesian-style" spire top mountains associated with young volcanic landscapes. The ranch is about 4,000 acres and was historically used for sugar cane cultivation (and prehistorically there were fishponds, terraces and pond-fields up in the upper part of the valley).  The ranch seems to be largely used for filming these days -- Jurassic Park, 50 first dates, Godzilla, Mighty Joe Young, Windtalkers, Pearl Harbor, Lost, Stargate Atlantis and, of course, Hawaii 5-O (and more) were all filmed there. So it seems oddly familiar.

We all (the Committee Film folks - Maria, Andy, Ben, Bo, Matu'a, Meghan and Terry, Marc and Hotu the dog) met at the Ranch on Sunday afternoon to "scout" out the location. Earlier this spring Terry and Alex Morrison had measured some of the slope features of the road that stretches along the valley floor to find a suitable stretch that might work for our statue movement attempt.  We need some place that has slopes that are no steeper than 3 degrees going uphill and 6 degrees going downhill. These slope constraints are based on measurements of actual moai roads on Rapa Nui -- the south coast road stretch has such parameters.



We found what looks like a suitable place in the upper part of the valley, below the location of what we think is the "Stargate Atlantis" set.  Its a fairly flat stretch that has enough space on the sides of the road for the team of rope pullers to work. It also appears to be accessible for the giant truck and crane that will carry Hotu Iti to the location.   There are some undulations in the road and of course the notion of moving a giant 5 ton statue across this surface will be complex.

I have to admit that the movement attempt fills me with more than a little bit of anxiety.  Will it fall over and break into 10 pieces? will it just sit there as we pull on the ropes?  Can we figure out generations of learned information in just a few short days? I guess we will see!