Marquesas Islands

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"Marquesas" redirects here. For the uninhabited island group in the U.S. State of Florida, see Marquesas Keys.
"Marquesan" redirects here. For the language, see Marquesan language.

Coordinates: 9°27′16″S 139°23′20″W / 9.45444°S 139.38889°W / -9.45444; -139.38889

Marquesas Islands
Native name: Îles Marquises / Te Fenua ‘Enata/Te Henua Kenana
Flag of Marquesas Islands.svg
Geography
Location Pacific Ocean
Archipelago Polynesia
Total islands 15
Major islands Nuku Hiva, Ua Pu, Ua Huka, Hiva Oa, Fatu Hiva
Area 1,049.3 km2 (405.1 sq mi)[1]
Highest elevation 1,230 m (4,040 ft)
Highest point Mount Oave (Ua Pu)
Country
France
Overseas collectivity French Polynesia
Demographics
Population 9,264[2] (as of Aug. 2012 census)
Density 9 /km2 (23 /sq mi)
Map of the Marquesas Islands
Marquesas is located in Pacific Ocean
Marquesas
Marquesas
Magnify-clip.png
Location of the Marquesas Islands in the Pacific Ocean

The Marquesas Islands (French: Îles Marquises or Archipel des Marquises or Marquises; Marquesan: Te Henua (K)enana (North Marquesan) and Te Fenua `Enata (South Marquesan), both meaning "The Land of Men") are a group of volcanic islands in French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity of France in the southern Pacific Ocean. The Marquesas are located at 9° 00S, 139° 30W. The highest point is the peak of Mount Oave (French: Mont Oave) on Ua Pu island at 1,230 m (4,035 ft) above sea level.[3]

The Marquesas Islands form one of the five administrative divisions (subdivisions administratives) of French Polynesia. The capital of the Marquesas Islands administrative subdivision is the settlement of Taiohae on the island of Nuku Hiva. The population of the Marquesas Islands was 9,264 inhabitants at the August 2012 census.[2]

History[edit]

Kaimoko Family. Headdress (Peue 'Ei), 19th century. Porpoise teeth, beads, coir. It is likely that this woman's headdress was made on the island of Ua Pou, where a great number of porpoises were available.Brooklyn Museum

The first recorded settlers of the Marquesas were Polynesians, who, from archeological evidence, are believed to have arrived before 100 AD. Ethnological and linguistic evidence suggests that they likely arrived from the region of Tonga and Samoa.

The islands were given their name by the Spanish explorer Álvaro de Mendaña who reached them on 21 July 1595. He named them after his patron, García Hurtado de Mendoza, 5th Marquis of Cañete (Spanish: Marqués de Cañete) who was Viceroy of Peru at the time. Mendaña visited first Fatu Hiva and then Tahuata before continuing on to the Solomon Islands. They charted the four southernmost Marquesas as Magdalena (Fatu Hiva), Dominica (Hiva Oa), San Pedro (Moho Tani), and Santa Cristina (Tahuata).[4]

The American Maritime Fur Trader Joseph Ingraham first visited the northern Marquesas while commanding the brig Hope in 1791, giving them the name Washington Islands.[5] In 1813, Commodore David Porter claimed Nuku Hiva for the United States, but the United States Congress never ratified that claim. In 1842, France—following a successful military operation on behalf of a native chief (named Iotete) who claimed he was king of the whole island of Tahuata—took possession of the whole group and established a settlement (abandoned in 1859) on Nuku Hiva. France reestablished control over the group in 1870, and later incorporated it into French Polynesia.

Of all major island groups in the Pacific, the Marquesas suffered the greatest population decline from diseases brought by Western explorers. Imported diseases reduced the eighteenth century population of over 78,000 inhabitants, to about 20,000 by the middle of the nineteenth century, and to just over 4,000 by the beginning of the 1900s.[6] During the course of the twentieth century, the population increased to 8,548 at the November 2002 census,[7] not including the Marquesan community residing on Tahiti, and it has continued to increase since then, reaching 9,264 inhabitants at the August 2012 census.[2]

The sparsely populated Marquesas Islands, located 1,371 km (852 mi) from Tahiti, the most populous island and dominant political center of French Polynesia, often feels neglected by politicians in Tahiti, and some favor a direct link with Paris instead of depending on Papeete. Several prominent Marquesan political leaders have repeatedly declared themselves in favor of separating from French Polynesia and remaining within the French Republic in case French Polynesian political leaders in Tahiti proclaim independence from France.[8] This has generated controversies in Tahiti where pro-independence Tahitian leaders have accused the French central government of encouraging the separation of the Marquesas Islands from French Polynesia.[8]

