Marquesas Islands

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Marquesas Islands

(märkā`säs), volcanic group (2002 pop. 8,712), South Pacific, a part of French PolynesiaFrench Polynesia,
officially Overseas Lands of French Polynesia, internally self-governing dependency (2002 pop. 245,516) of France, consisting of 118 islands in the South Pacific. The capital is Papeete, on Tahiti.
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. There are 12 islands in the group, which lies c.930 mi (1,500 km) NE of Tahiti. The largest island is Nuku HivaNuku Hiva
, volcanic island, 127 sq mi (329 sq km), South Pacific, largest of the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia. The island is fertile, with well-watered valleys; its highest point is c.4,000 ft (1,220 m).
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, the seat of the capital, Taiohae; the second largest, Hiva OaHiva Oa
, volcanic island, 154 sq mi (399 sq km), South Pacific, second largest and the most important of the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia. Hiva Oa is the seat of Atuona, former capital of the Marquesas. The Bay of Traitors, protected by ridges c.
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, is the site of AtuonaAtuona
or Atuana
, town, in the Marquesas Islands, South Pacific, in French Polynesia. Situated on the southern coast of the island of Hiva Oa, Atuona overlooks the Bay of Traitors. Gauguin lived in Atuona Valley and is buried there.
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, the former capital. The Marquesas, famous for their rugged beauty, are fertile and mountainous, rising to 3,904 ft (1,190 m) on Hiva Oa. There are breadfruit, pandanus, and coconut trees; the limited fauna includes wild cattle and hogs. The chief exports are copra, tobacco, cotton, and vanilla. Taiohae Bay, on Nuka Hiva, and the Bay of Traitors, on Hiva Oa, are the major harbors.

The islands are divided into two groups. The southern cluster (sometimes called the Mendaña Islands), including Fatu Huku, Hiva Oa, Tahuata, Mohotani, and Fatu Hiva, was visted in 1595 by the Spanish navigator Alvaro de Mendaña de Neira; the northern group (sometimes called the Washington Islands), including Hatutu, Eiao, Motu Iti, Nuku Hiva, Ua Huku, Ua Pou, and Motu One, was visited in 1791 by the American navigator Captain Joseph Ingraham. In 1813, Commodore David Porter claimed Nuku Hiva for the United States, naming it Madison Island, but the U.S. Congress never ratified the claim.

France took possession of the islands in 1842 and established a settlement on Nuku Hiva, which was abandoned in 1859. In 1870 the French administration over the Marquesas was reinstated. Of all the Polynesian peoples, the Marquesans suffered the greatest decline from the spread of European diseases; in the 1850s they numbered some 20,000, about three times the present population. The islands are the setting for Herman Melville's novel Typee.

Marquesas Islands

 

an archipelago in the central part of the Pacific Ocean, in French Polynesia (an overseas territory). Area, 1,274 sq km. Population, 5,600 (1971), consisting of Polynesians. The administrative center is Taiohae. The largest islands are Nuku Hiva and Hiva Oa, which are of volcanic origin and are composed of basalts and tuffs. Elevation, to 1,259 m.

The climate is the healthiest in Polynesia. Average monthly temperatures never fall below 22°C; annual precipitation varies from 1,000 mm and less on the leeward slopes to 2,500 mm on the windward slopes. The humid windward slopes are covered with tropical forest, the leeward slopes with shrub savanna. There are coconut palm, cotton, banana, and coffee plantations. Fishing (eel) and pearl fishing are engaged in. Copra, coffee, vanilla, mother-of-pearl, and phosphates are exported. The Marquesas Islands are a tourist site. They were discovered in 1595 by the Spanish navigator A. de Mendaña de Neira and were named in honor of the Peruvian viceroy the Marquesa de Mendoza.

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