Tubuai - Encyclopedia

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TUBUAI, or Austral Islands, an archipelago in the south Pacific Ocean, between 21° 49' and 27° 41' S., 144° 22' and 154° 51' W., to the south of the Society Islands, with a total land area of i io sq. m., belonging to France. They form a curved broken chain from north-west to south-east which includes four principal islands: Tubuai (area 40 sq. m.), Vavitao or Ravaivai, Rurutu or Oheteroa, Rapa or Oparo, and Rimitara., with Maretiri or the Bass Islands, and other islets. Tubuai, Vavitao and Rapa are volcanic and reach considerable elevations (2100 ft. in Rapa). The islands are well watered and fertile, producing coco-nut palms, arrowroot and bananas; but they lie too far south for the bread fruit to flourish. The natives belong to the Polynesian race; they were once much more numerous than now, the present population not exceeding 2000. A Tahitian dialect is spoken in the western islands; in Rapa, however, which with the Bass Islands lies detached from the rest, to the south, the language is akin to that of the Rarotongans in the Cook Islands. There are remarkable ancient stone platforms and walls, massively built, on the summits of some of the peaks in Rapa; they resemble the terraces in Easter Island (Rapanui), which is believed to have been peopled from Rapa. The scattered islands of the Tubuai archipelago were discovered at different times. Captain Cook visited Rurutu in 1769 and Tubuai in 1777; Rapa was discovered by George Vancouver in 1791, Vavitao perhaps in 1772 by the Spaniards who attempted to colonize Tahiti, and certainly by Captain Broughton in 1791. The islands never attracted much attention from Europeans, and the French protection and subsequent annexation were carried out spasmodically between the middle of the 19th century and 1889.

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