Geography[edit]

Main article: Marquesas geography

The Marquesas Islands group is one of the most remote in the world, lying about 1,371 km (852 mi) northeast of Tahiti and about 4,800 kilometres (3,000 mi) away from the west coast of Mexico, the nearest continental land mass. They fall naturally into two geographical divisions: the northern group, consisting of Eiao, Hatutu (Hatutaa), Motu One, and the islands centered around the large island of Nuku Hiva: Motu Iti (Hatu Iti), Ua Pu, Motu Oa and Ua Huka, and the southern group of Fatu Uku, Tahuata, Moho Tani (Motane), Terihi, Fatu Hiva and Motu Nao (Thomasset Rock), clustered around the main island of Hiva `Oa. With a combined land area of 1,049 square kilometres (405 sq mi), the Marquesas are among the largest island groups of French Polynesia originally discovered by Spanish galleons fleets en route to Manila, Nuku Hiva being the second largest island in the entire territory, after Tahiti. With the exception of Motu One, all the islands of the Marquesas are of volcanic origin.

In contrast to the tendency to associate Polynesia with lush tropical vegetation, the Marquesas are remarkably dry islands. Though the islands lie within the tropics, they are the first major break in the prevailing easterly winds that spawn from the extraordinarily dry (from an atmospheric perspective) Humboldt Current. Because of this, the islands are subject to frequent drought conditions, and only those that reach highest into the clouds (generally, above about 750 m/2,500 ft above sea level) have reliable precipitation. This has led to historical fluctuations in water supply, which have played a crucial role in the sustainability of human populations in certain sections of the various islands throughout the archipelago. This is especially evident in the low historical population of Ua Huka (maximum elevation 857 m/2,812 ft.) and the intermittent inhabitability of Eiao (maximum elevation 576 m/1,890 ft.). The Marquesas Islands are thought to have formed by a center of upwelling magma called the Marquesas hotspot.

Islands of the Marquesas[edit]

Northern Marquesas[edit]

Southern Marquesas[edit]

Seamounts[edit]

There are also a number of seamounts or shoals, located primarily in the area of the northern Marquesas. Among these are:

Climate[edit]

Temperatures in the Marquesas are stable year around, but precipitation is highly variable. Precipitation is much greater on the north and east (windward) parts of the islands than on the western (leeward) parts. Average annual precipitation can vary from more than 100 inches (2,500 mm) on windward shores and mountains to a low as 20 inches (510 mm) in the "desert" region of Nuku Hiva. Droughts, sometimes lasting several years, are frequent and seem to be associated with the El Niño phenomena.[9] The statistics from the weather station at Atuona on Hiva Oa is representative of the average sea-level climate of the Marquesas. Illustrating the variability of precipitation, the highest annual rainfall recorded in Atuona is 148.2 inches (3,760 mm); the lowest is 22 inches (560 mm).[10]

Climate data for Atuona, Hiva Oa
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 30
(86)
31
(87)
31
(87)
31
(87)
29
(85)
29
(84)
28
(83)
28
(83)
29
(84)
29
(85)
30
(86)
30
(86)
29.6
(85.3)
Daily mean °C (°F) 27
(81)
27
(81)
28
(82)
28
(82)
27
(80)
26
(79)
26
(78)
26
(78)
26
(79)
26
(79)
27
(80)
27
(81)
26.8
(80)
Average low °C (°F) 23
(74)
24
(75)
24
(76)
24
(76)
24
(75)
23
(74)
23
(74)
23
(73)
23
(73)
23
(73)
23
(74)
23
(74)
23.3
(74.3)
Precipitation mm (inches) 114
(4.5)
91
(3.6)
137
(5.4)
117
(4.6)
122
(4.8)
175
(6.9)
122
(4.8)
100
(4)
81
(3.2)
79
(3.1)
66
(2.6)
89
(3.5)
1,293
(51)
Source: Weatherbase[11]

Geology[edit]

