The fifteen colossal moai lined up on AHU TONGARIKI make a sensational sight. This was the largest number of moai ever erected on a single ahu, which, at 200m long, was the largest built on the island. It was totally destroyed in 1960 when a massive tsunami, triggered by an earthquake in Chile, swept across this corner of the island, dragging the platform blocks and the statues 90m inland – a remarkable distance, given that the statues weigh up to 30 tonnes each.
In November 1988, Sergio Rapu, a former Governor of Easter Island, was being interviewed for a Japanese television programme, and said that if they had a crane they could save the moai; a Japanese man watching the show decided to act and a committee was set up in Japan. The restoration of the ahu involved Chilean archeologists Claudio Cristino and Patricia Vargas, a group of forty islanders, specialists from the Nara Institute of Japan and recognized international experts in stone conservation. The project took five years and was finally completed in 1995.