This Copernicus Sentinel-1 image acquired on February 2019 takes us over Raiatea and Taha’a islands located among the western group, the Leeward Islands, of the Society Islands in French Polynesia, an overseas territory of France in the Pacific Ocean.
Raiatea, is the second largest of the Society Islands, after Tahiti, in French Polynesia, and its meaning “faraway heaven” and “sky with soft light,” is considered the homeland of the ancient Polynesians.
It was the first inhabited island and the starting point for expansion into the Pacific. The expansion of Polynesians throughout the Pacific began on Raiatea. After offering blessings through sacred ceremonies and celebrations, outriggers with original settlers ventured north to Hawaii and west to New Zealand.
On Mount Temehani there is the symbol of the island, the tiare’apetahi, a wonderful flower that grows only in Raiatea. According to legend, the delicate sound of the petals opening at dawn is like the sound of the broken heart of a woman who was prevented from marrying the son of a Tahitian king.
Taha’a, suitably shaped like a flower, is known as the “Vanilla Island”, because the intoxicating scent of vanilla (the only variety of edible orchid) pervades the air . Taha’a produces 70-80% of all French Polynesia’s vanilla.
The islands of Taha’a and Raiatea are enclosed all of their perimeter by numerous motus, which are sandy islets close to coral reefs . The sea trapped between the island and the outer circle of the motus gives rise the turquoise color of the water.
Tahaa and Raiatea may once have been a single island and tells the legend that the islands were divided by the tail of a sacred eel, possessed by the spirit of a princess.