Basaltic rock

The bulk of the Marquesas Islands are of volcanic origin, created by the Marquesas hotspot that underlies the Pacific Plate. The Marquesas Islands lie above a submarine volcanic plateau of the same name. The plateau, like the islands, is generally believed to be less than 5 million years old, though one hypothesis has the plateau (not the islands) as significantly older and having a mirror image, the Inca Plateau, subducting under northern Peru.[12]

Except for Motu One, all the Marquesas are high islands. Motu One is a low island, comprising two small sand banks awash on a coral reef. Unlike the majority of French Polynesian islands, the Marquesas are not surrounded by protective fringing reefs.[13] Except for Motu One, and in bays and other protected areas, the only other coral in the Marquesas is found in a rather strange place: on the top of the island of Fatu Huku. The South Equatorial Current lashes the islands mercilessly, which has led to sea-caves dotting the islands' shores. Except for where the valleys empty into the small bays, the islands are remarkable for their mountain ridges, which end abruptly as cliffs where they meet the sea. The islands are estimated to range in age from the youngest, Fatu Hiva (1.3 my) to the oldest, Eiao (6 my).

Administration[edit]

The Marquesas Islands do not have a provincial or regional assembly. Administratively, they form a deconcentrated subdivision of both the French central State and the government of French Polynesia. As a deconcentrated subdivision of the French central State, the Marquesas Islands form the administrative subdivision of the Marquesas (French: subdivision administrative des Marquises), one of French Polynesia's five administrative subdivisions. The head of the administrative subdivision of the Marquesas is the administrateur d'Etat ("State administrator"), generally simply known as administrateur, also sometimes called chef de la subdivision administrative ("head of the administrative subdivision"). The administrateur is a civil servant under the authority of the High Commissioner of the French Republic in French Polynesia in Papeete. The administrateur and his staff sit in Taiohae, on the island of Nuku Hiva, which has become the administrative capital of the Marquesas Islands, having replaced Atuona on the island of Hiva Oa, which was previously the capital.

Acting as the representative of the French central State and delegate of Papeete's High Commissioner, the administrateur of the Marquesas is in charge of:

  • Offering legal advice to the communes (municipalities) of the Marquesas and verifying the legality of decisions made by the communes
  • Issuing official documents (ID cards, driving licences, etc.), applying immigration rules, organising elections
  • Managing security (coordination of gendarmerie forces, handling of major crises such as natural disasters, etc.)
  • Overseeing public services of the French central State in the Marquesas Islands (such as the correctional facility on Nuku Hiva)

As a deconcentrated subdivision of the government of French Polynesia, the Marquesas Islands form the circonscription des Marquises ("district of the Marquesas"), one of French Polynesia's four circonscriptions ("districts") created in 2000 by the Assembly of French Polynesia to serve as deconcentrated subdivisions of the government of French Polynesia in the islands away from Tahiti and Moorea. The head of the circonscription des Marquises is the tavana hau, known as administrateur territorial in French (English: "territorial administrator"), but the Tahitian title tavana hau is most often used. The tavana hau is the direct representative of the president of French Polynesia's government who appoints him. The tavana hau and his staff sit in Taiohae on Nuku Hiva, same as the State administrator.

The tavana hau is in charge of:

  • Coordinating the work of French Polynesian administrations in the Marquesas Islands (such as the French Polynesian administrations in charge of roads, fisheries, etc.)
  • Ensuring the enforcement of acts passed by the Assembly of French Polynesia and decisions taken by the government of French Polynesia
  • Evaluating the performance of French Polynesian civil servants and sending the evaluations to the responsible ministries in Papeete
  • Acting as a liaison between the local population and the government of French Polynesia in Papeete

The Marquesas Islands also form the electoral district of the Marquesas Islands, one of French Polynesia's six electoral districts for the Assembly of French Polynesia (see also Politics of French Polynesia).

The Marquesas Islands are subdivided in six communes (municipalities). In each of the six communes the local residents elect a municipal council and a mayor in charge of managing local affairs within the commune. Three communes (Nuku-Hiva, Ua-Pou, and Hiva-Oa) are further subdivided into associated communes due to their larger population. The communes and associated communes are the only elected councils in the Marquesas since there does not exist a provincial or regional assembly for the entire archipelago. Municipal elections are held every six years on the same day as municipal elections in the rest of France (see French municipal elections, 2008 for the last municipal elections).

