Traveling on the ship The Gauguin in the French Polynesia
A Film by Christian Reverchon
Bora Bora – Huahine – Papeete
Tahiti and its islands cover four million square kilometers of ocean which is the same area as the European Union. However the land above sea level accounts for only some 7,000 square kilometres consisting of 118 islands, grouped into five archipelagoes (4 volcanic, 1 coral).
The Polynesians inhabited these islands for several hundred years before their discovery by western explorers. Several marae (religious sites) still exist, scattered throughout the islands as evidence of this inhabitation.
The British discovered Tahiti in the mid 1760’s and Captain Cook visited there in 1769 to observe the Transit of Venus before sailing on to the south and west in search of the fabled Terra Australus Incognita with the assistance of a Polynesian navigator.
The French annexed various Polynesian island groups during the 19th century.
During the 1960’s and 1970’s, the French conducted atmospheric nuclear tests in the islands, primarily at Mururoa atoll. Testing later moved underground after international protests from other Pacific countries, including a flotilla of yachts and a warship from New Zealand to monitor tests in 1974. Testing continued into the early 1990’s, despite attempts to disrupt them by environmental activists. In September 1995, France stirred up widespread protests by resuming nuclear testing on the Mururoa atoll after a three-year moratorium. The tests were suspended in January 1996.
In recent years the islanders have been working towards autonomy and economic independence from France. However, the process is a gradual one and is expected to take a decade or two to occur.
Most-inhabited western island group, a group of high tropical islands encircled by coral reefs and lagoons (divided administratively into Windward Islands and Leeward Islands). Among the Leeward Islands Bora Bora is outstanding, Huahine, Maupiti and Raiatea are especially remarkable, in the Windward Islands Moorea is outstanding and Tahiti with the capital Papeete is especially remarkable.
Vast central archipelago of coral reefs. It is a collection of low islands or atolls. Rangiroa is outstanding.
Northeastern archipelago, a group of high islands near the equator, whose steep mountains are inhabited by wild horses, goats and pigs. Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa are outstanding.
To the south-east, rarely visited, consisting of the high island of Mangareva and its fringe of islands which are the eroded remains of its former gigantic crater, is situated in the far eastern corner of French Polynesia.
Small southern archipelagos (includes Tubuai Islands and Bass Islands). Last inhabited islands of the South Pacific, these ancient volcanoes with soft relief are far off the beaten track.