After being discovered in 1616 by Le Maire and Schouten and visited
in 1722 by Roggeven, it was only in 1851 that
Rangiroa was occupied by the first Europeans, who
were Catholic missionaries.
is situated 355km N-W of Tahiti, and is the largest
of all the Tuamotu atolls, since its emergent land
has an area of 7 900 hectares. Most of the island's
2000 inhabitants (based on the 1996 census) live in
the villages of Avatoru and Tiputa.
inauguration of a 2 100-m long aircraft runway in
1965 led to the development of the tourist industry
on this atoll (it has a world-wide reputation as an
underwater diving site) and to the construction of
many hotels and boarding-houses
which is the largest atoll in both the Tuamotu islands and the
whole of Polynesia and one of the largest in the Pacific Ocean,
is the administrative centre of a commune. It is situated 355 km
from Papeete. The other communes which belongs to the same
administrative group are Mataiva, Tikehau and
Makatea, which are situated 79 km, 15 km and 82 km from Rangiroa,
7 900 hectares of emergent land consist of 415 groups of
islets. The turquoise lagoon in the centre of the atoll
is 80 km long, and ranges between 32 km
and 5 km in
width. The two largest islands after Rangiroa are Fakarava and
Makemo. But in terms of the area of the emergent land, Anaa with
its 3770 hectares
ranks second after Rangiroa.
has two villages, Avatoru and Tiputa, and is the most regularly
frequented of all the Tuamotu atolls. Its modern infrastructures
are comparable to those of the smaller communes in Tahiti. The
villages and their surroundings can be reached by a 6-m wide
road made of tarmac and coral chips. Both of the villages were
built on islands: Avatoru (12.5 km by 500 m) and Tiputa (4 km by
are two natural passages on the northern coast which give access
to the lagoon to the motorised Tahitian “schooners” carrying
goods and passengers from one island to another: the Hutuaara channel at the
entry to the village of Avatoru and the Hiria channel at the
entry to the village of Tiputa.
where manta rayfish abound, is known all over the world for the
magnificent underwater scenery which can be discovered by
deep-sea divers in the island's two natural channels. An
aerodrome with a 2100-m long runway equipped with approach
lights is located on the "motu" of Avatoru.
Speed-boats and bonito boats are the means of transport most
commonly used to travel around both the inner and outer shores
of the atoll.
300 years ago, a most unusual geological event occurred,
which caused some gigantic limestone rocks to be ejected
from the sea bed near Rangiroa and deposited on the
coral reef. The largest of these boulders is 1000 m3
in size and weighs 1500 to 2 000 tonnes. These
huge rocks are to be found at the north-eastern tip of
this great atoll.
island of Rangiroa, which was probably occupied by the first
settlers around the 10th. Century A.D., used to have several
villages: Tereia, Fenuaroa, Otepipi, Tevaro, Avatoru and Tiputa,
near which several "marae" and dozens of disused taro
root pits have been found.
"marae", such as those at Anihia on Tivaru and
at Tehone on Maherehonae, are small temples, the
walls and "ahu" of which are made of upright
blocks of coral. Oral
tradition has it that each of the "marae"
corresponded to a set of islands or "motus"
formerly belonging to social groups called 'ati. In the
traditional texts sometimes recorded in "puta
tupuna" (ancestral books), there is some mention of
a terrible cataclysm, probably a tidal wave, which seems
to have occurred around 1560, which wiped out all human
establishments on the
western side of the atoll.
the 17th. Century, Rangiroa formed strong connections with other
Northern Tuamotu islands and the Society archipelago, via the
intermediary of Makatea. The island's social, economic and
religious activities were flourishing at the time, as can be
seen from the remains of large "marae" and extensive
villages near the natural passages connecting the lagoon to the
1770, this state of prosperity suddenly came to an end. 'The
defeats inflicted by the dreaded parata warriors from Anaa led
to the ravaged island being deserted, to the villages and
collective edifices being destroyed and to the population
being mostly massacred, while the cultivated lands were
L'Homme dans le Pacifique Sud by François Doumenge).
survivors fled to Tikehau, Makatea and Tahiti, where they were
protected by the Pomare people, and it was only in 1821 that
they were able to return to their own island.
mentionned before, it was not until 1851 that the first
Europeans settled there: these were Catholic missionaries who
encouraged the population to plant coconut palms back in 1865:
this was how the island can be said to have entered the colonial
benefited from the period of economic and urban growth which
occurred in Tahiti during the 1950's. The farmers on the island
produced vast quantities of copra in those days. Nowadays, the
copra production has been tending
to decrease both here and on all the Tuamotu atolls.
fishermen on the island started long ago to pool their efforts
to make use of the resources of the lagoon. They supplied fish
to the employees of the "Compagnie Française des
Phosphates de l'Océanie" (CFPO) who were working the
Makatea phosphate deposit, and also exported 40 tonnes of fresh
fish in 1960. The inauguration of the
2 100-m aircraft runway in 1965 led to the
development of tourist
activities and deep-sea diving centres and to the construction
of modern hotels and boarding houses.
village of Tiputa is situated on the eastern side of the channel
called the Tiputa or Hiha channel in the north of the atoll.
Tiputa was chosen as the administrative centre of the commune of
Rangiroa. At the time of the 1996 census, this village had 985
village of Avatoru is also situated in the northern part of the atoll
of Rangiroa, on the southern shore of the island's most seaworthy
channel. This channel, which ends up in the lagoon opposite the
"motu" called Fara, is said (according to a legend) to have
been excavated by twins: Moana Tea, the quiet sea and Moana Uh,
the raging sea.
928 inhabitants (based on the 1996 census) earn their living by working in the
hotel industry, and on the copra and pearl farms. They follow various
religious confessions (the majority are Catholics and Sanitos), and have all
built their places of worship to the east of the village. A road runs from
Avatoru to the Tiputa channel, via the aerodrome and the hotel complexes.
des Archipels (1998), Les Tuamotu Gambier : recueil de données
essentielles, décembre 1998, Service de l'administration
et du développement des archipels, PAPEETE.
Douglas (1994), Pacific Islands
Yearbook, 17° édition, Fiji Times Ltd, 767p.