Here are the six communes in the Marquesas Islands (the associated communes are not shown):

Communes of the Marquesas Islands
  1. Nuku-Hiva
  2. Ua-Huka
  3. Ua-Pou
  4. Hiva-Oa
  5. Tahuata
  6. Fatu-Hiva

Language[edit]

Main article: Marquesan language

Although French and Tahitian are the only official languages of French Polynesia, and therefore of the Marquesas Islands as well, the Marquesan languages, in their various forms, remain the primary means of communication within the archipelago.

Marquesan is a collection of East-Central Polynesian dialects, of the Marquesic group, spoken in the Marquesas Islands of French Polynesia. They are usually classified into two groups, North Marquesan and South Marquesan, roughly along geographic lines.

The North Marquesan dialects are spoken on the islands of Ua Pu and Nuku Hiva, and South Marquesan dialects on the islands of Hiva `Oa, Tahuata and Fatu Hiva. The dialects of Ua Huka are often incorrectly classified as North Marquesan; they are instead transitional. While the island is in the northern Marquesas group, the dialects show more morphological and phonological affinities with South Marquesan. The North Marquesan dialects are sometimes considered two separate languages: North Marquesan and Tai Pi Marquesan, the latter being spoken in the valleys of the eastern third of the island of Nuku Hiva, in the ancient province of Tai Pi.

The most striking feature of the Marquesan languages is their almost universal replacement of the /r/ or /l/ of other Polynesian languages by a /ʔ/ (glottal stop).

Like other Polynesian languages, the phonology of Marquesan languages is characterised by a paucity of consonants and a comparative abundance of vowels.

2007 census[edit]

At the 2007 census, 94.1% of the population whose age was 15 y/o and older reported that they could speak French. 90.2% reported that they could also read and write it. Only 4.4% of the population whose age was 15 y/o and older had no knowledge of French.[14]

At the same census, 67.8% of the population whose age was 15 y/o and older reported that the language they spoke the most at home was Marquesan. 30.1% reported that French was the language they spoke the most at home. 1.4% reported Tahitian, and 0.7% reported another language.[15]

7.2% of the population whose age was 15 y/o and older reported that they had no knowledge of any Polynesian language at the 2007 census, whereas 92.8% reported that they had some form of knowledge of at least one Polynesian language.[14]

Demographics[edit]

Marquesans dressed in pareu demonstrating traditional dance, 1909

The population of the Marquesas Islands at the August 2012 census was 9,264,[2] far lower than 16th century estimates, which put the population at over 100,000.[citation needed] Much of the population was wiped out by smallpox between 1600 and 1900, when the population was counted at just under 2,000.

Historical population[edit]

1971 1977 1983 1988 1996 2002 2007 2012
5,593 5,419 6,548 7,358 8,064 8,548 8,632 9,264
Official figures from past censuses.[2][7][16]

Migrations[edit]

The places of birth of the 8,632 residents of the Marquesas Islands at the 2007 census were the following:[17]

Communications[edit]

Airports[edit]

There are four airports in the Marquesas, one each on the islands of Nuku Hiva, Ua Pu, Ua Huka, and Hiva Oa. The terrain of Tahuata is too irregular to allow for the construction of a landing strip without significant investment, and while the upland plateau of central Fatu Hiva is large enough to permit the construction of an airstrip, the island's minuscule population makes such an exercise of dubious benefit.

Telecommunications[edit]

The Marquesas are served by telephone as well as by radio and television, mainly from Tahiti. Recent additions include the "Vini" a mobile phone service that, in about 6 years, has expanded to cover most of the populated islands. There also is "Mana", an internet server with DSL broadband that is expanding with Wifi stations too.

Culture[edit]

Marquesan chiefess
Main article: Marquesan culture

The Marquesas Islands were once a major center of eastern Polynesian civilization.

Biology[edit]

The ecosystem of the Marquesas has been devastated in some areas by the activities of feral livestock. As a first step in preserving what remains, the Marquesan Nature Reserves were created in 1992.

