The Marquesas group of islands is the most
northerly territory of French Polynesia and consists of six
large and six small islands. All are elevated and covered with a layer
of deep, fertile soil. These islands, mountainous and cut into deep
valleys, are not protected by coral barrier reefs.
Half the islands in the group are uninhabited.
The principal inhabited islands of the Marquesas group (Nuku Hiva, Ua
Huka, Ua Poa, Hiva Oa, Tahuata, and Fatu Hiva) now support a population
of just over 6800. At one time in the eighteenth century, the population
was estimated by European visitors to number 60,000. Disease and drought
obliterated the once thriving communities, the remains of which can be
seen throughout the Marquesas islands.