Marquesas Islands

Marquesas Islands
Native name: Îles Marquises / Te Fenua ʻEnata / Te Henua (K)enana
Flag of Marquesas Islands.svg
Karta FP Marquesa isl.PNG
Geography
LocationPacific Ocean
ArchipelagoPolynesia
Total islands15
Major islandsNuku Hiva, Ua Pu, Ua Huka, ʻOa, Fatu Hiva
Area1,049.3 km2 (405.1 sq mi)[1]
Highest elevation1,230 m (4,040 ft)
Highest pointMount Oave (Ua Pu)
Administration
France
Overseas collectivityFrench Polynesia
Capital cityTai o Hae
Demographics
Population9,346[2] (Aug. 2017 census)
Pop. density9 /km2 (23 /sq mi)
Additional information
Time zone

The Marquesas Islands (s/; French: Îles Marquises or Archipel des Marquises or Marquises; Marquesan: Te Henua (K)enana (North Marquesan) and Te Fenua ʻEnata (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° 00 S, 139° 30 W. The highest point is the peak of Mount Oave (French: Mont Oave) on Ua Pou island at 1,230 m (4,035 ft) above sea level.[3]

Research based on 2010 studies suggests the islands were colonized rapidly in two successive waves by indigenous colonists from West Polynesia, beginning c. 1025–1120 AD, leading to development of a "remarkably uniform culture, human biology and language."[4]

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 9,346 inhabitants at the August 2017 census.[2]

Geography

Marquesas is located in Pacific Ocean
Marquesas
Marquesas
Location of the Marquesas Islands in the Pacific Ocean

The Marquesas Islands group is one of the most remote in the world, lying about 852 mi northeast of Tahiti and about 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 on the large island of Nuku Hiva: Motu Iti (Hatu Iti), Ua Pou, 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 ʻOa. 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 m / 2,812 ft.) and the intermittent inhabitability of Eiao (maximum elevation 576 m 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

Northern Marquesas

Hakaui waterfall, on Nuku Hiva island.

Southern Marquesas

Seamounts

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

  • Clark Bank
  • Hinakura Bank
  • Lawson Bank
  • Bank Jean Goguel

Geology

Basaltic rock formation in Hatiheu, Nuku Hiva island.

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.[5]

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.[6] 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 million years) to the oldest, Eiao (6 million years).

Climate

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.[7] The statistics from the weather station at Atuona on Hiva ʻOa 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).[8]

Climate data for Atuona, Hiva ʻOa
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
(85)
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)
27
(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
(74)
Average 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
(50.9)
Source: Weatherbase[9]
A view of Hiva Oa, towards the south-west, with Moho Tani island visible in the distance.
Other Languages
Afrikaans: Marquesaseilande
العربية: جزر ماركيساس
asturianu: Islles Marqueses
Bân-lâm-gú: Marquises Kûn-tó
brezhoneg: Inizi Markiz
čeština: Markézy
Deutsch: Marquesas
Ελληνικά: Νήσοι Μαρκέζας
español: Islas Marquesas
Esperanto: Markizinsuloj
euskara: Markesak
føroyskt: Marquesasoyggjar
français: Îles Marquises
Gàidhlig: Na Marquesas
Hawaiʻi: Nuʻuhiwa
Bahasa Indonesia: Kepulauan Marquesas
italiano: Isole Marchesi
עברית: איי מרקיז
latviešu: Marķīza salas
lietuvių: Markizo salos
македонски: Маркиски Острови
Bahasa Melayu: Kepulauan Marquesas
Nederlands: Marquesaseilanden
norsk nynorsk: Marquesasøyane
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Markiz orollari
polski: Markizy
Gagana Samoa: Marquesas
Simple English: Marquesas Islands
српски / srpski: Маркиска острва
татарча/tatarça: Маркиз утраулары
Türkçe: Markiz Adaları
українська: Маркізькі острови
Tiếng Việt: Quần đảo Marquises