Last modified: 2009-03-21 by ivan sache
Keywords: tubuai | austral islands |
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Flag of Tubuai - Images by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, 24 December 2008
Quoting the website of the Presidency of French Polynesia (page no longer online):
Located at 23ºS and 151ºW, 640 km south of Tahiti, Tubuai is the administrative center for the Austral Islands. It is one of the most beautiful of these islands with its white sand beaches.
It is a former volcanic island without a crater that covers 45 sq. km. Two volcanic domes form a massif culminating in the 422-meter high Mount Taita. The east coast is an upraised coral platform next to a shallow, circular lagoon with a width of about 3.5 km.
Tubuai was probably settled about the same time as Rurutu around 900 AD. The diary of James Morrison, second mate aboard the HMS Bounty, offers an interesting description of daily life on this island at the end of the 18th century. He noted many similarities with the civilization of the Society Islands, but emphasized the importance of irrigation work and terrace cultivation for taro plantations. The island was already divided into three separate districts, Mahu, Mataura and Taahuaia.
British Captain James Cook was the first Europe to discover Tubuai in 1777 during his third and last voyage to Tahiti, but he could not leave his ship due a hostile reception by the people of Tubuai. On the other hand, Fletcher Christian and his mutineers from the HMS Bounty found refuge on the island from June to September 1789. However, they were forced to leave after a series of blunders provoked by clashes with the island's unfriendly warriors.
Tubuai agreed to become part of King Pomare II's Kingdom in 1819 and to be converted to Protestantism.
There was a dramatic drop in the population due to the battles with the Bounty mutineers, the introduction of epidemic diseases and numerous departures for Tahiti or the Tuamotu Archipelago. Morrison estimated the 1789 population at 3,000, which declined to only 600 persons around 1880. Thus it was a very small community that greeted the Protestant missionaries from the London Missionary Society in 1822, from the Mormon Church in 1844, and from the Catholic Church in 1908.
France annexed Tubuai in 1881. The island was too small to offer any real economic interest, so it was left out of the initiatives taken in Papeete for more than a half-century. It was not until the 1960s that Tubuai began to benefit from inter-island trade during the economic boom that transformed Tahiti.
Tubuai specializes in supplying Papeete, the capital of French Polynesia, with market garden produce. In 1996, 838 tons of potatoes, 300 tons of carrots and 218 tons of cabbage were marketed.
The district of Tubuai had an official population of 2,049 in 1996. Mataura, a village located on the north coast of Tubuai, is the main town of the district.
Ivan Sache, 28 August 2005
The flag of Tubuai, as seen at the headquarters of the Tahitian Football Federation in 2006, is diagonally divided black-white with the name of the island written in black capital letters outlinedin white in the middle of the flag.
The flag of Tubuai, as seen during the opening ceremony of the Inter-Austral Island Games in 2000, is horizontally divided black-white-black with the name of the island written in black capital letters in the white stripe.
Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán & Ivan Sache, 24 December 2008