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Makatea

Makatea

Makatea, formerly Aurora, island, South Pacific, one of the most northwesterly of the Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia. The center of the island was once a solid mass of phosphate that was mined jointly by the British and the French until 1966, when the phosphate reserves were depleted. Makatea is administered as part of the Windward group of the Society Islands and is no longer inhabited.

Makatea, or Mangaia-te-vai-tamae, is a uplifted coral island in the northwestern part of the Tuamotus. It is located 79 km southwest from Rangiroa to the west of the Palliser group. It is surrounded by spectacular cliffs, rising to a plateau 80 meters above the sea level. This island is 7.5 km long, with a maximum width of 7 km in the south. It is 24 km² in area. Makatea is one of the only four islands of the Tuamotu Archipelago that do not constitute a true atoll.

History

Mākatea is almost the only Paumotuan island with potable water. Its native name derived from the drinking water being brought out of its dark caves by the local people. "Mā," pure, clear; used here to mean water, "Atea," light of day and "K" for euphony. The other name of the Island was Mangaia-te-vai-tamāe, meaning "Mangaia of the purified (or clear) water."

This island was called "Aurora" by Dutch mariner Jakob Roggeveen in 1722. Later, the Polynesians called it "Tea Dad" (which means "white rock").

There is a ghost town, Vaitepaua, and an adjacent abandoned port, Temao, on the northwest coast of Makatea. These are from the times of phosphate mining (1917 to 1964). Makatea is one of three important Pacific raised coral islands that had large phosphate deposits, the other two being Nauru and Banaba.

Administration and demography

Makatea Island forms a commune associée of Rangiroa commune with 93 inhabitants (2002 census). The main village is called Moumu. The islanders live off agriculture, culture of copra, some fishing and the trade of coconut crabs.

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