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Bora Bora.

Bora Bora History

Bora Bora was formed around four million years ago after volcanoes erupted from the sea bed. As the volcano sank back into the Pacific Ocean, a ring of coral reefs, or atolls, formed to mark the ancient coastline. The infamous Bora Bora lagoon also formed between the reef and the island around this time. The volcanic core that still remains on the main island of Bora Bora is actually sinking at a rate of one centimeter per century. It will take about 25 million

years for Bora Bora’s main island to sink completely into the ocean, leaving just a coral atoll.

Today, Bora Bora is a mountainous island with three peaks, Mount Otemanu as the highest at 2,379 feet (725 meters). Often draped in white clouds, these natural landmarks take on mysterious qualities that remind visitors of Bora Bora’s ancient mythical past.

Many historians believe that Bora Bora has been inhabited since the ninth century, after the first Polynesian settlers sailed through Teavanui Pass, the only break in the coral wall. They named the island Vavau, which means, “First Born,” as ancient legends suggest that this land was the first to rise from the water.

Historical accounts differ on how the island got its current name, but somehow it evolved into Pora Pora and then eventually Bora Bora, probably in 1769 when Capt. James Cook established the Leeward Society Islands: Rai'atea (largest island of the Leeward group), Bora-Bora , Huahine, Maupiti, Tahaa, Maiao, Maupihaa, Tupai, Manuae, and Motu One.

Two European explorers both laid claim to the island a year apart in the 18th century, English navigator Samuel Wallis for Great Britain followed by the French navigator Louis Antoine de Bougainville. The French won out in the end. Protected by its warriors, the island resisted colonization until conquered by France in 1888. In 1946, Polynesia, including the Society Islands, became an overseas territory of France. By 1958, it became French Polynesia. The islands received internal autonomy status in 1977, with several modifications since, and have been slowly increasing its local executive power.

Americans first noticed Bora Bora during World War II. Because of its geography, the American military used the island as a supply base in response to the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The 5,000 GIs set up huge naval guns to defend against a surprise attack by Japan (which never occurred) and built the island’s first airfield on Motu Mute. The runway was French Polynesia’s main connection to the outside world and was used for international flights until the current Tahiti Faa’a Airport was finally built in 1961.

Bora Bora’s worldwide reputation has been built by many artists, writers and navigators. American author Herman Melville penned two stories of Polynesian life in 1846 and 1847. In the 1890s, celebrated French artist Paul Gaugin composed an illustrated book called Noa Noa, which spoke of ancient Polynesian culture. It told the story of the Areori who resided on Bora Bora and of the god’s first miracle creation Noa or “fragrance.” Even Broadway and Hollywood have found inspiration in Bora Bora. The island’s war time history inspired the romantic Broadway musical and movie South Pacific, and De Laurentis shot his 1979 film Hurricane there.

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