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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tahiti and her Islands

Tahiti and Her Islands exude a laid-back tranquillity, as romantic sunsets send giant curls of turquoise breaking over reefs. Remote and pristine, the islands really are a place where nature dominates.The first Europeans to arrive on the island groups were 16th-century Spanish and Portuguese explorers. The British and then the French took control of the islands in the 18th century. Tahiti, the largest island in French Polynesia, dominated by Mount Orohena at 2,236m (7,337ft) and Mount Aorai at 2,068m (6,786ft), and characterised by its spectacular tropical scenery, banana groves, plantations and flowers, was made a French protectorate in 1842 and a colony in 1880. The other islands were annexed by the turn of the century. This status quo remained until 1957, when Polynesia was made an Overseas Territory. A revised constitution, introduced in 1977, ceded greater autonomy. For the next 20 years, the islands’ politics were dominated by the French nuclear testing programme. By the time the programme ended in 1996, 150 separate explosions had been detonated, and Tahiti had become the focus of opposition from throughout the South Pacific, and several riots occurred. Although the protesters failed to stop the tests, their campaign had an important political effect by linking the anti-nuclear movement and the burgeoning pro-independence movement which had so far been largely unrepresented in any political forum, despite the support of a large proportion (possibly the majority) of the population.