Mangareva is the central and most important island of the Gambier Islands
Gambier Islands
There was a time when the Gambiers hosted a population of several thousand people and traded with other island groups including the Marquesas, the Society Islands and Pitcairn Islands...

 in French Polynesia
French Polynesia
French Polynesia is an overseas country of the French Republic . It is made up of several groups of Polynesian islands, the most famous island being Tahiti in the Society Islands group, which is also the most populous island and the seat of the capital of the territory...

. It is surrounded by smaller islands: Taravai
Taravai is the second largest island in the Gambier Islands of French Polynesia, at 5.7 km². Taravai is located at , about 1.5 km southwest of Mangareva, and about 300 m north of the island of Angakauitai. Off its eastern shore lies the tiny rock Îlot Motu-o-ari.The village named Agonoko...

 in the southwest, Aukena
Aukena is the 4th largest of the Gambier Islands in French Polynesia. Aukena is located at , about halfway between Mangareva and Akamaru , or about southeast of Mangareva. Aukena is approximately long and about wide, with a total area of ....

 and Akamaru
Akamaru (Island)
Akamaru is the third largest island in the Gambier Islands of French Polynesia, at approximately . The island is located approximately southeast of Mangareva, at ....

 in the southeast, and islands in the north. Mangareva has a permanent population of 1,641 (2007) and the largest village on the island, Rikitea
Rikitea is a village located on Mangareva island. It is the chief town of the Gambier Islands, French Polynesia. It is served by the Totegegie Airport....

, is the chief town of the Gambier Islands.

Mangareva is located at 23°06′34"S 134°57′57"W. The island is approximately 8 km (5 mi) long and, at 18 km² (7 mi²), it comprises about 56% of the land area of the whole Gambier group. Mangareva has a high central ridge which runs the length of the island. The highest point in the Gambiers is Mt. Duff, on Mangareva, rising to 441 m along the island's south coast. The island has a large lagoon 15 miles in diameter containing reefs whose fish and shellfish helped ancient islanders survive much more successfully than on nearby islands with no reefs.


Mangareva was once heavily forested and supported a large population that traded with other islands via canoes. However, excessive logging by the islanders during the 10th to the 15th centuries resulted in deforestation
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

 of the island, with disastrous results for its environment and economy (see Gambier Islands
Gambier Islands
There was a time when the Gambiers hosted a population of several thousand people and traded with other island groups including the Marquesas, the Society Islands and Pitcairn Islands...

 for more details).

The first European to arrive to Mangareva was British Captain James Wilson
James Wilson (Captain)
Captain James Wilson , brought the first British missionaries to Tahiti on ship Duff in 1797.Wilson was a deeply religious man. The missionaries he brought were from the London Missionary Society...

 in 1797 on ship Duff. Wilson named the island group in honour of Admiral James Gambier
James Gambier, 1st Baron Gambier
Admiral of the Fleet James Gambier, 1st Baron Gambier GCB was an admiral of the Royal Navy, who served as Governor of Newfoundland, and as a Lord of the Admiralty, but who gained notoriety for his actions at the Battle of the Basque Roads.-Early career:Gambier was born in New Providence, The...

, who had helped him to equip his vessel.

Mangareva's history and its ancient links with the Pitcairn and Henderson
Henderson Island (Pitcairn Islands)
Henderson Island is an uninhabited raised coral atoll in the south Pacific Ocean, that in 1902 was annexed to the Pitcairn Islands colony, a South Pacific Dependent Territory of the United Kingdom. Measuring long and wide, it has an area of and is located northeast of Pitcairn Island at . The...

 islands is well-covered in Jared Diamond
Jared Diamond
Jared Mason Diamond is an American scientist and author whose work draws from a variety of fields. He is currently Professor of Geography and Physiology at UCLA...

's book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005).


Mangareva is crucial in its role as the outside world's link to the more famous Pitcairn Island. One of the only ways a traveler can reach Pitcairn Island is to fly to Tahiti
Tahiti is the largest island in the Windward group of French Polynesia, located in the archipelago of the Society Islands in the southern Pacific Ocean. It is the economic, cultural and political centre of French Polynesia. The island was formed from volcanic activity and is high and mountainous...

, then to Mangareva. From there, a 32-hour boat ride will take one to the island. Some reach Pitcairn by commercial shipping traffic, but that is less and less common as shipping lanes don't typically pass close to Pitcairn.

Culture and fiction

Painter and author Robert Lee Eskridge
Robert Lee Eskridge
Robert Lee Eskridge was an American genre painter, muralist and illustrator. He was born in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania. Eskridge moved with his family to Pasadena as a child...

's book Manga Reva: The Forgotten Islands (Bobbs Merrill; 1931) offers first-hand observations of the environment, peoples, and traditions of Mangareva. The book includes original illustrations and photographs by the author. In 1962, adventure-fiction writer Garland Roark
Garland Roark
Garland Roark was an American author best known for his nautical/adventure fiction. Published in 1946, his first novel Wake of the Red Witch was a Literary Guild selection and later adapted by Republic Pictures as a movie starring John Wayne.- Life :In his own words:"I was born in Groesbeck, Texas...

acknowledged Eskridge's work in a foreword to his novel The Witch of Manga Reva. Eskridge also wrote and illustrated a children's book about his visit to Mangareva: South Sea Playmates (Bobbs Merrill; 1933).

External links

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