The Austral Islands (French: Îles Australes, officially Archipel des Australes; Tahitian: Tuha'a Pae) are the southernmost group of islands in French Polynesia, an overseas country of the French Republic in the South Pacific. Geographically, they consist of two separate archipelagos, namely in the northwest the Tupua'i islands (French: Îles Tubuaï) consisting of the Îles Maria, Rimatara, Rūrutu, Tupua'i Island proper and Ra'ivāvae, and in the southeast the Bass Islands (French: Îles basses) composed of the main island of Rapa Iti and the small Marotiri (also known as Bass Rocks or Îlots de Bass). Inhabitants of the islands are known for their pandanus fiber weaving skills. The islands of Maria and Marotiri are not suitable for sustained habitation. Several of the islands have uninhabited islets or rocks off their coastlines. Austral Islands' population is 6,965 on almost 150 km2 (58 sq mi). The capital of the Austral Islands administrative subdivision is Tupua'i.
|Native name: |
Îles Australes (French) / Tuha'a Pae (Tahitian)
|Major islands||Tupua'i, Rūrutu, Ra'ivāvae, Rapa Iti|
|Area||152 km2 (59 sq mi)|
|Highest elevation||650 m (2,130 ft)|
|Highest point||Mont Perau|
|Largest settlement||Rūrutu (pop. 2,466)|
|Pop. density||43 /km2 (111 /sq mi)|
|Languages||French language, Tahitian, Rapa, Polynesian languages|
Whaling vessels were among the earliest and most consistent visitors to the islands in the 19th century. The first such vessel for which a record exists is the New Hazard in 1813. These ships came for fresh drinking water, firewood and food provisions. Sometimes they also took aboard islanders to serve as crewmen on their ships.
The Tuha'a Pae or Austral Islands (French: Îles Australes or Archipel des Australes) are the southernmost group of islands in French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity of France in the South Pacific. Geographically, the Austral Islands consist of two separate archipelagos. From northwest to southeast they are:
The islands of Maria and Marotiri are not suitable for sustained habitation. Several of the islands have uninhabited islets or rocks off their coastlines.
In administrative terms, the Austral Islands (including the Bass Islands) constitute an administrative subdivision, the Tuha'a Pae or Austral Islands (subdivision administrative des (Îles) Australes), one of French Polynesia's five administrative subdivisions (subdivision administratives). Geographically, the administrative subdivision of the Austral Islands is identical with the constituency of the Austral Islands (circonscription des Îles Australes), one of French Polynesia's six constituencies (circonscriptions électorales) for the Assembly of French Polynesia.
The capital of the Austral Islands administrative subdivision is Tupua'i.
Austral means southern, often in reference to the Southern Hemisphere.
Austral may also refer to:
Austral Líneas Aéreas, an Argentine airline
Air Austral, an airline based in Réunion
Austral (bus manufacturer), a defunct Australian bus body manufacturerSchools:
Austral University (Argentina)
Universidad Austral de Chile, a Chilean traditional universityEvents:
Austral Wheel Race, the world's oldest track bicycle race, held in Victoria, Australia
Australasian Intervarsity Debating Championships, a collegiate debating tournament also known as the "Australs"Places:
Austral, New South Wales, a suburb of Sydney, Australia
Austral Islands, the southernmost group of islands in French PolynesiaOther uses:
Austral language, the language of the Austral Islands
Argentine austral, a former currency of Argentina
Austral plan, an economic plan in Argentina
Austral (automobile), a French automobile manufactured in 1907
L'Austral, a cruise ship
Austral (1881), a passenger ship that sank in 1882 near Sydney, AustraliaAustral language
Austral (Reo Tuha'a pae) is an endangered Polynesian language that is spoken by approximately 8,000 people (1987). It is spoken only on the Austral Islands and the Society Islands of French Polynesia. The language is also referred to as Tubuai-Rurutu, Tubuai, Rurutu-Tupuai, or Tupuai. In structure, it is similarly compared to Tahitian.Bass Islands (French Polynesia)
The Bass Islands (French: Îles (de) Bass or Îlots (de) Bass) consist primarily of Rapa Iti (27°35′00″S 144°20′00″W) and Marotiri (27°55′00″S 143°26′00″W). They are usually considered to be the southernmost of the Austral Islands, although this classification is more one of geographic and political expediency than because of similarities between them and the rest of the Austral Islands. The Bass Islands, lying several degrees outside the tropics, are the southernmost islands in French Polynesia.
