French Polynesia Facts

French Polynesia Facts and History


French Polynesia, which is often meant when one speaks of Tahiti, is scattered in the middle of the southern Pacific and belongs to the Polynesian culture. Hawaii is to the north of French Polynesia, the Cook Islands to the west and Pitcairn to the east.

Tahiti is one of the Society Islands and is the largest island of French Polynesia and therefore of course the Society Islands.

Tahiti must not be confused with Haiti, which is in the Caribbean.

French Polynesia consists of a total of 118 islands and atolls belonging to the following five archipelagos:

– Austral Islands

– Gambier Islands

– Society Islands

– Marquesas

– Tuamotu Islands

The name “Society Islands” comes from James Cook (1728-1779), who called them the “Society Islands” at the time.

Politically, French Polynesia, as the name suggests, is a French overseas territory and part of the French Republic. This means that not inconsiderable sums of money flow into the country from France and the EU every year. The standard of living is among the highest in the South Pacific. This results on the one hand from the nuclear tests, which let a lot of money flow into the country from France, and on the other hand from the support from the EU. The official minimum wage in the country since May 1, 2004 was XPF 110,000 per month, which corresponds to approx. 922 euros.

It is certainly not only important for those interested in art history that the French painter Paul Gauguin (1848-1903) had painted numerous pictures in Tahiti. Gauguin traveled to Tahiti in 1891. There he had a short, very happy and creative time. However, when he got sick and ran out of money, he returned to his homeland. There he exhibited his pictures. However, he went back to the South Seas forever in 1895. There he died in 1903 on Hiva Oa, an island of the Marquesas, from an overdose of morphine. He was buried there too.

Name of the country French Polynesia
Form of government Republic, French Overseas Zealand, Pays d’outre-mer
Location In the south-eastern Pacific (from around 12 ° to 21 ° south, from around 176 ° to 179 ° west
National anthem Marseillaise
Population About 280,000 (Credit: Countryaah: French Polynesia Facts)
Ethnicities 83% Polynesians (Ma’ohi including 20% of mixed origins),12% Europeans (Popaa),

5% Chinese (Tinito)

Religions Christianity with about 52% (37% Methodists and 9% Catholics).There are also about 38% Hindus, 8% Muslims and 2% of other religions.
Languages French, Tahitian
Capital Papeete with 30,000 residents
Surface around 3,950 km² of land with around 4 million km² of water
Highest mountain Mount Orohena with a height of 2,241 m
Longest river The Faaroa on Raitea and the Vaiharuru on Tahaa
Largest lake in area Lake Vahihiria and Lake Tahinu in Tahiti
International license plate PF
Currency Pacific Franc (CFP) Comptair Francais du Pacifique Franc, also abbreviated as XPF
Time difference to CET – 11 h
International phone code + 689
Voltage frequency 220V, 60 heart
Internet TLD (Top Level Domain) .pf

French Polynesia: History

Early history

The islands were founded around 300 BC. Populated from Samoa. The Society Islands and the Marquesa Islands were settled first. The people called themselves Maohi. The island of Rahitea was then known as Hawiki. It still appears today in many Polynesian legends, e.g. B. with the Maoris in New Zealand, as the land from which the ancestors set out.

According to Abbreviationfinder website, today it is believed that the colonization waves to Hawaii, Easter Island and New Zealand started from here.

The Europeans are coming

The first European to land on the island was Fernando Magellan (1480-1521), who anchored there for a short time in 1521. In 1595 Alvaro Mendana reached the Marquesa Islands. He was looking for the fabulous southern continent. He named the islands after his master, Marquesas de Mendoza.

In 1606 Fernandez de Quiros returned and discovered the Tuamotu Islands.

In 1767 the Briton Samuel Wallis, also in search of the southern continent, reached the islands. He stayed in Tahiti for several weeks. He took up new provisions and also discovered that one could make good barter deals with the residents. So you got z. B. in exchange for a metal nail satisfaction of the sexual interests of the team.

The Frenchman was the next to reach Bourgainville in 1768 Tahiti. When he returned to France he reported there about the noble savages and the permissive women.

This made Tahiti paradise on earth, “La Nouvelle Cythère” was to inspire the fantasies of many men for the next centuries.

James Cook came to Tahiti in April 1769 with the task of observing and measuring the transit of Venus during a solar eclipse. He stayed for three months and then sailed on to New Zealand. He took the priest and navigator Tupaia on board from the island, who had to leave the island due to political unrest. The educated Tupaia was of great use to James Cook on his further voyages. He served him as a translator in New Zealand, for example, which was not difficult for him since the Maoris in New Zealand were also Polynesians and the languages are closely related.

The Spaniard Boenechea came to Tahiti from Peru on his ship, the Aguilla, in 1772. Like everyone else before him, he claimed the islands for his nation. He established the first settlement on Tahiti. However, since the Spaniards were unsuccessful with their missionary work, they withdrew again in 1775.

James Cook found the abandoned mission station on his second voyage in 1777.

In 1779 the crew of the later famous Bounty under Captain William Bligh (1754-1817) had spent six months in Tahiti. When the ship left again, the crew began to mutiny. The story of the mutiny has been described many times and has also been filmed. For more information, see Pitcairn.


Since 1799 the London Missionary Society tried to Christianize the islanders. After successfully proselytizing the ruler Pomaré II (1774-1821), the rest of the population followed suit.

At the same time, numerous voters came to the islands. Unfortunately, the successes of Western civilization were mostly terrifying.

In just a few years, the population was decimated from approx. 40,000 to less than 20,000 in 1829, due to diseases that were brought in and against which they had no immune defense.

Pomaré II died in 1821. His successor, Pomaré II, only ruled until 1827, so that Queen Pomaré IV (1827-1877) came to power in 1827 to rule for 50 years.

The Protestant missionaries had gained influence on the Society Islands. In contrast, the Catholic and French missionaries were successful on the Gambier and Marquesas Islands. When two French missionaries were arrested in Tahiti, France intervened and secured supremacy on the islands.

Political conditions

It was not until 1767 that Samuel Wallis (1728-1795) officially took possession of the island for the English crown and named it King George Island in honor of the British king. Unaware of the ownership structure, Louis Antonie de Bougainville (1729-1811) took possession of the island for France a year later. In 1843 it was declared a French protectorate and in 1881 part of the French colony of Oceania.

The Gambier Islands were annexed in 1881 and the Austral Islands in 1900-1901. During World War I, around 1,000 soldiers from Tahiti fought on the side of the Allies in Europe. During World War II, Bora Bora was a military base for 5,000 US soldiers. After World War II, in 1946, the islands became French overseas territory.

On July 22, 1956, the islands were officially renamed French Polynesia.

Since 1963 the French carried out nuclear tests on Moruroa and Fangataufa.

The political opposition movement that emerged from the experiments led to the island state’s internal administration becoming increasingly independent.

French Polynesia Facts