Te Pito Te Henua, or Easter Island, by William J. Thompson, , at sacred-texts.com
Sunday, December 19.--Made an early start from Vaihu and rode to the central elevations called Mount Teraai, Mount Punapau, and Mount Tuatapu and inspected the quarries from whence the rod tufa was obtained which formed the crowns or head-dresses that ornamented all the huge images. Following the road to the southwest we made the ascent of Rana Kao. The crater is nearly circular and about a mile in diameter (Plate XVII), with steep jagged sides, or walls, except on the south, where the lava-flow escaped to the sea. A lake fills the bottom of what was once the volcanic caldron; the water is of great depth and the surface covered with a coat of peat, so dense and strong that cattle range over it, finding food at irregular intervals. The surface of the lake is about 700 feet from the top, but the cattle have made a path by which the decent can be made with safety.
Skirting the edge of the crater to the southward the ridge becomes narrower, falling precipitously a thousand feet, to the sea on one side, and descending abruptly into the crater on the other until it terminates in an elongated wall of rock rising to a sharp, jagged edge impassable to either man or beast. Just where this elevated edge contracts rapidly towards the south are located the ancient stone-houses of Orongo. (Plate XVIII). These burrow-like dwellings were built with little regard to streets, avenues, etc., but were regulated by the contour of the land. Piles of débris in one or two spots marked the destroying hand of former investigators, but the large majority of the houses were intact, and in some instances the openings had been sealed up with stone, making it difficult to outline the original entrances. These dwellings were constructed without windows or other openings except a door-way so low and narrow that an entrance could only be effected by crawling upon the hand and knees, while in many cases it was necessary to creep serpent-like through the contracted confines. Many interiors were inspected by the light of candles provided for the purpose and houses marked for thorough investigation on the morrow.
While, tracing and sketching the sculptured rocks in the vicinity of Orongo, the declining sun hastened the departure for Vaihu, where the hours after our evening meal were devoted to making notes of the native traditions as translated by Mr. Salmon, until that good-natured gentle
man could be kept awake no longer. It had been proposed that we should occupy one of the ancient stone houses for the night, in order to be near the scene of operations planned for the next day, but they were damp and ill-smelling and the work accomplished on the traditions more than repaid the time lost in recrossing the island.