Archaeology & History
How did the Easter Islanders drink seawater ?
By T.K. Randall
October 3, 2021 · 9 comments
The islanders found a novel source of drinking water. Image Credit: CC BY 2.5 Honey Hooper
Researchers have taken a fresh look at how the island's inhabitants drank water directly out of the ocean.
One of the mysteries that met the first Europeans to reach the enigmatic Easter Island was how its inhabitants were able to drink water straight out of the sea.
Normally seawater is not fit for human consumption, but in this case it seemed that some of the water situated around the island's coastline contained very little salt and could be drunk directly.
It was later discovered that this was made possible by 'coastal seeps' - which happen when rainwater sinks down through the porous bedrock of the island and into an underground aquifer.
Small pockets of freshwater then trickle down to the sea and are deposited in the ocean.
Now using drones and modern thermal imaging technology, researchers from Binghamton University in New York have been able to locate these freshwater pockets of coastal seep, enabling a much greater understanding of the processes involved.
"It's somewhat salty, but not unpalatably salty," said study leader Robert DiNapoli.
"It's just not the best-tasting water, basically."
For the early inhabitants of Easter Island, these freshwater pockets would have served as a lifeline at times when the island's only bodies of drinking water dried up in the summer months.
"They were faced with a very difficult place to live, and they came up with these interesting strategies for survival," said DiNapoli.
Without this phenomenon, in fact, it might not have been possible for anyone to live there at all.
Source: Euro News
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