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The Leeward Islands ( ; , literally "Islands Under-the-Wind") are part of the Society Islandsmarker in French Polynesiamarker, an overseas collectivity of Francemarker in the South Pacific.


The archipelago comprises an administrative division ( ) of French Polynesia. The capital of the Leeward Islands administrative subdivision is Uturoa. The Leeward Islands (subdivision administrative des Îles Sous-le-vent) are one of French Polynesiamarker's five administrative subdivisions. The administrative subdivision is identical with the electoral district of the Leeward Islands, one of French Polynesiamarker's 6 electoral districts for the Assembly of French Polynesia (see also Politics of French Polynesia).


The first European to encounter the archipelago was James Cook on the 12th of April 1769 during the British expedition to observe the transit of Venus. On this first voyage (he subsequently revisited the islands twice) he named the Leeward group of islands Society in honor of the Royal Society. The islands were annexed by France and became a colony in 1888 (eight years after the Windward Islandsmarker) after many troubles lasting until 1897.


The islands are mountainous, and are good examples of volcanic rock. They are formed of trachyte, dolerite and basalt. There are raised coral beds high up the mountains, and lava occurs in a variety of forms, even in solid flows. Volcanic activity ceased so long ago that the craters have been almost entirely obliterated by erosion.

Flora and Fauna

Flora includes breadfruit, pandanus, and coconut palms. The limited terrestrial fauna includes feral pigs, rats, and small lizards. There are several species of freshwater fish inhabiting the small streams on the islands, but the fringing coral reefs around the islands exhibit a dazzling array of fish and other salt water-dwelling species. The major products are copra, sugar, rum, mother-of-pearl, and vanilla.


Tourism is extremely important to the economy.

The islands include

Topographic map of the Leeward Islands
  • Raiatea (largest island of the group); Tahitian names : Hava'i, Ioretea
  • Huahinemarker which at high tide is divided into two islands, Huahine Nui ("big Huahine") to the north and Huahine Iti ("small Huahine") to the south; Tahitian name : Mata'irea
  • Tahaamarker; Tahitian name : Uporu
  • Bora Boramarker; Tahitian name : Vava'u
  • Tupaimarker
  • Maupitimarker; Tahitian name : Maurua
  • Manuaemarker (aka Scilly Atoll)
  • Maupihaamarker (aka Mopelia)
  • Motu Onemarker (aka Bellinghausen)


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