Geologically, the Bass Islands are distinguished from the Austral Islands in that their vulcanism appears to be much more recent.
Culturally, the Bass Islands appear to have been colonized about the same time as Tahiti and the Marquesas, and the culture and language (Rapan) appear to have diverged about the same time as well, indicating that they developed in relative isolation almost from the time of first settlement.
Rapa, sometimes called Rapa Iti (Little Rapa, to distinguish it from "Rapa Nui" (Big Rapa), a name for Easter Island), is the largest and only inhabited island of the Bass Islands. An older name for the island is Oparo. Its area is 38.5 km2 with a population of 530 and a max elevation of 650 m. Its main town is Ahuréi.
Marotiri is a group of four uninhabited volcanic rocks protruding from the sea (and several submerged rocks), forming the southeastern end of the Austral Islands of French Polynesia. Marotiri is also known as Bass Rocks (Îlots de Bass in French), maybe according to the name of the European explorer George Bass. Marotiri is very isolated, located at 27°55′00″S 143°26′00″W, about 725 miles (1,167 km) west-south-westward of Pitcairn Island. The closest island is Rapa Iti, 75 km further northwest, but separated from it by an ocean depth of more than 1,500 meters. The rocks are part of the municipality of Rapa and uninhabitable by people. They form an important bird sanctuary.Flag of French Polynesia
The flag of French Polynesia is the civil and state flag of the French overseas country French Polynesia. It was adopted in 1984.Flag of the Austral Islands
The Flag of the Austral Islands is the flag of the Austral Islands of French Polynesia in the Pacific Ocean administered by France.Macdonald hotspot
The Macdonald hotspot is a volcanic hotspot in the southern Pacific Ocean. The hotspot was responsible for the formation of the Macdonald Seamount, and possibly the Austral-Cook Islands chain. It probably did not generate all of the volcanism in the Austral and Cook Islands as age data imply that several additional hotspots were needed to generate some volcanoes.
In addition to the volcanoes in the Austral Islands and Cook Islands, Tokelau, the Gilbert Islands, the Phoenix Islands and several of the Marshall Islands as well as several seamounts in the Marshall Islands may have been formed by the Macdonald hotspot.Maria Est
Maria Atoll is an uninhabited small atoll of the Tuamotu group in French Polynesia. It is located in the far southeast of the archipelago, about 72 km (45 mi) southwest from Marutea Sud. Maria's closest neighbour is the small atoll of Matureivavao of the Acteon Group, 56 km (35 mi) to the northwest.
Maria Atoll is oval in shape and bound by a continuous reef. It is 5.6 km long and 2.9 km wide. Its islands are low and flat and the lagoon is hypersaline.
This atoll is mostly called "Maria Est" in order to avoid confusion with another small atoll called Maria (Nororotu) in the Tubuai (Austral Islands) division of French Polynesia.Marotiri
Marotiri is a group of four uninhabited volcanic rocks protruding from the sea (and several submerged rocks), forming the southeastern end of the Austral Islands of French Polynesia. Marotiri is also known as Bass Rocks (Îlots de Bass in French), maybe according to the name of the European explorer George Bass. Marotiri is very isolated, located about 1,167 km (725 mi) west-south-westward of Pitcairn Island. The closest island is Rapa Iti, 75 km farther northwest, but separated from it by an ocean depth of more than 1,500 meters. The rocks are part of the municipality of Rapa.
