Latitutde: -27.592401 Longitude: -144.330000
Rapa, sometimes called Rapa Iti (Little Rapa, to distinguish it from "Rapa Nui" (Big Rapa), a name for Easter Island), is the largest and only inhabited island of the Bass Islands in French Polynesia. An older name for the island is Oparo. Its area is 40 km2 with a population of almost 500 and a max elevation of 650 m. Its main town is Ahuréi.
Thor Heyerdahl, notably, made excavations in Morongo Uta, seeking links between Rapa Iti and Rapa Nui (Easter Island).
Rapa Iti is located at Greek final sigma (ς), with a well-protected central bay, surrounded by a ring of relatively high mountains. The whole island appears very much to be the peak of a sinking volcano, with the bay as the caldera.. It is shaped roughly like a
Its main town, Ahuréi (or Ha'uréi), lies on the southern shore of that bay, which is called the Baie d'Ahuréi. A smaller village, 'Area, is located on the northern shore of the bay. The people are Polynesian. Former times' warfare is indicated by 28 extant ridgetop forts. Today Rapa is home to the Tahitian Choir, in which a third of the island's population sing traditional songs.
Rapa Iti was first settled by Polynesians, most likely in the 13th century. Their Polynesian dialect developed into what is today the Rapa over the centuries. It is believed that the depletion of natural resources on the island resulted in warfare, and the inhabitants lived in up to 14 fortified settlements ("pa" or "pare", a type of fort) on peaks and clifftops. It is considered that the oldest of these is Morongo Uta, which was developed c. 1450–1550 AD.
The first European to visit Rapa Iti was George Vancouver on 22 December 1791; he named the island Oparo. Contact with Europeans brought liquor and disease, and between 1824 and 1830 over three quarters of the natives died. Peruvian slavers raided the island as well. When a handful of their victims were returned to the island, they brought with them smallpox, which caused an epidemic. In 1826, there were almost 2000 inhabitants; forty years later, there were fewer than 120.