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Tubai Islands

French Polynesia is a collection of 118 islands covering a vast area of the southeastern Pacific Ocean and divided into five scattered archipelagos: Society Islands, Marquesas Islands, Tuamotu ArchipelagoGambier Islands, and the Tubuai Islands. The capital is Papeete, Tahiti (Society Islands). The larger islands are volcanic with fertile soil and dense vegetation. The more numerous coral islands are low lying. The climate is tropical. Missionaries arrived in Tahiti at the end of the 18th century, and in the 1840s France began establishing protectorates. In 1880–82, France annexed the islands and they became part of its colony of Oceania.

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1891, South Pacific Islands

Also included are American Samoa, the Cook Islands, Niue, Pitcairn (famous for the Mutiny on the British ship HMS Bounty), SamoaTonga and Tuvalu.

Volcanic in origin, the islands are part of a vast submerged mountain chain, probably a southeasterly extension of the Cook Islands (New Zealand). Scattered over an area some 800 miles (1,300 km) long, they comprise five inhabited islands—Raivavae (6 square miles [16 square km]), Rapa (15 square miles [39 square km]), Rimatara, (3 square miles [8 square km]), Rurutu (11 square miles [29 square km]), and Tubuai (18 square miles [47 square km])—as well as the tiny, uninhabited Marotiri Islands at the southern end of the chain, and Maria Atoll in the north. The Tubuai Islands had long been settled by Polynesian peoples by the time of European contact. Four of the islands were sighted by Capt. James Cook—Rimatara and Rurutu in 1769 and Raivavae and Tubuai eight years later.

In 1791 George Vancouver sighted the southernmost inhabited island, Rapa, the broken rim of a former volcano curved around the harbour of Ahurei Bay. The whole group was brought under French control between 1880 and 1889.

Astrolabe and Zelee.
The Astrolabe and Zelee Visiting Nuku Hiva Island
French Marquesas Islands

Louis Le Breton

Le Breton studied medicine and took part in Dumont d'Urville's second voyage aboard the Astrolabe. After the official illustrator of the expedition died, Le Breton replaced him.

In 1836 Emperor Louis Philippe of France wanted France to play a part in the exploration of the Southern Seas. The voyage of the Astrolabewas, arguably, France’s last and greatest scientific voyage of discovery by sail. Under the skilful leadership of Captain Jules Sébastien César Dumont d’Urville, the Astrolabe and the Zélée would discover and claim Adélie land in Antarctica, amass a vast collection of botanical and zoological specimens, and advise the French government against attempting to create a colony at Akaroa in New Zealand.

Captain Dumont d'Urville was born in Normandy, France on 23 May 1790.  He made his first voyage to the Pacific as second-in-command to Duperrey in the Coquille in 1822-25, and returned in command of the Astrolabe (the Coquille renamed) in 1826-29. His third and final voyage to the Pacific was with two ships, the Astrolabe and the Zélée, from 1837 to 1840. Charles Jacquinot captained the Zélée.

The islands form an administrative subdivision of French Polynesia. The local capital is Mataura, on Tubuai.

Other major settlements include Amaru on Raivavae, Ahurei on Rapa, and Moerai on Rurutu. The inhabitants are predominantly Protestant. Polynesian traditions are unusually well preserved in the Tubuais because of the comparative isolation of the islands.

Marion Sentinel, July 23, 1903
Marion, Iowa

UNITED STATES MAY GET
ISLANDS IN PACIFIC.
Rumor That France Intends to Transfer 
Its Possessions to American Republic.

London, July 20.—A dispatch from Wellington, N. Z. calls attention to a rumor emanating from the French colony at Papeete, Island of Tahiti, which is current in New Zealand that France intends to transfer its possessions in the eastern Pacific to the United States.

The Paris correspondent of the Daily Mail says nothing is known of the rumor at the French war and colonial offices. The French possessions in the eastern Pacific consist of the Society islands, the most important of which are Tahiti and Moorea; the Tuametu islands, where the recent disastrous tidal wave occurred; the Leeward islands, comprising Raiatea, Tahaa, Huahine and Berabora; the Tubual and Raivavae groups, the island of Rapa, the Gambler islands; Rurutu and Rimatara islands, and the Marquesas islands. Their total area 13 about 1,520 square miles and their population about 29,000.

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Contes Barbares or Babaric Tales
Dutch Artist Jacob Meyer de Haan in Polynesia
Paul Gauguin

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