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Rangiroa (Tuamotu and Gambier Islands, French Polynesia)

Last modified: 2017-04-03 by ivan sache
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Flag of Rangiroa, two versions - Images by Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, 13 May 2016, and Olivier Touzeau, 19 February 2017, respectively

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Presentation of Rangiroa

Quoting the website of the Presidency of French Polynesia (page no longer online):

Rangiroa is the biggest Tuamotu atoll in French Polynesia and the biggest atoll in the Pacific. It is located 355 km from Papeete. Mataiva, Tikeau and Makatea are associated districts and their respective distances from the main district of Rangiroa are 79 km, 15 km and 82 km.
Nearly 300 years ago, an exceptional phenomenon shifted giant blocks of limestone from the depths of Rangiroa's lagoon onto the coral reef. The biggest of those blocks was 1,000 cubic meters in size and weighed 1,500-2000 tons. They are found today on the northwest point of the atoll.

Rangiroa was probably first settled around the 10th century. It originally had several villages. Today the remains of several marae, or ancient worshipping grounds, and dozens of gravesites are found near the sites of those ancient villages. According to oral traditions, each marae corresponded to land or motu originally owned by ancient social groups known as aiti. Such traditions were sometimes contained in puta tupuna (ancestors' books), where we find mentioned a major catastrophe, probably a tidal wave, that occurred around 1560, destroying the dwellings on the western side of the atoll.
During the 17th century Rangiroa established important ties with other atolls in the northern part of the Tuamotu Archipelago and with the Society Islands. The prosperity of that period was brutally ended around 1770. Fran¨ois Doumenge's L'Homme dans le Pacifique Sud tells how the people of Rangiroa suffered battle defeats at the hands of the warriors from the atoll of Anaa. This led to the abandonment of Rangiroa after it had been ravaged, its villages and their communal buildings destroyed, the majority of its population slaughtered and the atollÕs crops abandoned. The few survivors there took refuge on Tikehau, Makatea and Tahiti, enjoying the protection of Pomare rulers. Those survivors did not return to Rangiroa until 1821.

The atoll's first European visitors were Schouten and Le Maire in 1616, followed by Roggeveen in 1722. But the first Europeans did not begin living on Rangiroa until 1851. And they were Catholic missionaries, who urged the population to plant coconut palm trees in 1865, the beginning of the atoll's colonial period.
Rangiroa benefited from Tahiti's economic growth of the 1950s. The atoll supplied large quantities of copra. However, like all of the Tuamotu atolls, Rangiroa experienced a steady drop in copra production right up until today. Fishermen took advantage of the atoll's huge lagoon, becoming organized very quickly in order to supply the workers for the Compagnie Française des Phosphates de l'Océanie. This company worked the phosphate deposit on the island of Makatea. The Rangiroa fishermen sent 40 tons of fresh fish to Maketea in 1960. The opening of a 2,100-meter (6,889-ft.) airstrip in August 1965 opened Rangiroa to tourism development.

Ivan Sache, 13 May 2016

Flag of Rangiroa

The flag of Rangiroa (photo, Tahitian Football Federation) is horizontally divided red-white-red with a blue stripe placed vertically along the hoist, that is, similar to the flag of Tuamotu, but with the name of the island written in blue capital letters in the white stripe, instead of the Tuamotu stars.
The same flag, with more compact letters, was used in April 2014 during the futsal competition of the 6th Islands' Festival (photos).

Juan Manuel Gabino Villascán, Daniel Lundberg, Pascal Vagnat & Olivier Touzeau, 19 February 2017