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The Tuamotus or the Tuamotu Archipelago (French: Îles Tuamotu officially Archipel des Tuamotu) are a chain of atolls in French Polynesiamarker and the largest chain of atolls in the world, spanning an area of the Pacific Oceanmarker roughly the size of Western Europe.

Administrative divisions

Map of Tuamotus
The communes on the Tuamotus are: Anaa, Arutua, Fakarava, Fangatau, Gambier, Hao, Hikueru, Makemo, Manihi, Napuka, Nukutavake, Pukapuka, Rangiroa, Reao, Takaroa-takapoto, Tatakoto and Tureia. Administratively, the Tuamotus are part of the Îles Tuamotu-Gambiermarker, which form one of the 5 administrative subdivisions (subdivisions administratives) of French Polynesiamarker, the administrative subdivision of the Tuamotu-Gambier (Islands) (subdivision administrative des (Îles) Tuamotu-Gambier) with 17 communes: The 16 communes Anaa, Arutua, Fakarava, Fangatau, Gambier, Hao, Hikueru, Makemo, Manihi, Napuka, Nukutavake, Pukapuka, Rangiroa, Reao, Takaroa-takapoto, Tatakoto and Tureia of the Tuamotus and the commune Gambier, comprising the Gambier Islandsmarker.

Electoral divisions

Pearl farm in the Tuamotus
The communes on Tuamotu are part of two different districts/electoral circumscriptions (circonscriptions électorales) for the Assembly of French Polynesia (Assemblée de la Polynésie française):

The islands/communes in the eastern part of the Tuamotus, together with the Gambier Islandsmarker (Gambier), form the electoral circumscription of the Gambier Islands and the Islands Tuamotu-Eastmarker (circonscription électorale des Îles Gambier et Tuamotu Est), one of the 6 electoral districts (circonscriptions électorales) for the Assembly of French Polynesia (Assemblée de la Polynésie française) with 12 communes: The commune Gambier on the Gambier Islands and the 11 communes Anaa, Fangatau, Hao, Hikueru, Makemo, Napuka, Nukutavake, Pukapuka, Reao, Tatakoto and Tureia in the eastern part of the Tuamotus.

The islands/communes in the western part of the Tuamotus form the electoral circumscription of the Islands Tuamotu-Westmarker (circonscription électorale des Îles Tuamotu Ouest), a separate electoral district for the Assembly of French Polynesia, with the 5 communes Arutua, Fakarava, Manihi, Rangiroa and Takaroa in the western part of the Tuamotus.

Demography

At the 2002 census, the Tuamotus (including the Gambier Islands) had a population of 15,862 inhabitants. 769 inhabitants live in a radius around Moruroa and Fangataufamarker, the sites of the French nuclear tests. The language spoken in the Tuamotus is Tuamotuan, a collection of Polynesian dialects, except for in Puka-Puka and the Gambier Islands, where Puka-Pukan and Mangarevan are spoken, respectively.
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Economy

Today the most important source of income in the Tuamotus is from the cultivation of black pearls and the preparation of copra. Agriculture in the islands is predominantly subsistence in nature. Tourism-related income remains meager, especially by comparison to the tourism industry of the neighboring Society Islandsmarker. A modest tourism infrastructure is found on the atolls of Rangiroamarker and Manihimarker, two favorite scuba diving and snorkeling destinations.

Geography

Despite the vast spread of the archipelago, it covers a total land area of only about 885 km² ( ). The climate is warm tropical, without pronounced seasons. The annual average temperature is a relatively continuous 26°C (79°F). Water sources such as lakes or rivers are absent, leaving the only source of fresh water as catchments of rain water. The annual average rainfall is 1400 mm (about 55 in). Rainfall is not markedly different throughout the year, although it is lowest during the months of September and November.Geological stability of the archipelago is high, as it was created by the weakly active Easter Fracture Zone. No volcanic eruptions was recorded in the historical time.

Major islands

The group encompasses 78 coral atolls and islands, including:

Island groups

Map of the Acteon Group.
Several of the atolls are grouped together and known by group names:

Acteon Groupmarker (Groupe Actéon)

Disappointment Islandsmarker (Îles du Désappointement)

Duke of Gloucester Islandsmarker (Îles du Duc de Gloucester)

King George Islands (Îles du Roi Georges)

Palliser Islands (Îles Palliser)

Fakarava inner lagoon, seen from a pontoon near the village of Rotoava
Numerous atolls comprising the northwestern Tuamotus, and the island of Makateamarker:


Raeffsky Islandsmarker (Îles Raéffsky)

Numerous atolls in the central Tuamotus, including Tepoto marker


Other islands and atolls in the central area

Other islands and atolls in the north-eastern area

Other atolls in the south-eastern area



The two atolls formerly used for French nuclear testing:

Flora and fauna

The sparse soil of the coral islands does not permit a diverse vegetation. The coconut palm, which forms the basis for copra production, is of special economic importance. On a few islands, vanilla is also cultivated. Agriculture is generally otherwise limited to simple subsistence. Fruit and vegetable staples include yams, taro, and breadfruit, as well as a wide range of other tropical fruits. Pandanus leaves are traditionally woven together as roof thatch (although nowadays there are a great number of corrugated sheet-metal roofs instead), as well as for other items, such as mats and hats. The animal life on the islands is limited to primarily birds (mostly seabirds), insects and lizards. The Tuamotusmarker have only 57 species of birds, but 10 are endemic, including a lorikeet, a kingfisher and several monarch flycatchers and pigeon. 13 species are globally threatened and one is extinct. The underwater fauna however, is diverse. The beautiful and species-rich reefs make the Tuamotus one of the most scenic scuba-diving destinations in the world.

Geology

All of the islands of the Tuamotus are coral "low islands": essentially high sand bars built upon coral reefs. Makateamarker, southwest of the Palliser Islands, is one of three great phosphate rocks in the Pacific Oceanmarker. The others are Banabamarker in Kiribatimarker, and the island nation of Nauru. Although geographically part of the Tuamotus, the Gambier Islands, at the southeastern extreme of the archipelago, are geologically and culturally distinct.

History

The early history of the Tuamotu islands is generally shrouded in mystery. Archaeological findings lead to the conclusion that the western Tuamotus were settled from the Society Islandsmarker by c. 700 A.D. On the islands of Rangiroamarker, Manihimarker and Mataivamarker, there are flat ceremonial platforms (called marae) made of coral blocks, although their exact age is unknown.

The Tuamotus were first discovered by Ferdinand Magellan, during his circumglobal voyage in 1521. His visit was followed by:

None of these visits were of political consequence, the islands being in the sphere of influence of the Pomare dynasty of Tahitimarker. At the beginning of the 18th century the first Christian missionaries arrived. The islands' pearls penetrated the European market in the late 1800s, making them a coveted possession. Following the forced abdication of King Pomare V of Tahitimarker, the islands were annexed as an overseas territory of Francemarker. The Tuamotus made headlines around the world in 1947, when archaeologist Thor Heyerdahl, sailing from South America reached Raroiamarker on his raft, Kon-Tiki. More recently the islands have made headlines for French nuclear weapons testing on the atolls of Mururoa (sometimes called also Moruroa) and Fangataufa.

See also

References

External links







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