Austral Islands

The Austral Islands (French: Îles Australes, officially Archipel des Australes; Tahitian: Tuha'a Pae) are the southernmost group of islands in French Polynesia, an overseas country of the French Republic in the South Pacific. Geographically, they consist of two separate archipelagos, namely in the northwest the Tupua'i islands (French: Îles Tubuaï) consisting of the Îles Maria, Rimatara, Rūrutu, Tupua'i Island proper and Ra'ivāvae, and in the southeast the Bass Islands (French: Îles basses) composed of the main island of Rapa Iti and the small Marotiri (also known as Bass Rocks or Îlots de Bass). Inhabitants of the islands are known for their pandanus fiber weaving skills.[2] The islands of Maria and Marotiri are not suitable for sustained habitation. Several of the islands have uninhabited islets or rocks off their coastlines. Austral Islands' population is 6,965 on almost 150 km2 (58 sq mi). The capital of the Austral Islands administrative subdivision is Tupua'i.

Whaling vessels were among the earliest and most consistent visitors to the islands in the 19th century. The first such vessel for which a record exists is the New Hazard in 1813.[3] These ships came for fresh drinking water, firewood and food provisions. Sometimes they also took aboard islanders to serve as crewmen on their ships.[citation needed]

The Tuha'a Pae or Austral Islands (French: Îles Australes or Archipel des Australes) are the southernmost group of islands in French Polynesia, an overseas collectivity of France in the South Pacific. Geographically, the Austral Islands consist of two separate archipelagos. From northwest to southeast they are:

The islands of Maria and Marotiri are not suitable for sustained habitation. Several of the islands have uninhabited islets or rocks off their coastlines.

The chain is associated with the Macdonald hotspot. The only active volcano is the Macdonald seamount (40m depth).[4]

In administrative terms, the Austral Islands (including the Bass Islands) constitute an administrative subdivision, the Tuha'a Pae or Austral Islands (subdivision administrative des (Îles) Australes), one of French Polynesia's five administrative subdivisions (subdivision administratives). Geographically, the administrative subdivision of the Austral Islands is identical with the constituency of the Austral Islands (circonscription des Îles Australes), one of French Polynesia's six constituencies (circonscriptions électorales) for the Assembly of French Polynesia.

The capital of the Austral Islands administrative subdivision is Tupua'i.

The Austral islands constitute the Tubuai tropical moist forests terrestrial ecoregion. The natural vegetation consisted of lowland and montane rain forests. Much of the original forest has been mostly cleared for pasture and agriculture. The islands are home to several endemic plants and animals, including the Rimatara reed warbler (Acrocephalus rimatarae), Rapa fruit-dove (Ptilonopus huttoni), and Kuhl's lorikeet (Vini kuhli).[5]

Most of the islands are surrounded by coral reefs. The islands constitute a distinct marine ecoregion.