Rapa Iti

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NASA picture of Rapa.
Rapa Iti
Austral isl Rapa Iti.PNG
Coordinates: 27°36′S 144°20′W / 27.60°S 144.33°W / -27.60; -144.33Coordinates: 27°36′S 144°20′W / 27.60°S 144.33°W / -27.60; -144.33
Country France
Overseas collectivity French Polynesia
Arrondissement -
Canton -
Area
 • Land1 40 km2 (20 sq mi)
Population (2002)
 • Population2 497
 • Population2 density 12/km2 (32/sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 98741 / -
Elevation 0–650 m (0–2,133 ft)

1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.
Rapa Iti is located in Pacific Ocean
Rapa Iti
Rapa Iti
Location of Rapa Iti in the Pacific Ocean
Flag of Rapa

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.[1] Its area is 40 km2 with a population of almost 500 and a max elevation of 650 m. Its main town is Ahuréi.

Geography[edit]

Rapa Iti is located at 27°35′00″S 144°20′00″W / 27.58333°S 144.33333°W / -27.58333; -144.33333. It is shaped roughly like a Greek final sigma (ς), with a well-protected central bay, surrounded by a ring of relatively high mountains. The whole island appears very much to be the peak of a sinking volcano, with the bay as the caldera. The area of the island is 40 km2 (15 sq mi).

Its main town, Ahuréi (or Ha'uréi), lies on the southern shore of that bay, which is called the Baie d'Ahuréi. A smaller village, 'Area, is located on the northern shore of the bay. The people are Polynesian. Former times' warfare is indicated by 28 extant ridgetop forts. Today Rapa is home to the Tahitian Choir, in which a third of the island's population sing traditional songs.

Although sometimes considered part of the Austral Islands, Rapa Iti and the Bass Islands have a different geological, linguistic and cultural history.[2]

History[edit]

Rapa Iti was first settled by Rapan-speaking Polynesians, most likely in the 13th century.[3] It is believed that the depletion of natural resources on the island resulted in warfare, and the inhabitants lived in up to 14 fortified settlements ("pa" or "pare", a type of fort) on peaks and clifftops.[4] It is considered that the oldest of these is Morongo Uta, which was developed c. 1450–1550 AD.[5]

The first European to visit Rapa Iti was George Vancouver on 22 December 1791;[6] he named the island Oparo. Contact with Europeans brought liquor and disease, and between 1824 and 1830 over three-fourths of the natives died.[6] Peruvian slavers raided the island as well.[7] When a handful of their victims were returned to the island, they brought with them smallpox, which caused an epidemic.[7] In 1826, there were almost 2000 inhabitants; forty years later, there were less than 120.[8]

The independent island kingdom was declared a French protectorate in 1867. The British established a coaling station on the island, which prompted France to formally annex it on 6 March 1881. Subsequently, the native monarchy was abolished and the last queen, the daughter or Parima, was deposed on 18 June 1887.

Thor Heyerdahl, notably, made excavations in Morongo Uta, seeking links between Rapa Iti and Rapa Nui (Easter Island).

Environment[edit]

The Manatau French Polynesian Reserve is a special French Polynesian Reserve to protect the animals and ridgetop forts of an area of southern Rapa. It is located near South Ahuréi.

The island is home to the endemic and vulnerable Rapa Fruit Dove which is threatened by habitat loss, predation by feral cats and hunting. Its population was estimated in 1989-90 to comprise 274 individual birds. Other birds include Murphy's Petrel, which nests there in small numbers, and the Bristle-thighed Curlew which is a non-breeding visitor on migration. Because of its significance for these species the island has been identified as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife International.[9]

Administration[edit]

The commune of Rapa consists of the islands of Rapa Iti and the four uninhabited Marotiri rocks.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tahiti guide
  2. ^ F. Allan Hanson, Rapan Lifeways (1970)
  3. ^ CDNN[dead link]
  4. ^ "Douglas Kennett, Atholl Anderson, Matthew Prebble, Eric Conte & John Southon. Prehistoric human impacts on Rapa, French Polynesia.". 
  5. ^ "Morongo Uta". Wondermondo. 
  6. ^ a b Richards, Rhys. "The Earliest Foreign Visitors and Their Massive Depopulation of Rapa-iti from 1824 to 1830". Journal de la Société des Océanistes. 
  7. ^ a b Brash, Celeste; Jean-Bernard Carillet (2009). Tahiti and French Polynesia. Lonely Planet. pp. 236–237. ISBN 1741043166. Retrieved November 6, 2012. 
  8. ^ Anderson, Warwick (2000). "Infectious Diseases: Colonising the Pacific? (review)". Bulletin of the History of Medicine 74 (3): 617. doi:10.1353/bhm.2000.0103. 
  9. ^ "Rapa". BirdLife data zone: Important Bird Areas. BirdLife International. 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-27. 

External links[edit]