Group of some 80 islands (pop., 2002: 15,973), French Polynesia. The archipelago comprises 75 atolls, one raised coral atoll (Makatea), and innumerable coral reefs, roughly dispersed northwest-southeast as a double chain for more than 900 miles (1,450 km). Europeans visited the islands in the 16th and 17th centuries. France occupied them in 1844 and annexed them in 1880 as a Tahitian dependency. They now form, with the Gambier Islands, an administrative division of French Polynesia. In 1947 Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki expedition ended on Raroia, one of Tuamotu's many reefs. France has used some uninhabited atolls in the archipelago for nuclear-weapons testing.
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