The climate is wet temperate. The lower rocks are almost devoid of vegetation - although there is some vegetation on the upper slopes and summits. They are important as a seabird rookery. Fish abound in the adjacent waters. The rocks emerge from a submarine platform 100 meters deep and 5 km in diameter. They lie at a distance between 1.5 and 3 km from one another. The total land area is 43,100 m², which is broken down as follows by the individual rocks:
The southern rock is the largest, with a height of 113 meters at its highest point.Music of the Austral Islands
The Austral Islands are part of the territory of French Polynesia. The music of the islands is similar to the music of other Polynesian islands. The largest of the Austral Islands is Tubuai, which is known for its ancient, atonal singing style, said to be the purest representation of pre-contact Polynesian music in French Polynesia.The Encyclopædia Britannica has reported a carving, found on Raivavae, which depicts dancers alternating with rows of crescents, sometimes said to represent the distinctive skirts of the dancers. This carving style is used on traditional drums, as well as on houses and tapa.Raivavae
Raivavae is one of the Austral Islands in French Polynesia. Its total land area including offshore islets is 17.9 km2 (6.9 sq mi). At the 2017 census it had a population of 903. The island is of volcanic origin, and rises to 437 metres (1,434 ft) elevation at Mont Hiro.Rapa Iti
Rapa, sometimes called Rapa Iti (Little Rapa, to distinguish it from "Rapa Nui" (Big Rapa), a name for Easter Island), is the largest and only inhabited island of the Bass Islands in French Polynesia. An older name for the island is Oparo. The total land area including offshore islets is 40.5 km2 (15.6 sq mi). At the 2017 census it had a population of 507. The island rises to 650 metres (2,130 ft) elevation at Mont Perahu. Its main town is Ahuréi.Rapa shearwater
The Rapa shearwater (Puffinus myrtae), is a rare seabird of the tropics from the family Procellariidae. It breeds on the surrounding islets of Rapa in the Austral Islands of French Polynesia where it is known locally as the kaki kaki.Its relationship is confusing. Its closest relatives are probably, but not certainly, the Hawaiian shearwater (Puffinus newelli) and possibly the little shearwater (Puffinus assimilis). It used to be included in the former as a subspecies and was long considered a subspecies of the latter.
Not much is known about its decline. It most likely once occurred on Rapa itself, though this population has been extirpated by the polynesian rat, feral goats, and feral cats.Rimatara
Rimatara is the westernmost inhabited island in the Austral Islands of French Polynesia. It is located 550 km (340 mi) south of Tahiti and 150 km (93 mi) west of Rurutu. The land area of Rimatara is 8.6 km2 (3.3 sq mi), and that of the Maria islets is 1.3 km2 (0.50 sq mi). Its highest point is 106 m (348 ft). Its population was 872 at the 2017 census.Rimatara is a circular volcanic plateau surrounded by a reef with a height of 8 to 10 meters (26 to 32 feet). The main villages are Amaru (the capital), Anapoto and Mutuaura.
Rimatara was one of the last Polynesia islands to receive European visitors. Captain Samuel Pinder Henry discovered the island in 1811. Two Tahitian missionaries from Bora Bora arrived in 1822 and established a Protestant mission. France established a protectorate in 1889 and annexed Rimatara in 1901.Rurutu
Rurutu is the northernmost island in the Austral archipelago of French Polynesia, and the name of a commune consisting solely of that island. It is situated 572 km (355 mi) south of Tahiti. Its land area is 32.7 km2 (12.6 sq mi). It is 10.8 km long and 5.3 km wide. Its highest point (Manureva) is 389 m (1,276 ft). At the 2017 census it had a population of 2,466.Geologically, Rurutu was initially formed 12 million years ago by the Macdonald hotspot, a hotspot associated with the Macdonald seamount. Over the next 10 million years, erosion shrank the island until it was almost an atoll. Then, just over a million years ago, Rurutu passed over the Arago hotspot, which lifted it roughly 150 meters. Steep sea cliffs of ancient coral lifted by the event — called makatea — now largely encircle the island. These are riddled with caves filled with concretions — indeed, Rurutu is largely unique among islands in French Polynesia in that its historic inhabitants were cave-dwelling.
