The Tuamotu Archipelago, first discovered by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, is divided into nine groups, with Niau belonging to the Centre West Group. The archipelago was dubbed the ‘Dangerous Archipelago’ a couple hundred years ago because a high number of ships wrecked on its reefs and atolls. The coral reefs have formed atop a volcanic mountain range that spanned the area two to three million years ago. The islands produce pearl shell and copra (the dried meat of coconuts from which coconut oil is extracted).
Niau, 8 km in diameter and 8 m high, lies near the west end of the archipelago some 250 km east-northeast of Tahiti. As seen in the image, Niau is comprised of a completely enclosed 3.3-square-km lagoon. The narrow strip of land surrounding the lagoon is . . . (continue ESA article) <