Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
H. James Birx
Polynesia is a geographical triangle in the Pacific Ocean with Hawaii, New Zealand, and Rapa Nui (Easter Island) as its three points. Starting about 65 million years ago, ongoing volcanic activity began forming the Cook Islands of Polynesia between Fiji and Tahiti. The resultant archipelago consists of 15 major islands, six of which are the worn emergent peaks of now-extinct volcanoes (Mauke, Atiu, Mangaia, Mitiaro, Rarotonga, and Aitutaki); islets, or Hotus; sand-cays on coral reefs; and atolls. Rarotonga is the largest and youngest of those volcanoes forming the Cook Islands. It is located almost 3,000 statute miles directly south of Kauai, the oldest major island of the Hawaiian archipelago. Radiometric dates of lavas indicate that Rarotonga started emerging during the PliōPleistocene Age, about 2.8 million years ago. Today, this dormant and eroded volcano has a core surrounded by Pleistocene sands and gravels. Rarotonga is an elliptical island whose impressive prehistoric-like ...