Record ID: 220

Site Name

Marquesas Islands

Type

Islands

Description

Marquesas Islands (mahr-KAI-suhz), volcanic group (1988 pop. 7,538), South Pacific, a part of Fr. Polynesia, c.740 mi/1,190 km NE of Tahiti; 09�00'S 139�30'W. There are 12 isls. in the group, the largest being Nuku Hiva , site of Taiohae , the administrative center, and Hiva Oa (2d-largest), site of Atuona , a former administrative center. The Marquesas, famous for their rugged beauty, are fertile and mountainous, rising directly from the sea, without barrier coral reefs, reaching 3,904 ft/1,190 m on Hiva Oa. There are breadfruit, pandanus, and coconut trees; wild cattle and hogs. The chief exports are copra, tobacco, and vanilla. Taiohae Bay, on Nuka Hiva, and the Bay of Traitors, on Hiva Oa, are the major harbors.

The isls. are divided into 2 groups. The S cluster (sometimes called the Menda�a Isls.), including Fatu Huku , Hiva Oa, Tahuata, Mohotani , and Fatu Hiva , was discovered for Europeans in 1595 by the Span. navigator Alvaro de Menda�a de Neira; the N group (sometimes called the Washington Isls.), including Hatutaa, Eiao , Motu Iti, Nuku Hiva, Ua Huku, Ua Pou , and Motu One , was discovered in 1791 by the Amer. navigator Capt. Joseph Ingraham. In 1813, Commodore David Porter claimed Nuku Hiva for the U.S., naming it Madison Isl., but the U.S. Congress never ratified the claim. France took possession of the isls. in 1842 and established a settlement on Nuku Hiva, which was abandoned in 1859. In 1870 the Fr. administration over the Marquesas was reinstated. Of all the Polynesian peoples, the Marquesans suffered one of the greatest declines from the spread of Eur. diseases; before the 1850s they may have approximated 20,000, about 4 times the present pop. The isls. are the setting for Herman Melville�s novel Typee .

Saul B. Stein, ed., Columbia Gazetteer of the World

Marquesas Islands, in South Pacific; visited by herman Melvile in 1842 and site of his first novel, Typee (1846) [Image Id: 1794]
Marquesas Islands, in South Pacific; visited by herman Melvile in 1842 and site of his first novel, Typee (1846) [Image Id: 1794]