Rangiroa Atlas Projects

Rangiroa is a low-lying coral atoll in the Tuamotu Archipelago of French Polynesia, with one of the largest lagoons in the world. The atoll is comprised of 415 non-continuous motu (small islands).  Polynesian voyagers may have arrived at Rangiroa as early as the tenth century.  Europeans arrived in the middle of the nineteenth century, bringing coconut palms to support a copra industry, which is still a major source of income for the islanders. Tourism and pearl cultivation are the other businesses on Rangiroa, the latter providing the principal export of French Polynesia. There is no fresh water source on Rangiroa and residents collect and store rain water.  SPICE students met with local officials to talk about water issues, waste management, and the catastrophic threat posed by a rise in sea level associated with climatic disruption, for which there is no clear solution. The municipality runs a school to train workers for the pearl industry, which we visted; we also saw the work in action at the Gauguin Pearl Farm.