Makemo, Rangi-kemo or Te Paritua,[2] is an atoll in the Tuamotu archipelago in French Polynesia.

NASA picture of Makemo Atoll
Makemo is located in French Polynesia
LocationPacific Ocean
Coordinates16°35′55″S 143°39′41″W / 16.59861°S 143.66139°W / -16.59861; -143.66139
Area603 km2 (233 sq mi)  (lagoon)
56 km2 (22 sq mi) (above water)
Length69 km (42.9 mi)
Width16.5 km (10.25 mi)
Overseas collectivityFrench Polynesia
Administrative subdivisionÎles Tuamotu-Gambier
Largest settlementPouheva (pop. 600)
Population824[1] (2017)
NASA picture of Makemo Atoll.
NASA picture of Makemo Atoll.
Localización de Makemo en las Tuamotu.png
Location of Makemo
Coordinates: 16°35′55″S 143°39′41″W / 16.5985°S 143.6613°W / -16.5985; -143.6613
Overseas collectivityFrench Polynesia
SubdivisionÎles Tuamotu-Gambier
100 km2 (40 sq mi)
 • Density15/km2 (39/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC– 10:00
INSEE/Postal code
98726 /98769
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.


Makemo is the home of legendary Polynesian hero Moeava.[3] The first recorded European to arrive to Makemo Atoll was English pearl merchant John Buyers on the brig Margaret. He arrived at Makemo on 10 March 1803 on the same day he discovered Taenga and named the Makemo Atoll "Phillips Island", after a late sheriff of London, Sir Richard Phillips. In some maps Makemo appears as "Kutusov".

In the 19th century, Makemo became a French territory with a population of about 250 indigenous inhabitants around 1850, making it one of the largest in the Tuamotus; it was used as a port for ships. By mid-century, the atoll was evangelized with the founding of St. Joseph Parish in 1851 (which since 2004 also includes churches on Taenga and Nihiru Atolls), followed by the construction of the church of the same name in 1975, attached to the Diocese of Papetee.[4]


The legend explains that the famous warrior fell in love with Huarei, queen of the island Tepukamaruia. The giant Patira became jealous and the two Warriors challenged each other to combat on the island of Makemo. Moeava arrived first and prepared a giant slingshot. When his rival appeared, he chose a large, round, smooth stone, made a prayer to the god Tu, and killed Patira with a shot to the head. Today, a huge round, smooth stone can be seen in the Makemo lagoon. It is the Moeava stone.

Pacific Experimentation CenterEdit

Between 1960 and 2000, a French armed forces research center, euphemistically called Centre d'expérimentation du Pacifique, was located on the island. It participated in the testing of French Nuclear weapons. For this purpose, a military infrastructure was built on the main island, including an airport. This infrastructure will be gradually dismantled. This process began in 2009. Since the research center was a major employer, other forms of employment were created on the island for the population, such as fish farming and tourism. Investments are also being made in the use of solar panels and a desalination plant.


The atoll is 70 km long and about 10 km wide on average. The total area is 56 km2. The lagoon is the third largest of the Tuamotu with 603 km2, and has two navigable passages.[5] The main village is Pouheua, and the total population is 588 inhabitants in the 1996 census. It has a Catholic church, an elementary school and an airport. The main activity is Pearl farming.


The climate is tropical, typical of this southern region. The average temperature is 24 °C. The warmest month is March, at 26 °C, and the coldest month is October, at 21 °C.10 Average rainfall is 1,707 millimeters per year. The rainiest month is December, with 326 millimeters of rain, and the driest month, August, with 36 millimeters.[6]


The commune of Makemo consists of the atolls of Makemo, Haraiki, Marutea Nord, Katiu, Tuanake, Hiti, Tepoto Sud, Raroia, Takume, Taenga and Nihiru.[7]


In 2017, the total population of Makemo was 825 persons[8] grouped mainly in the village of Pouheva; its evolution is as follows:

1983 1988 1996 2002 2007 2012 2017
360 373 588 720 728 832 825
Sources: Statistical Institute of French Polynesia.[9] and Government of French Polynesia.

Pouheva, located near the Arikitamiro Pass (passe d'Arikitamiro), is the main village of the atoll. It has about 600 inhabitants.


St. Joseph's Church in Makemo

Most of the population of the Atoll is affiliated with Christianity, as a result of the activity of both Catholic and Protestant missionary groups. The Catholic Church has a main religious building in the area called St. Joseph's Church (Église de Saint-Joseph)[10] which ecclesiastically depends on the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Papeete based on the island of Tahiti.


Tourism, especially with the development of diving near the two passes, is the main economic sector of the island, along with pearl farming (authorized on only 50 ha of the lagoon),[11] sea cucumber harvesting (in the southern part, below the line linking motu Tahiti Toreu to motu Piupiu)[11] and copra farming. The administrative activities of the commune, which includes eleven surrounding atolls, also develop and provide work. The landing of the Natitua submarine cable and its commissioning in December 2018 allows Makemo to be connected to Tahiti and to the global high-speed Internet.[12]

Beach on Makemo

A small domestic airfield with a 1,500-meter runway was built in 1976. It serves, on average, about 500 flights and 10,000 passengers per year, of which 30% are transit Passengers.[13]


  1. ^ Répartition de la population en Polynésie française en 2017, Institut de la statistique de la Polynésie française
  2. ^ Young, J.L. (1899). "Names of the Paumotu Islands, with the old names so far as they are known". Journal of the Polynesian Society. 8 (4): 264–268. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  3. ^ Craig, Robert D. (1989). Dictionary of Polynesian Mythology. ISBN 9780313258909.
  4. ^ "MAKEMO SAINT JOSEPH (NIHIRU / TAENGA)". Retrieved 23 September 2021.
  5. ^ "Tuamotu Archipelago – Makemo". Archived from the original on 23 December 2010. Retrieved 14 March 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  6. ^ "Rainfall (1 month – TRMM, 1998–2016) | NASA". Rainfall (1 month – TRMM, 1998–2016) | NASA. 23 September 2021. Retrieved 23 September 2021.
  7. ^ Décret n°72-407 du 17 mai 1972 portant création de communes dans le territoire de la Polynésie française, Légifrance
  8. ^ "Conférence de presse". Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  9. ^ Population, naissances et décès entre deux recensements (RP), Instituto de Estadística de la Polinesia Francesa (ISPF), consulté le 27 février 2019.
  10. ^ "Église de Saint-Joseph". GCatholic. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  11. ^ a b "Atlas de Polynésie – Tuamotu Gambier – MAKEMO". Direction des Ressources Marines (in French). Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  12. ^ "Numérique en Polynésie : Le câble domestique Natitua est entré en service". Outremers360° (in French). Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  13. ^ "Union des Aéroports Français". Retrieved 24 September 2021.

External linksEdit