First contact with the west

The first islands of Polynesia to be visited by Westerners are the Marquesas islands in 1595.

The first western navigators had the mission to not only conquer and evangelise but also to bring back to the Crown as many riches as they could, gold and precious jewels were sort after but rarely seen combined with pearls. This is more than likely due to the fact that the main sites where pearl oysters are found are found in the Tuamotu archipelago, an area that was not very accessible and made up of a multitude of atolls spread out over 1 000 000 km² of ocean, scattered with reefs and crossed with capricious currents.

These waters had such bad reputation that mariners baptised them the dangerous archipelago, the islands of grief or even the islands of disappointment.

Marquesas islands were the first visited by westerners in 1595.