In Western culture[edit]

  • In the Gilligan's Island episode "X Marks the Spot" the Professor gives coordinates for the castaway's imaginary island that would put it in the outer fringes of the Marquesas group.
  • Famous French painter Paul Gauguin and Belgian singer Jacques Brel spent the last years of their lives in the Marquesas, and are buried there. Brel composed a famous song, Les Marquises, about the Marquesas Islands, his last home.
  • The Marquesas inspired American novelist Herman Melville, whose experiences in the Marquesas formed the basis for his novel Typee. (Despite some sources, Omoo is based in the Society Islands, not in the Marquesas.)
  • Robert Louis Stevenson visited the Marquesas in 1888, and wrote about his experiences and impressions there in 1900, in a book called In the South Seas.[18]
  • Frederick O'Brien wrote a 1919 book White Shadows in the South Seas[19] based on his experiences in the Marquesas. This book was also adapted into an MGM film of 1928
  • Thor Heyerdahl wrote his book Fatu Hiva during a year-long stay on the island.
  • The island group is also mentioned in passing in the Crosby, Stills & Nash song, "Southern Cross": "off the wind on this heading lie the Marquesas".
  • The Marquesas Islands temporarily received an international spotlight in the United States when the reality TV show Survivor: Marquesas was filmed on Nuku Hiva. It was the fourth installment of the TV series Survivor.
  • In the book In the Heart of the Sea, it is detailed that the Marquesas were the closest land to where the whaleship Essex had been sunk by a whale. However the crew reportedly feared rumours of cannibalism, war, and ritualized homosexuality on the islands, and instead chose to make the much longer voyage to South America, which resulted in the deaths of most of them.
  • The Marquesas Islands feature extensively as a major setting in the book series, The Virtual War. The books call the islands The Isles of Hiva, which are supposedly the only uncontaminated lands left after a nuclear apocalypse. Most of the second novel takes place on Nuku Hiva, and part of the last novel takes place on Hiva Oa. Cannibalism is also a major element, and a character feels that he is in tune with Nuku Hiva's "spirits."
  • The Wisconsin city, Markesan, indirectly took its name from the Marquesas Islands. The city was named Granville from 1849 to 1854. The city had to change its name due to complications with the U.S. Postal Service. The name Markesan was submitted by a citizen who said the newly discovered Marquesas Islands influenced the name.
  • In Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932), the Marquesas Islands are a place of exile for those who think for themselves and are considered dangerous to the World State. Mustapha Mond presents this location to Helmholtz Watson as an option for banishment.

See also[edit]

Hakahau

References[edit]

  1. ^ "R1- Population sans doubles comptes, des subdivisions, communes et communes associées de Polynésie française, de 1971 à 1996". ISPF. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  2. ^ a b c d e (French) INSEE. "Population des subdivisions administratives de Polynésie française". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  3. ^ Communes des Îles Marquises
  4. ^ Sharp, Andrew, The discovery of the Pacific Islands, Oxford 1960 p.51
  5. ^ "Papers of Joseph Ingraham, 1790-1792: Journal of the Voyage of the Brigantine "Hope" from Boston to the North-West Coast of America". World Digital Library. 1790–1800. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 
  6. ^ Gille, Bernard; Toullelan, Pierre-Yves (1999). Au Vent des Iles, ed. De la conquête à l'exode : histoire des Océaniens et de leurs migrations dans le Pacifique. p. 118. ISBN 2909790592. 
  7. ^ a b "Population statistique des communes et communes associées aux recensements de 1971 à 2002". ISPF. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  8. ^ a b Polémique à Tahiti: les Marquises veulent se rapprocher de Paris
  9. ^ Addison, David J. "Traditional Agriculture of the Marquesas Islands (French Polynesia)" Rapa Nui Journal 21.2 (2007): 111-27.
  10. ^ Florence, Jacques and Lorence, David H. "Introduction to the Flora and Vegetation of the Marquesas Islands" Allertonia, Vol. 7, No. 4, p. 223
  11. ^ "Weatherbase: Historical Weather for Atuona, French Polynesia". Weatherbase. 2011.  Retrieved on November 24, 2011.
  12. ^ The "lost Inca Plateau": cause of flat subduction beneath Peru?, 1999
  13. ^ "Papeete measures 5 small waves during tsunami red alert". Tahitipresse. 29 September 2009. Archived from the original on 3 October 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-30. 
  14. ^ a b "LAN3b - Population de 15 ans et plus par connaissance des langues selon la subdivision de résidence et l'âge décennal". ISPF. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  15. ^ "Recensements de la population > 2007 > Données détaillées > Langues". ISPF. Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  16. ^ (French) INSEE. "Population des subdivisions administratives de Polynésie française au RP 2007". Retrieved 2013-10-13. 
  17. ^ "Recensements de la population > 2007 > Données détaillées > Migrations". ISPF. Retrieved 2013-10-14. 
  18. ^ Sharebook.co.kr
  19. ^ Gutenberg.org

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]