BORA BORA
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History

The origin of the name Bora Bora is lost in the mists of time. Before the arrival of the Europeans the island was named Vavau but also Motu Tapu Ora or Mai Te Pora which means “emerged from the darkness” or more precisely “created by the gods” according to old legends that tell that this piece of land was the first to emerge from the sea: hence the name: “Pora Pora I te fanau tahi” meaning Pora Pora the first born”. Pora or Popora has become with the time Pora Pora and finally Bora Bora.

The first inhabitants arrived around the IXth century after a long journey across the Pacific Ocean. These proud navigators, returning to sedentary life, settled progressively on all the shores. According to the legend the first king of the island, Firiamata o Vavau, great navigator and invincible warrior was born of the union of a stone and a cliff. Internal wars for the possession of the island will tear apart the populations of the three districts (Nunue, Faanui and Anau).

Finally, just before Cook’s arrival in 1769, Puni, king of Faanui will impose peace on the island, after having been victorious of his opponents, the kings Tapoa I and Tapoa II (who will marry, in1822, Aimata, the future queen Pomare IV) and his descent will reign on Bora Bora during the first part of the XIXth century. In 1860 Teriimaevarua II, daughter of of Tapoa II will reign until 1873 when her niece Teriimaevarua will seize the power. She will marry Tahiti’s Prince Hinoi in 1884 to divorce three years later and finally surrendered the island to France with the annexion of 1888. She will die in 1932.

If we can rejoice that the island of Bora Bora, during the presence of an American military base has been the theatre of any fighting, yet the island was one of the kingpins that served the USA in their defence of liberty in the world. Among the hundreds of islands in the area this island was chosen by the state of the army as a supplying base for the American navy ships in the South Pacific. To keep it secret it received the code name of Bobcat. The “Seabees” will install a gas and ammunition station, a seaplane base and moorings for the ships to station in the lagoon of Vaitape and Faanui.

Bora Bora was chosen for its huge lagoon in which the ships enter through the unique large pass, easy to control, mainly concerning submarines. To strengthen that base the Americans, weary of an attack by the Japanese, decide to place at strategic points, up on the hill, eight enormous, long range, canons propelling seven inches shells.

Finding out that the fresh water adduction on the island is not sufficient for the troops they start operations of civil engineering to solve this crucial problem. Not only they draw a road for the heavy army trucks, but they will also build sea docks, an electrical plant and an air strip that will be the first aerodrome in French Polynesia.

Evidently, the islanders’ small population wont be able to provide enough workers to insure the logistics of the implantation of that military base. So 5000 GIs will be stationed on the island for almost five years provoking a fivefold raise of the population.

During its activity BOBCAT has refuelled 181 ships. 193 ships have been provisioned in fresh water thanks to a circuit of recuperation and adduction created for the circumstances. 45 ships were repaired , ten of them for important works. 1200 ships were loaded and unloaded which represents 50 000 tons of freight. The activity of the base lasted five years during which 50 000 persons debarked from the American vessels.

The dock of Farepiti, still in use today is built and inaugurated by the Americans the 30th April 1943. For its part the Motu Mute airport saw its first landing the 17th march 1943.

Beside a few books and a medal of Liberty, to remember this great epic, we have, as reminders the airport of Motu Mute, the dock of Fare Piti, eight canons, seven still in position, the eighth together with two giant anchors to be seen on the roadside, and about a hundred half American half Tahitian kids. Beside that there is no testimony of the American war effort in the island during the second world war.