Because it is endowed with a fringing reef, Rurutu has in recent years become known for whale watching: Humpback whales come and reproduce here between July and October within easy sighting distance from the beach.
Although its tiny community still subsists primarily on fishing and basic agriculture, tourism has been a growing industry, especially since François Mitterrand's visit in 1990. Whale watching season sees the bulk of tourists, but the largely untouched native culture, the white sand beaches, and the lush tropical flora draw small numbers of tourists year-round.Tamaeva IV
Tamaeva IV (died 1892) was the reigning queen of the Polynesian island of Rimatara who ruled from 1876 until her death in 1892. French sources refer to her as Temaeva, and one Australian newspaper called her Te Maere, while her tombstone in Rimatara gives her name as Tamaeva.Tamaeva V
Tamaeva V or Temaeva V, formally Heimataura Tamatoa Tamaeva V (c. 1830–1923), was the Arii vahine no Rimatara or queen of the island kingdom of Rimatara from 1892 to 1901. Her reign came to an end with the formal annexation of Rimatara (the independent Austral Islands) to France. She was responsible for saving the Rimatara lorikeet (Vini kuhlii) from extinction during the early 20th century.Teuruarii IV
Teuruarii IV, born Epatiana a Teuruarii (c. 1879 – 1933), was the last King of Rurutu, an island within the larger Austral Islands archipelago, who ruled from around 1886 until the annexation of the island to France in 1900. Proclaimed king upon his father's abdication while still a child, his mother ruled as regent. During this regency the Church of Moerari was consecrated and the death penalty was abolished.
Teuruarii's reign was disrupted by ongoing French expansionism in the Pacific. Teuruarii entreated the British to place Rurutu under a British protectorate, which the islanders deemed more favorable due to their predominant adherence to Protestantism. These efforts failed and Rurutu was proclaimed a protectorate of the French Third Republic on 27 March 1889. Teuruarii was allowed to continue ruling as king until the annexation of the island to the territory of French Oceania in 1900, today part of the overseas country of French Polynesia. Living out the remainder of his life as a village chief, Teuruarii left many descendants who would have a strong influence in the islands to the modern day.Tubuai
Tubuai or Tupua'i is the main island of the Tubuai Island group, located at 23°23′00″S 149°27′00″W, 640 km (400 mi) south of Tahiti. In addition to Tubuai, the group of islands include Rimatara, Rurutu, Raivavae and the uninhabited Îles Maria. They are part of the Austral Islands in the far southwest of French Polynesia in the south Pacific Ocean. Tubuai island sustains a population of 2,217 people on 45 km² of land. Due to its southerly position, Tubuai has notably cooler weather than Tahiti.The island is ringed by a lagoon formed by an encircling coral reef. A break in the reef that enables passage for ships is located on the north side of the island. Tubuai has two volcanic domes, with its highest point, Mt Taita'a, being 422 meters. Six or seven islets called motus lie along the reef rim that encircles the island. These were described in the late 1700s as having an abundance of Toa trees, which the native islanders used in housebuilding and in making war clubs and spears due to the wood's density.Îles Maria
Îles Maria or simply Maria, also known as Hull Island, is a small coral atoll in the Pacific Ocean. Its original name is Nororotu. The nearest island is Rimatara situated 205 kilometres (127 miles) to the ESE.
The atoll consists of four islets (îles), with a dense atoll forest and a very shallow lagoon, supporting numerous bird species. The atoll is uninhabited now, but at one time was the site of a penal colony. Copra is occasionally harvested at the island.The four islands are:
Île du Sud
Île de l' Ouest
Île du NordêtThe Îles Maria should not be confused with Maria Atoll in the Gambier Islands, also in French Polynesia, which is sometimes differentiated with the name "Maria Est" (East). There is also another island once known as Hull Island in the Phoenix Islands, which is now known as Orona.
Austral Islands of French Polynesia